Marshmallow reviews Thornwood by Leah Cypess

Marshmallow has reviewed several books inspired by fairy tales before. See, for example, her reviews of A Tale Dark and GrimTuck EverlastingElla Enchanted, and Half Upon A Time. She has also enjoyed the whole School for Good and Evil series, which also explores fairy tales and their characters in depth. Today she writes about Thornwood by Leah Cypess, a book inspired by the story of Sleeping Beauty.

Marshmallow reviews Thornwood by Leah Cypess.
Marshmallow reviews Thornwood by Leah Cypess.

Marshmallow’s Quick Take: If you like books that retell classic fairy tales, or if you enjoy reading books about sisters, then this might be the book for you.

Marshmallow’s Summary (with Spoilers): Briony’s sister Rosalin was cursed when she was a baby. The evil fairy queen said that when she turned sixteen, she would prick her finger on a spinning wheel and die. Luckily, Rosalin’s fairy godmother changed the curse slightly, so instead of dying, she would sleep for a hundred years, along with everyone else in the castle.

For her entire life, Briony has been the less important princess. Briony is always only an accessory to Rosalin’s story, or only an annoyance. Everyone pays more attention to Rosalin. Even so, Briony really likes her sister, and Rosalin likes her back, though as an older sibling, she is often dismissive of her.

On her sixteenth birthday, Rosalin pricks her finger on the spinning wheel. And she falls asleep, along with everyone else in the castle.

Marshmallow is reading Thornwood by Leah Cypess.
Marshmallow is reading Thornwood by Leah Cypess.

Years later, Briony wakes up and goes to Rosalin’s room. On the way there, she discovers that there are thorn branches that move which have grown around the castle. Briony comes to Rosalin’s room in time to see the prince wake her up. Rosalin is happy to see the prince, but when she sees Briony, she seems terrified for a moment and she quickly returns to a normal expression.

When Briony meets the prince, Prince Varian, she is suspicious of him because his story is a little fishy. He says that he cut through the thorn branches with a magical sword. He claims that he no longer has the sword because the thorn branches wrested it from him. He claims to have fought through the remaining thorns with his hands. Briony finds it suspicious that he has scratches on his hands but none on his face. And it turns out that Varian is not who he says he is, and it remains to be seen whether he can get them out of the Thornwood, or whether they will be stuck there forever. 

Marshmallow’s Review: The plot of Thornwood is well thought out, well-written, and full of twists and turns. I was very surprised by one of the big reveals.

I really like how the story is based off of a fairy tale that many people know, but the plot sort of changes from the original tale. It also introduces Briony, the sister whom we do not know about from the usual telling of the story of Sleeping Beauty, and things get a lot more complicated than expected.

I think that the characters are realistic. They have realistic and relatable personalities, and they all have their habits and their flaws. 

This is the first book of a new series Sisters Ever After, where the author Leah Cypess reimagines several different fairy tales. Thornwood is a reimagining of Sleeping Beauty. I am curious about the next book, which is apparently about Cinderella. If I do, I will definitely write about it.

Marshmallow’s Rating: 95%.

Marshmallow rates Thornwood by Leah Cypess 95%.
Marshmallow rates Thornwood by Leah Cypess 95%.

Marshmallow reviews Half Upon A Time by James Riley

Marshmallow has reviewed several books inspired by fairy tales before. See, for example, her reviews of A Tale Dark and Grim, Tuck Everlasting, and Ella Enchanted. This week she shares with us her thoughts on another book with a new take on an old fairy tale: Half Upon A Time by James Riley.

Marshmallow reviews Half Upon A Time by James Riley.
Marshmallow reviews Half Upon A Time by James Riley.

Marshmallow’s Quick Take: If you like books about fairy tales, then this might be the book for you.

Marshmallow’s Summary (with Spoilers):  Jack the thirteenth’s grandfather has been bugging him to go and find a princess to rescue. So when he fails his “rescue-a-princess” test, his grandfather is not pleased. Jack says that he should be able to find adventure where he is. And he says that he should just be able to hold out his arms and a princess should just appear. To highlight this, he holds out his arms. A ring of blue fire opens up and a strange girl falls out. She is wearing ripped blue pants and a shirt that says “Punk Princess”. And her hair has a strand that is dyed blue.

Jack and his grandfather think this girl must be a princess just because her shirt says so. Once they wake her up, they learn that her name is May. May is shocked to see that there is a fairy in Jack’s hair. She asks where her grandmother is. Then when they talk to her more, she says stuff that they don’t understand. For example, she talks about things like “computers”, which obviously don’t exist.

