Once Upon a Time…

onceup8300 Spring may be already on the way in some parts of the world, but in Thailand summer is in full swing, and only the occasional breeze can save the days from being uncomfortably hot. This is the mango season, my favorite tropical fruit, but also the time for magic, fairy tales, folklore and fantasy stories.
Carl from stainlesssteeldroppings is hosting the Once Upon a Time VIII challenge which starts today and runs until June 21st. I’ve been waiting for this event since January and collected some interesting books over the last few months.

My friend Vishy recommended The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter and the blurb on the first page makes me want to start reading it right away:

“From familiar fairy tales and legends – Red Riding Hood, Bluebeard, Puss-in-Boots, beauty and the Beast, vampires, werewolves – Angela Carter has created an absorbing collection of dark and sensual stories. Her hypnotic prose breathes new life into these enduring tales, every bit as haunting and disarming here as when encountered for the first time.”

I’ve also discovered Poison by Sarah Pinborough which is a retelling of Snow White. This beautiful hard cover gem is a work of art in itself, just wait until you see that first page.

It’s Snow White, but not as you know her…

Take a wicked queen, a handsome prince, a beautiful princess, and a poisoned apple…

…and now read the true story of Snow White, told the way it always should have been…”

Another book I’m excited about (and currently reading because I had just finished Doctor Sleep by Stephen King and just could not wait) is The Golem and the Djinni by Helene Wecker. I saw this one while browsing online but can’t remember where. I don’t know anything about golems and very little about djinnis (apart from the stories in the Arabian Nights) so I decided to give this book a try and so far I’m really enjoying it.

“New York, 1899:

Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life by a Jewish rabbi. When her master dies on the voyage from Poland, she arrives alone in an unknown city.

Ahmad is a djinni, a being of fire, trapped for centuries and brought back to life by Arbeely, an impoverished tinsmith who invites him to stay in his workshop in Lower Manhattan.
Together, experiencing freedom for the first time, they form the most unlikely of friendships. But a powerful threat will soon test their bond driving them back into their own worlds and forcing them to make a fateful choice.”

The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye by A.S. Byatt is a collection of five short stories:

The Glass Coffin
Gode’s Story
The Story of the Eldest Princess
Dragon’s Breath
The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye

A few years ago I read Possession by the same author and enjoyed the book so much that I jumped at the chance to read more of her work.

Fate by L.R. Fredericks

Three years ago I read a book called Farundell, the first book in a series. I loved the name and the cover, and the book proved to be equally great and I was so in love with it that I wrote to the author and requested a short interview. You can read it here. Fate is the second book in the series but both can be read as standalone novels. I’ve been waiting to read this one ever since it was published in 2012. This blurb is from goodreads.com:

“Death and Beauty, Magic and Science: Lord Francis Damory’s Quest for the Elixir of Immortality

In the brothels and debtors’ prisons of Georgian London and the gilded salons of the Ancien Règime…

Through love affairs and deadly duels, among courtesans and castrati, alchemists and anatomists, visionaries, monsters, charlatans and spies…

From Paris to Venice and across the pirate-infested Mediterranean to Egypt, Cyprus and distant Constantinople in pursuit of his mysterious ancestor Tobias the Alchemist, who may yet still be alive.”

Russian Magic Tales from Pushkin to Platonov, a Penguin Classics book. The descriptions of the tales in this book seem vaguely familiar. I may have read something similar as a child. I am intrigued.

“In these tales, young women go on long and difficult quests, wicked stepmothers turn children into geese and tsars ask dangerous riddles, with help or hindrance from magical dolls, cannibal witches, talking skulls, stolen wives, and brothers disguised as wise birds. Half the tales here are true oral tales, collected by folklorists during the last two centuries, while the others are reworkings of oral tales by four great Russian writers: Alexander Pushkin, Nadezhda Teffi, Pavel Bazhov and Andrey Platonov.”

Angelology by Danielle Trussoni

I’ve had this book on my radar for a while but didn’t actually buy it until I realized it would fit in perfectly with the themes of this challenge. Like The Golem and the Djinni, it’s over 600 pages long. I can’t wait to see what this story is really about.

“Abandoned as a child on the steps of the St Rose Convent in New York, Evangeline Cacciatore grew up knowing little of her parents. Assisting a scholar in the convent one day, she uncovers a disturbing secret connected to her family. It relates to a sinister discovery in the Bulgarian mountains: a beautiful humanlike body impervious to decay. Who is it? And what has it to do with her parents?”

The Bloody Chamber Poison The Golem and the Djinni The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye
Fate Russian Fairy Tales

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34 Responses to Once Upon a Time…

  1. Caroline says:

    I’m joining as well.
    I love The Bloody Chamber but your othe choices look very good too.

    • Delia says:

      Good to see that, Caroline.
      I can’t wait to read The Bloody Chamber, glad to know you loved it. Maybe I’ll read it after “The Golem and the Djinni” because it’s short.

  2. Vasilly says:

    Great list! I may have to add a few of these titles to my own list for the challenge like The Golem and the Jinni and The Bloody Chamber. The title story for that collection is amazing. Happy reading.

    • Delia says:

      Hi Vasilly,
      I’m assuming the collection you are referring to is “The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye”. That’s an interesting name, I agree. I can’t hope but picture that title in my mind.
      It would be great if we could exchange opinions on some (or all) of these books. I look forward to seeing your choices.

