Amanda’s Favorite Retellings

Hey, lovelies! I used to read so many retellings, fairytale, folklore, and mythological retellings were a huge favorite genre of mine for a really long time. But I think I’m growing out of that. I’ve noticed that I don’t gravitate toward picking them up anymore. I will say that I do still read mythological retellings, and pretty often, especially now that we’re branching away from the typical Greek and Roman mythologies. I’ve also been discovering retellings other than fairytale and folklore. You will find some of those on this list. So, today I want to share some retellings that I really enjoyed.

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House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig
This is a retelling of the 12 Dancing Princesses which was one of my favorite fairytales as a kid. I’d never read a retelling of this one before, and I think this one was excellent. I don’t know if it’s actually considered horror, but it definitely has some horror elements. Annaleigh is one of twelve siblings. But four of her siblings have died, one at a time, and Annaleigh doesn’t think that they were accidents. I really loved this book. It stayed true to the heart of the 12 Dancing Princesses fairytale and added some really cool horror elements. The setting was creepy and atmospheric.

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro
This is a Sherlock Holmes retelling, sort of. This is a four book series that follows Charlotte Homes and Jamie Watson. They are the descendents of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. Charlotte and Jamie find themselves at the same boarding school and when a student is found murdered, they obviously must solve the mystery. I loved this whole series. There are a lot of hard hitting topics like mental health and drug use. There’s even a little bit of romance. This is one of the books I was talking about when I said I was finding and enjoying retellings outside of fairytales. This is a retelling of an older book series and I thought it was so interesting and I loved all of the characters.

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The Dead Queens Club by Hannah Capin
We have here a Henry VIII retelling. I actually didn’t know that this was a Shakespeare retelling until after I finished it. I think I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t read it in the description as I’m not a fan of Shakespeare at all. Despite that, I really enjoyed this modern retelling. I thought the mystery was well done and I really liked the characters. We follow Annie, nicknamed “Cleves”, and Henry. They are best friends, but they also briefly dated. Out of all of Henry’s ex-girlfriends, Cleves is the only one that has remained friends with him. She doesn’t think there’s anything suspicious about that, but after talking to some of his ex’s she might be changing her mind. I liked the mystery in this one because I couldn’t decide whether of not Henry was actually guilty right until the end of the book.

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The Initial Insult by Mindy McGinnis
This one is more inspired by than a true retelling, but I really loved it so I had to add it to this list. Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe, this is a dark and gritty story of revenge. In a small town in Ohio lives Tress and Felicity, two girls that used to be best friends. When Tress’s parents went missing, Felicity was with them, but she claims not to remember anything about what happened. Tress doesn’t believe her and she’s determined to get the truth out of Felicity, even if that means sealing her up, brick by brick. This book was weird and dark as hell and I cannot wait for the sequel.

My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, & Jodi Meadows
This series is a pretty popular one, but this first book is my favorite of the series. It’s a historical retelling with a fantasy twist. This one is a bit less retelling than it is fantasy. We follow Lady Jane Grey as she’s about to become queen. But her cousin is determined to see her married. The only problem is that the love interest, G, turns into a horse everyday at dawn. This added some hilarity to the story. I loved this book because it was funny but it also had an interesting historical feel.

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Heartless by Marissa Meyer
Another popular one, but this is the origin story of the Queen of Hearts. We get to see her childhood and the events that led up to the Queen of Hearts that we know from Alice in Wonderland. There’s lots of baking and love and fun in this book. There’s love and romance, but also betrayal and heartbreak. I thought this was a really great retelling or rather a prequel story.

Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly
This one is more of an after sort of retelling. In this one, we get to see what happens to Cinderella’s stepsisters after Cinderella meets and marries her Prince Charming. At first, I wasn’t sure if I was going to like this one because the main character that we follow, Isabelle. She’s the stepsister that cut off her toes to try and fit in the glass slipper. Isabelle is a pretty unlikeable character, but the way that this story is told really helped that. Instead of just Isabelle’s perspective, we see a point of view from Fate, who is following the map of Isabelle’s life. They’re watching to see what path Isabelle might take and if she will veer away from the path expected for her. I thought this was a really unique retelling about a character that most people don’t think of in the Cinderella story.

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And I Darken by Kiersten White
We have a historical retelling, which surprisingly end up being some of my favorites. I don’t really love historical fiction, but there’s something about a really good historical retelling that keeps me engaged in the story. We follow Lada and Radu. This is a gender bent retelling of Vlad the Impaler. Lada is a vicious and angry girl. She’s determined to prove that she is worthy to her father, but when she and her brother, Radu, are sent as gifts to be raised in the Ottoman courts, she feels nothing but betrayal. This is a really slow moving story, but it’s so worth it. We see Lada grow from a vicious girl into a lethal young woman. I absolutely loved it.