May explains that she and her grandmother were kidnapped, but while they were going into a portal, she struggled and she ended up here. But then, while Jack is talking to May, a lot of boys come over to try to marry her because apparently Jack’s grandfather went and told everyone that he found a princess. Jack and May have to run away from the boys and they learn something surprising. May’s grandmother might just be the long lost Snow White. And they have to find her. 

Marshmallow is reading Half Upon A Time by James Riley.
Marshmallow is reading Half Upon A Time by James Riley.

Marshmallow’s Review: I think that this is a great book because it combines the modern world and the world of fairy tales. The story of Jack and the Beanstalk and the fairy tales of Snow White and Sleeping Beauty all come into the story. The way the author brings in all these stories and plays with them reminded me a bit of Soman Chainani’s School for Good and Evil series.

Also I think that this book is funny because Jack doesn’t know about computers or phones or doctors. In his realm they are called healers. When May says that this is just a fairy tale, Jack says that fairies don’t have tails. He doesn’t say it as a joke though because he actually thinks that she means fairy tails.

Half Upon A Time is part of a series, and I haven’t read the next book, but this book is a great book by itself. Still it is probably a good idea to read the next books, because not all story lines are concluded in the first book. (I mean that the problems are not fixed, but it doesn’t really end in a cliffhanger.)

I don’t really have a favorite character in this story because a lot of the characters are great. 

Half Upon A Time is probably best for ten year olds and up, though it is a great book that would be entertaining for all ages. It is not a really scary book, but it still might be scary to younger bunnies. If you have particularly cautious little readers, reading it before giving it to them might be a good idea.

Marshmallow’s Rating: 95%.

Marshmallow rates Half Upon A Time by James Riley 95%.
Marshmallow rates Half Upon A Time by James Riley 95%.

Marshmallow reviews One True King by Soman Chainani (Book 6 of The School for Good and Evil series)

Last year Marshmallow reviewed Quests for Glory, the fourth book of Soman Chainani’s School for Good and Evil series, and then A Crystal of Time, the fifth book. Finally the wait is over, and today she writes about her thoughts on the sixth and final book in the series: One True King.

Marshmallow reviews One True King by Soman Chainani (Book 6 of The School for Good and Evil series).
Marshmallow reviews One True King by Soman Chainani (Book 6 of The School for Good and Evil series).

Marshmallow’s Quick Take: If you like fantasy, twisted fairy tales, and Soman Chainani’s books, then you will enjoy this book! If you haven’t read the first five books of the School for Good and Evil series though, then you might want to read them first.

Here is how I introduced the series in my earlier reviews:

It all began in The School for Good and Evil, Soman Chainani’s first novel. This was a school of fairy tales, where witches and princesses, warlocks and princes were trained. In the end a select few would become the heroes and the villains of future storybooks. The tales would be recorded by a magical pen, The Storian. We learn about this whole world through the eyes and experiences of Agatha and Sophie, two friends whose destiny takes them to different places and brings them back together.

The first book is followed by A World Without Princes, where witches and princesses are friends, and warlocks and princes become accomplices. The dividing line now becomes gender, instead of good versus evil.

The third book of the series, The Last Ever After, reorganizes the world of the School, and Sophie and Agatha have many new adventures.

The fourth book, Quests for Glory, started the Camelot Years, when both Agatha and Sophie have graduated and now expect that their stories are finished. We know of course that that is definitely not the case. They face many new challenges, both in Quests for Glory and in A Crystal of Time.

The book under review here is the sixth and final addition to this series.

The Book Bunnies were so enthusiastic about One True King by Soman Chainani (Book 6 of The School for Good and Evil series) that they pre-ordered it twice. So now Marshmallow can pose with two beautiful books at the same time!
The Book Bunnies were so enthusiastic about One True King by Soman Chainani (Book 6 of The School for Good and Evil series) that they pre-ordered it twice. So now Marshmallow can pose with two beautiful books at the same time!

Marshmallow’s Summary (with spoilers): Tedros, the fiance of Agatha and the heir of King Arthur of Camelot, is now an outlaw. In the fourth book, we meet Rhian and Japeth, the twins with a plan: Japeth would attack and pillage kingdoms while Rhian would come and “save” them. When Tedros fails to pull the famous sword Excalibur from the stone, like his father had done once, people of Camelot begin to lose faith in Tedros. When Rhian manages to fool Excalibur and successfully pulls it out, they crown Rhian as king and declare Tedros an imposter. And Sophie becomes Rhian’s queen.

