Book Review: ‘The Wild Girl’ by Kate Forsyth

wild girl cover

Book Title: The Wild Girl

Author: Kate Forsyth

Genre: Historical Fiction

Summary: Believed to be the source of many stories made famous by the Grimm brothers, this is the story of Dortchen Wild, the woman behind the fairy tales. Set against the backdrop of Napolean Bonaparte’s attempt to conquer Europe, this is a story of stories that follows the love between Dortchen and Wilhem Grimm – and Dortchen’s own story of resilience and hope.

Favourite Scene: I know I say it all the time, but I have so many favourite scenes to choose from in this book – the opening scene is particularly beautiful.

Favourite Character: Dortchen. I try not to choose main characters as ‘favourites’, but I cannot get past this incredible woman.

Review: Stunning. I knew that I was in for a treat after reading Bitter Greens but this book was just … stunning. It took me a little while to pick it up from my table because I was nervous – I had high expectations and I was worried it wouldn’t meet them or, worse, it would exceed my expectations and come to an end all too quickly. It was one part the latter and all other parts breathtaking, so while I caught my breath I stayed in the world of The Wild Girl for just a little bit longer …

It’s not all beautiful and wonderful – in fact, sometimes my stomach churned and I felt physically ill because of some of the things that happened to Dortchen.What is incredible is Dortchen’s spirit – wild in every beautiful sense of the word. Every character earnt their page-time and every detail contributed to a magical tale. Ultimately Dortchen is empowered, presenting a strong and resilient character with a ‘wildness’ that all young women should be encouraged to have: independence, compassion, determination.

I am rapidly becoming a huge fan of historical fiction – and this book sets a new benchmark in telling “untold” stories from history. Forsyth’s depth of research is commendable – it was a brilliant factor in Bitter Greens but she reaches a new level in The Wild Girl in terms of painting accurate (and deeply fascinating) pictures of the past. The result is a plausible (and enchanting) story for Dortchen and her relationship with Wilhelm. I loved the intricate detail of all of the characters, and the magical way Forsyth wove history into her narrative.

I was thoroughly lost in the narrative well into the early hours of the morning, and finding my way back was part of the enchantment.

5 commas!

 

5 commas

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Book Review: ‘Bitter Greens’ by Kate Forsyth

bitter greens cover

Book Title: Bitter Greens

Author: Kate Forsyth

Genre: Fairytale retelling / Historical

Summary: A retelling of the Rapunzel fairytale, Bitter Greens explores the intertwining stories of three women: storyteller Charlotte-Rose de la Force, exiled from the court of Louis XIV, La Strega Bella Selena Leonelli, obsessed with maintaining her youth and beauty, and Margherita, a young girl held captive in a tower.

Favourite Scene: So many! Some are so haunting that they are prominent in my mind, not as favourites but as scenes I simply cannot forget. I loved – I can’t say, it’s a spoiler!

Favourite Character: Selena – this is a ‘wicked witch’ you can feel for.

Review: I love a good ‘flawed heroine’ and Bitter Greens delivers three strong female characters, each beautifully written as believable, sympathetic characters. They are flawed, they are scarred, they are desperate for their stories to be told. It is more than a fairytale retelling – history and elements of magic are woven into the narrative so intricately that the darkest of spells is believable. Every character in the novel exists with a purpose, and no story is left unravelled. The attention and detail given to historical figures is demonstrative of an extensive amount of research and consideration not only for the person but the people who would have existed around them.

Sixteenth century Venice is, itself, a character richly portrayed through elegant prose. Renaissance Venice rose up from the pages and I walked down its streets with a fresh perspective of one of my favourite cities – no easy feat considering I’ve been there three times.

Kate Forsyth is one of my favourite authors, and I credit her Witches of Eileanan series for my love of fantasy. She is one of the writers who most influenced teen-me when it came to both reading and writing. Her two most recent books – Bitter Greens and The Wild Girl (review to come) – have given adult-me renewed love for her work.

5 commas!

 

5 commas

Book Review: ‘The Night Circus’ by Erin Morgenstern

Book Title: The Night Circus

Author: Erin Morgenstern

Genre: Fantasy

Summary: The circus comes at night, appearing without warning and captivating the imaginations of all who attend. It is magical, a feast for the senses and a truly unique display of what the mind can conceive and believe – a tattooed contortionist who fits herself into a glass box, an ice garden, a transforming clock … Unbeknown to the circus patrons, some of these displays are feats of engineering while others are more than mere illusion. Le Cirque des Rêves is forum to an apparently unending battle of magic and intrigue between two young magicians, bound to each other and trained for the very purpose of this battle. Set in a magical Victorian London, The Night Circus follows the story of all who are touched by the Le Cirque des Rêves and the love story between to the magicians at its core.