These are some of my favorite retellings. I’ve had so much fun finding new kinds of retellings from alternate historical retellings to retellings of other fiction works, to some more unique fairytale and folklore stories. Do you have any favorite retellings? Leave a comment and share them with me!

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: Bright We Burn by Kiersten White

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GoodReads Summary:
Haunted by the sacrifices he made in Constantinople, Radu is called back to the new capital. Mehmed is building an empire, becoming the sultan his people need. But Mehmed has a secret: as emperor, he is more powerful than ever . . . and desperately lonely. Does this mean Radu can finally have more with Mehmed . . . and would he even want it?
Lada’s rule of absolute justice has created a Wallachia free of crime. But Lada won’t rest until everyone knows that her country’s borders are inviolable. Determined to send a message of defiance, she has the bodies of Mehmed’s peace envoy delivered to him, leaving Radu and Mehmed with no choice. If Lada is allowed to continue, only death will prosper. They must go to war against the girl prince.
But Mehmed knows that he loves her. He understands her. She must lose to him so he can keep her safe. Radu alone fears that they are underestimating his sister’s indomitable will. Only by destroying everything that came before–including her relationships–can Lada truly build the country she wants.
Claim the throne. Demand the crown. Rule the world.
Bright We Burn (The Conqueror's Saga, #3)Review:
Wow, this finale was a wild ride. Like the second book, Lada somehow managed to be even more savage. If you read this, the scene where she’s meeting with all the boyars and that’s all I have to say about it. I still loved her. She was fierce and absolutely apologetic about it. Though, I was very sad about all of her friends. I mentioned in my review for book two that her friends and fellow soldiers were some of the best parts of her chapters and that was slowly lost in this book. Knowing Lada as well as we do in this book, I wasn’t surprised by her choices but they definitely made me sad for her.
Radu is the best soft boy there ever was. He really struggles with the choices he’s made in the past, but he’s working toward being better and making more choices for himself rather than for others. I really loved the way that Radu’s story ended. He did the best he could with what he had and he managed to make a beautiful family from it. I’m not sure that I mentioned it in my previous reviews, but Radu is gay. This is something he struggles with within the first two books. But he manages to find another love, after finally making the choice to move on from his feelings for Mehmed. He married a woman who was a lesbian and the three of them lived together, but when Radu’s love finally came to him I was so happy. Radu deserves all the happiness in the world.
Overall, I loved this book and I loved this series. I thought this was a mostly satisfying conclusion to such an incredible series. I’m left with questions that are mostly to do with how Lada’s story played out and the in-between bits we didn’t get to see before jumping to the epilogue, but as a whole, this was an incredible conclusion. I cannot recommend this series enough.

Quotes:

“That is the thing with giving your heart. You never wait for someone to ask. You hold it out and hope they want it.”

“Lada had always known exactly what shape she would take. She had never let it be determined by the people around her. But Radu could not escape the need for love, the need for people in his life to help him see what he should—and could—be. Lada shaped herself in spite of her environment. Radu shaped himself because of it.”

“She drummed her fingers on the arms of the throne, looking out at the empty room. She was not stupid enough to think men would stop trying to take it from her. They would always be there, waiting for weakness, waiting for her to fall. They wanted what she had because she had it. And one day, eventually, someone would defeat her. But until that day she would fight with tooth and nail, with all the fire and blood that had formed her into who she was. She was a dragon. She was a prince. She was a woman. It was the last that scared them most of all.”

“There was something to be said for having his heart broken so many times. Broken things healed thicker and stronger than they were before. Assuming one survived long enough to heal.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: Now I Rise by Kiersten White

