Book Review – Tales of the Peculiar

TITLE: Tales of the Peculiar
AUTHOR: Ransom Riggs
ILLUSTRATOR: Andrew Davidson
FORMAT: Hardcover
PUBLISHED: 2016

Tales of the Peculiar is a companion book to the author’s Miss Peregrine series.  It is a collection of ten short stories, each led with a woodcut illustration.

So I’m going to start right off the bat and say that this is not meant to be part of the story that Riggs does for his trilogy.  It’s meant to be other stories from the same world.  Basically, fairy tales for peculiars.  As such, it takes place long before the trilogy and features no photographs, which we’ve come to want from Riggs.  That doesn’t make it bad at all, just takes a minute to get out of that mindset.

 

Here’s an overview of the stories.  Warning that although I tried to not spoil anything, you never know what slipped through.

The Splendid Cannibals
Travelers with money and a village of peculiars with the ability to regenerate limbs.

The Fork-Tongue Princess
A princess already promised, but her secret will make her a monster.  What’s a peculiar to do?

The First Ymbryne
She didn’t know she was a peculiar until she accidentally managed a special power – the first time loop.

The Woman Who Befriended Ghosts
A woman who had only ghosts as friends moves to a haunted house to make friends.

Cocobolo
A chinese man who searches for his lost father on the open seas and finds a family secret.  They’re peculiar.

The Pigeons of St. Paul’s
Pigeons in London need a place to roost, so they talk in the ear of the best builder and make him build a cathedral.

The Girl Who Could Tame Nightmares
She used her powers to take away peoples nightmares, but was it a good idea?

The Locust
A weird boy with no friends befriends a bug and becomes one.

The Boy Who Could Hold Back the Sea
A boy with the power to hold back and control water currents shows his power and has to go into hiding.

The Tale of Cuthbert
Basically the origin story of Miss Wren’s Menagerie.  There are peculiar animals that need saving, a gentle giant willing to save them, only who will save him?

 

Okay, so I loved the story of the first loop.  The cannibals story was just silly, although one of the stronger ones in the book.  Really, you’re reading fairy tales for peculiars, so you’re going to get absurd stuff (even fairy tales for humans are absurd).  A few stories were weak, but that’s to be expected just by the nature of what everything was.

I loved the woodcuts, even though I was used to bizarre photos and expecting them – I wish they’d’ve found a way to throw in a couple (the area now, perhaps?) – but what was done totally worked for this type of a book so I’m not complaining.

In all, if you like the Peregrine books as I have (My review of book 1 is here) I think you should pick this up as well, so I’ll give it a 4/5 pages with a warning – if you weren’t into the Peregrine books, I don’t think you’ll like this one all that much.

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Book Review: Seventh Night by Iscah

Title: Seventh Night

Author Iscah

Format Published: Smashwords Edition, published by Amoeba Ink co.

Published: 2013

iscah

Writing fairy tales today is an interesting task.  It seems that every few years, someone puts out a book that is either seeking to or somehow accidentally redefines how fairy tales are told.  Sometimes, it’s something like ‘The Princess Bride’, a book that takes a rather irreverent look at all the conceits of fairy taledom and plays them in a rather tongue in cheek fashion. Other times, it’s a book like ‘Wicked’, and all the various ‘retellings’ of classic tales, fairy and non fairy alike, that seek to pull a deeper meaning out of the familiar cast of characters, often by putting more meat on the fictional bones of a little realized character from the original work.  And then of course, there’s always the attempt to revolutionize how a fairy tale is told, to do something completely new and different.

‘Seventh Night’ by Iscah….accomplishes all three.

The plot is basically that in order to bring peace between her land and another, a princess, the Seventh Night of the title, agrees to marry a Prince from the other land.  Only it turns out the Prince may not be the Prince….and along the way, she trips across a Magician’s Apprentice who is also not a Prince, but may be someone she could be in love with.  Mix into this liberally a murder plot, a few royal family secrets, and a quest like sojourn into a land literally of wizards and sprinkle in the required bad guys, who may actually appear to be good guys first in this book, and the good guys, who are ambiguous at best as to which side of the line they stride sometimes, and what you end up with is wonderful tale replete with magic, love, monsters, betrayal, unicorns, intrigue, and …all the stuff fairy tales are made of.

Iscah’s ‘Seventh Night’ definitely bears comparison to ‘The Princess Bride’ for its rather brusque and modern style of storytelling.  The characters obviously should fit certain fairy tale molds and even some are conscious that they should and do not, so there is a lot of humor and winking throughout at the story at the original source material. If not handled well, this can often be distracting or weigh down a tale. Not in this case. Iscah masterfully weaves a tale and never once loses her sense of humor or wonder for the genre she is working within.

This is not so much a retelling of any particular fairy tale, but more of a retelling of fairy tales in general.  Isaac takes the established patterns, regular storylines, and, instead of really tearing them apart and making something new, she actually utilizes the tropes that already exist and gives new life to them.  Also, she takes the classic character types and, by giving them a certain degree of self awareness, redefines the stereotypical princess to be married off, the underdog love interest, the sorceress, and all the other character types that have to populate a good fairy tale.  This is how she both essentially produces a retelling of fairy tales that gives more insight into the characters AND creates a new way to tell them, which in large part involves seeing the old, familiar pieces of fairy tales through imaginative and modern eyes.

Iscah’s ‘Seventh Night’ is definitely five pages out of five. It is also perhaps one of the best books I read in the last year and is most definitely the best and most successful attempt to bring the fairy tale into the modern era, not be changing the setting, but simply by taking all the parts that work and casting them in a thoroughly updated light.

By my personal scale, this gets Six out of Six bullets.  It is fantastic and fun read, fully loaded to entertain one and all.

 

 

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