Marshmallow is looking at all the Excaliburs in One True King, the sixth and last book of Soman Chainani's School For Good and Evil series.
Marshmallow is looking at all the Excaliburs in One True King, the sixth and last book of Soman Chainani’s School For Good and Evil series.

Then in the fifth book, Rhian is killed by Japeth, the Snake, who takes the place of his twin. As Tedros and his friends investigate, they learn more and more about Japeth. But all the evidence that they find eventually leads to one shocking conclusion. It seems like Japeth and Rhian were correct. There is another heir to King Arthur’s throne. 

Marshmallow is reading One True King by Soman Chainani (Book 6 of The School for Good and Evil series).
Marshmallow is reading One True King by Soman Chainani (Book 6 of The School for Good and Evil series).

Marshmallow’s Review: I think that One True King is a really good book, because it has a lot of surprises. The plot is very intriguing and how the story wraps up is very well written. I felt sad about some parts of Merlin’s story—though it was also hilarious that he became a baby–“Mama llama!”

Just like the fifth book, this sixth book is very long, with over six hundred pages. But it still makes you want to read it fast so you can learn what’s going to happen in the end. I read it in one sitting because I wanted to know what would happen. It was very intriguing.

One True King is probably more suitable for older kids, because it has some mature moments. It is probably best for kids of age thirteen and up. 

One True King wraps up the whole story of Sophie and Agatha, and the amazing fantasy world Soman Chainani created. I will miss this world and the characters.

Marshmallow’s Rating: 100%.

Marshmallow rates One True King by Soman Chainani (Book 6 of The School for Good and Evil series) 100%.
Marshmallow rates One True King by Soman Chainani (Book 6 of The School for Good and Evil series) 100%.

Marshmallow reviews Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

Marshmallow enjoys reading stories that take familiar fairy tales and twist them in various ways to see what will happen. See her reviews of School for Good and Evil: Quests for Glory and School for Good and Evil: A Crystal of Time by Soman Chainani, and A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz. Below she reviews another such book: Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine.

Marshmallow reviews Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine.
Marshmallow reviews Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine.

Marshmallow’s quick take:  If you like books that twist classic fairy tales like Cinderella and Snow White, then this might be the book for you. 

Marshmallow’s Summary (with spoilers): Ella of Frell has a big secret. She has to do everything that everyone tells her to. Lucinda, the fairy, gave Ella the “gift” of obedience when she was a baby. The “gift” of obedience makes Ella do everything that anyone tells her to do. If someone told her to cut off her own head, she would have to do it.  

Anyone could control me with an order. It had to be a direct command, such as “Put on a shawl,” or “You must go to bed now”. A wish or a request had no effect. I was free to ignore “I wish you would put on a shawl,” or “Why don’t you go to bed now?” but against an order, I was powerless. If someone told me to hop on one foot for a day and a half, I’d have to do it. And hopping on one foot wasn’t the worst order I could be given. 

But soon her mother dies and she is left without a mother and with a father who she thoroughly dislikes. During her mother’s funeral, she meets a prince named Charmont. They become friends. Then Ella meets Dame Olga and her horrific daughters. And even worse her father marries Dame Olga whose two daughters, Hattie and Olive, start treating Ella badly. Hattie soon discovers that Ella needs to obey orders and so then Dame Olga, Olive, and Hattie start treating Ella like a slave. (Sounds like Cinder-Ella, with her evil stepmother and step-sisters, doesn’t it?) 

The rest of the story intertwines parts of the standard Cinderella fairy tale (she does lose her slipper at a palace ball) with some new ideas (the fairy who “gifted” her with obedience, for example). In the end there is love and happiness, so there it is quite like a fairy tale. But I won’t tell you how things get resolved. You just might have to read the book (or watch the movie, I guess…)

Marshmallow’s Review: This is a very good book that makes you think about how we are so lucky to be able to say no. If a fairy had given me the “gift” of obedience, it would be very bad if I could not say no to an order such as to cut off my head. It must have been scary to be in constant danger. If someone found out that you had to listen to any thing that anybody tells you to do. (Now that I’m thinking about it, maybe Ella could have asked someone to order her to not listen to commands unless she wanted to. I wonder if that would have worked.)

Ella Enchanted is a great book that makes you think about how we can just say no. Ella is a fifteen year old who acts normally and is not as flawless as in the fairy tale Cinderella. The characters, Lucinda, Hattie, and Olive are really quite despicable and are easily disliked. (I really disliked Hattie and Lucinda sometimes.)

Marshmallow’s rating: 95%

Marshmallow rates Ella Enchanted 95%.
Marshmallow rates Ella Enchanted 95%.