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GoodReads Summary:
Lada Dracul has no allies. No throne. All she has is what she’s always had: herself. After failing to secure the Wallachian throne, Lada is out to punish anyone who dares to cross her blood-strewn path. Filled with a white-hot rage, she storms the countryside with her men, accompanied by her childhood friend Bogdan, terrorizing the land. But brute force isn’t getting Lada what she wants. And thinking of Mehmed brings little comfort to her thorny heart. There’s no time to wonder whether he still thinks about her, even loves her. She left him before he could leave her.
What Lada needs is her younger brother Radu’s subtlety and skill. But Mehmed has sent him to Constantinople—and it’s no diplomatic mission. Mehmed wants control of the city, and Radu has earned an unwanted place as a double-crossing spy behind enemy lines Radu longs for his sister’s fierce confidence—but for the first time in his life, he rejects her unexpected plea for help. Torn between loyalties to faith, to the Ottomans, and to Mehmed, he knows he owes Lada nothing. If she dies, he could never forgive himself—but if he fails in Constantinople, will Mehmed ever forgive him?
As nations fall around them, the Dracul siblings must decide: what will they sacrifice to fulfill their destinies? Empires will topple, thrones will be won . . . and souls will be lost.
Now I Rise (The Conqueror's Saga, #2)Review:
Where to start? If I thought Lada was savage and fierce in the first book, she is ten times that in this second book. She basically kills her way to the throne and I loved every single page of it. I love her friends and fellow soldiers that she takes with her on her path back to the Wallachian throne. I love that, while she is their leader, she listens to them and considers them friends. She takes their advice into consideration. She really cares about them and them about her. They make her more likable because it’s clear that she loves them all.
Radu is off in a completely different part of the world than his sister and with his own mission. Radu’s part of the story honestly just made me sad. Both siblings struggle with their feelings for their childhood friend, Mehmed. But with Radu, it’s worse because he’s doing things he never would have if not for Mehmed, while Lada has proven, again and again, she’ll do anything to get her throne. Radu does things he is very ashamed of but continues doing them all because of his love for Mehmed. It made me sad because of the life that he could have had. But he made his choices. It’s made very clear that everything he does is a choice that he’s thought about.
I thought it was very interesting to see how the siblings both handled the struggle that was their love for Mehmed. Honestly, I was hoping Mehmed would die most of the book so they could both be free. I also liked that we got both Radu’s and Lada’s stories even though they were both in different countries. Though it did make me sad they weren’t together. I’m hoping they get to reunite in the final book.
Overall, just like book one, I was blown away by Kiersten White’s writing. The history was fascinating, but the way that White brought these characters to life, made me care about them even though they’re both pretty terrible was amazing. I’m typing this on my phone so that I can continue on to the final book right now and not worry about mixing details up for whichever book. Please go read this series if you like historical fiction, savage female leads, and soft boys doing terrible things for love.

Quotes:

“Hold hands with the devil until you are both over the bridge. Or kill the devil and burn the bridge so no one can get to you.”

“I cannot imagine a god who hates anything that is love, any way we find to take tender care of each other. I want you to find that same love, and I never want you to hate yourself for any love that is in you.”

“I think if you had been born a boy, perhaps you would have been satisfied with what the world offered you. That is how we are alike. We saw everything that was not ours, and we hungered. Do not lose that hunger. You will always have to fight for everything. Even when you already have it, you will have to keep fighting to maintain it. You will have to be more ruthless, more brutal, more everything. Any weakness will undo everything you have accomplished. They will see any crack as evidence that they were right that a woman cannot do what you do.”

“He was no longer a lost little boy in a strange new city. Now he was a lost man in a broken old city, and no amount of prayers and kindness could undo what had been done.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: And I Darken by Kiersten White

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GoodReads Summary:
NO ONE EXPECTS A PRINCESS TO BE BRUTAL. And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.
Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, who’s expected to rule a nation, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.
But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.
And I Darken (The Conqueror's Saga, #1)Review:
This is an alternate historical fiction retelling of the story of Vlad the Impaler. In Kiersten White’s story, Vlad is a girl named Lada. And damn is she fierce. She is vicious and unforgiving. She cares for no one and nothing except for her home country Wallachia (and sometimes her younger brother, Radu). But being a girl in the 1400s her father doesn’t care much about her at all. She lives to prove her worth and to get his attention. Her life changes forever when her father leaves Lada and Radu with the Ottoman Empire as a sort of collateral to ensure that he sticks to their treaty.
This story was tough because it follows Lada from her birth to her later teenage years. So, there are slower parts of the story and more fast-paced parts. But throughout, you can’t help but like Lada because she doesn’t want to be just another girl to be used to secure a politically advantageous marriage. She wants to be a ruler. She will be in charge of her life. I liked that she was supposed to be unlikable and ugly. I’m definitely excited to see where the next book in the series will go for her.
Now, sweet Radu. I loved and pitied him. It wasn’t hard to feel sorry for him for the first 100 pages or so. He was horribly bullied for being small and sensitive. Lada and her childhood friend were pretty horrible to him, but Lada occasionally stuck up for him against others. It was a confusing relationship. I liked the sibling aspect of the story even though it was certainly not a traditional sibling dynamic. I really enjoyed Radu’s story once he learned more about Islam. I thought that was a great addition to the story as we got to learn a bit about it alongside him. And it’s obvious how he changes after finding faith.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. There were diverse characters, Radu is in love with his and Lada’s closest friend in the Ottoman Empire (but Lada loves him too which makes it a little weird) and there is another character that’s friends with Radu that mentions being with both genders. There is also a lesbian couple (in hiding because it’s the 1400s, but it’s there). I liked that even though it’s not a time period that these things were generally accepted, White still included them. These relationships would have existed whether out in the open or not. The story was well written and interesting. The characters were both likable and unlikable at the same time (which was weird for me to flip back and forth so many times). I cannot wait to continue onto the next book in the series.

Quotes:

“The last time she was up here, she had been… staring up at the sky and dreaming of stars. Now, she looked down and plotted flames.”

“So the question becomes, Daughter of the Dragon, what will you sacrifice? What will you let be taken away so that you, too, can have power?”

“And that is why you become a dealer of death. You feed death as many people as you can to keep it full and content so its eye stays off you.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.