Favourite Scene: I have two – the first is a description of the clock Herr Thiessen makes for the circus (and all descriptions of his clocks), and the second is when Celia first steps into the ice garden – I envy that it does not exist beyond the pages of the novel.

Favourite Character: Friedrick Herr Thiessen.

Review: I was a bit hesitant when I picked up this book and felt I had to buy it because I decided I needed something different to the pile of YA books already in my arms. I was not disappointed – I rapidly became addicted to the vivid imagery and the charming descriptions of Le Cirque des Rêves and its plethora of tents and performers. A spell was cast over me from the moment I read the first page. It takes place over multiple time frames, a patchwork of then and now and all the parts in between. At first I found this confusing but then I was so drawn into the novel that the patchwork-time simply was.

Every character was unique and served a purpose in the novel, something I greatly appreciated. Reading about a character was never about filling in space or creating an unnecessary back story because every character had a role and those who did not were kept rightfully confined to the margins. I loved the interspersed second-person chapters that meant I, as someone attending the circus, was also a significant character in the novel. I couldn’t help but wish – page after page – that a place like Le Cirque des Rêves could be real.

This book shoots straight up into my Top Ten books of all time. Yes, you heard me.

Book Review: ‘The Owl Keeper’ by Christine Brodien-Jones

Book Title: The Owl Keeper

Author: Christine Brodien-Jones

Genre: Children’s Literature / Fantasy

Summary: In a dystopian future ruled by the High Echelon, Max Unger struggles to make sense of a world in which he may no longer have a place – allergic to sun particles, the promise of constant sunlight in the Domes gives him little cause for celebration. On top of that, Max has a secret. Silver Owls are deemed evil and supposed to be extinct, yet Max knows this to be untrue. Urged by the memories of the stories his Gran had told him before she died, Max waits for the Owl Keeper to arrive and rise up against the Dark Brigade, restoring balance in the world.

Favourite Scene: The description of Rose when Max first meets her. You can read an extract here.

Favourite Character: Rose for her strength and imagination.

Review: This is a sweet book that I can imagine my younger cousins reading and enjoying. Set in a dystopian future in which the Great Destruction of 2066 managed to wipe out a large portion of the natural world and change the balance of the seasons, the novel possesses vast elements of fantasy that had something of an Obernewtyn-esque feel (though to compare the two further would be terribly unfair – like comparing Anne Rice to Stephenie Meyer). The story is slow at first while it sets out the groundwork for its post-apocalyptic setting but when it gets moving, it moves so quickly that it feels like quite a rush – almost too much after the slow start. At the end, I felt like there was room for a sequel yet I have no interest in reading any more stories set in this world with these characters – they were fun, but not especially well-developed. It was predictable and relied on a poorly written prophecy for the plot to progress, though I’m trying to be forgiving and keep in mind the novel is aimed at 10 year olds (or thereabouts). If you have a young avid reader in your midst who likes fantasy/dystopian stories, then this would be an easy novel for them to read as there are not too many subplots or twists to make it hard to follow (in fact, it’s rather linear and not too surprising).

The Lucky 7 Challenge

Dammit. I’ve been given a challenge. Yes, complete with my name and a link. Damn you, Jess! I don’t back down from a challenge, so I also have to overcome my fear of judgement and actually post a raw, unedited extract from something I’ve been working on – bit-by-bit – for a while now. Shut up, inner-perfectionist; you’re not welcome here!

Here’s what you do:

Find a current work-in-progress of yours. Go to the 7th or 77th page, then to the 7th line of that page, and from there, copy and paste approximately seven lines and share them!

The work-in-progress I am sharing here is from a 69 page document (yes, I giggled immaturely when I noticed that, too) so I’ve chosen seven lines from the seventh page.

He jerked the hand brake on and Jem looked out at a very unassuming house in what she recognised to be one of the outer suburbs, backing onto the fae reserve that surrounded the east of the city. That was the only reason the fae came out from hiding, for the reserves. They couldn’t handle it anymore, watching their homes get destroyed and being powerless to stop it. Watching the trees fall and the hills get levelled, they simply could not survive on the little patches that had been left, so they came forward. A few secrets, a few magical advancements in exchange for untouchable reservations and the chance to live out of the shadows.

So. Who’s next to take up the challenge?