  3. Caroline says:

    Before the challenge even started I was toying with the idea of an Angela Carter event. A Carter week or so.
    Would you be interested in co-hosting something? I quite enjoyed our Dickens in December.

    • Delia says:

      That’s a great idea, Caroline. I will look for more of Angela Carter’s books, perhaps I can read two in one week, since “The Bloody Chamber” is under 200 pages long. When would you like to start? Let me know the details in an email.

  4. FictionFan says:

    An interesting bunch – the Angela Carter looks particularly good. I’ll be looking forward to reading your reviews… 🙂

    • Delia says:

      Thanks, FictionFan. I look forward to reading Angela Carter’s book. I think I’ve read a short story or two of hers before, but never a whole book of them.
      Thanks for coming by.

  5. Parichita says:

    Great list. The Golem and The Djinni sounds quite interesting. I’ve not yet figured out what to read for the challenge.

    • Delia says:

      Hi Parichita,
      There are quite a few great books that would fit in perfectly. I can recommend Neil Gaiman, his short stories are excellent, and also his novel, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, is a truly magical book.

  6. That sounds like a wonderful selection of books to choose from! I’m going to have to add Poison to my wish list, I think. I love retellings. (I should really add more of Angela Carter’s work too, at that.)

    I hope you’ll enjoy them all!

    • Delia says:

      That sounds good, Lynn, I hope you like “Poison” as well (that came out weird, ha). I think I will. Thank you.

      • I think it comes with the title. ^-~ I’ll be looking forward to hearing your thoughts on it! Snow White isn’t my favourite fairytale, but I’ve been really impressed by the retellings I’ve seen. It’d be wonderful if I could add “Poison” to the list there.

        Happy reading! ^_^

        • Delia says:

          Have you read Snow, Glass, Apples, by Neil Gaiman? His version of the Snow White fairy tale is great, and quite dark.
          Happy reading to you as well!

  7. Vishy says:

    Wonderful list, Delia! So glad to know that you will be reading Angela Carter’s ‘The Bloody Chamber’. Hope you will like it. I will look forward to hearing your thoughts on it. Your description of Sarah Pinborough’s ‘Poison’ makes me want to take a peek at the book. The book must be so beautiful to look at and to read. ‘The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye’ is such a fascinating title! I loved your review of ‘Farundell’ and your interview with the author L.R.Fredericks. Hope you enjoy reading the sequel. I will look forward to hearing your thoughts on it. The Russian Magic Tale collection looks quite wonderful. I have read a few Pavel Bazhov stories – mostly Ural folktales – when I studied Russian and liked them very much. Hope you enjoy reading it. ‘Angelology’ has such a fascinating plot.

    Wonderful reading choices, Delia! Hope you enjoy participating in ‘Once Upon a Time’ and reading these wonderful books. I will look forward to hearing your thoughts on them. Happy reading!

    • Delia says:

      Thanks Vishy, I’m very excited about this event and can’t wait to read all of these books. Nice to know you’ve read Pavel Bazhov, I look forward to reading his stories.
      The hardcover edition of “Poison” looks beautiful, just like a fairy tale book should look like. 🙂

  8. Lynn says:

    Some exciting choices here – so looking forward to the reviews!
    Lynn 😀

    • Delia says:

      Quite so, Lynn, if only I could read them all at once. But that would be a mess, wouldn’t it? 🙂 So far I am enjoying “The Golem and the Djinni” very much.

  9. I have heard good things about The Golem and the Djinni. That is the only one I know from your list, but they all sound really interesting. I kept trying to think of a short story collection, but my mind was blank. The Russian Magic Tales sounds like a good folklore choice. Happy Reading!

    • Delia says:

      Hi Sarah,
      “The Golem and the Djinni” seems quite the popular choice, I wonder why I haven’t heard about it before. Maybe people were saving it for this challenge. 🙂
      “The Russian Magic Tales” sounds very appealing. I hope I’ll enjoy it as much as I’m enjoying The Golem and the Djinni.
      Happy reading to you, too!

  10. claire says:

    Happy Once Upon a Time reading!

  11. Hmm, a couple of fairy tale retellings I haven’t heard of…sounds intriguing, I’ll be curious to see your reviews!

  12. Katherine says:

    I still haven’t read that book, but golems and djinn are two of my favorite things. Which means The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye caught my attention too. I have a book of Pushkin’s fairy tales bookmarked, but I don’t know if I’ll get to it. So many books, so little time!

    Happy reading!

    • Delia says:

      Hi Katherine,
      Interesting to know that. Have you read any books about golems? I’m beginning to like these creatures. 🙂 Djinnis too, but they’re quite a bit reckless.
      Maybe we’re reading the same Pushkin fairy tales. There are two of them in Russian Fairy Tales, one is called “A Tale about a Priest and his Servant Balda”, and the other is “A Tale about a Fisherman and a Fish”.
      Happy reading to you, too!

  13. I love how diverse your selections are! Poison appeals to me as a fairy tale re-telling and the New York Gilded Age setting of The Golem and the Djinni would be fascinating.

    • Delia says:

      I like diversity, Joy. I can’t wait to read Poison, as for The Golem and the Djinni, I’m almost done with it and I can’t recommend it highly enough. It raises some interesting questions. I hope you get to read it.

  14. Rachel says:

    I’ve really been wanting to read The Golem and the Djinni. I currently work in a bookstore, and I feel a little envious every time I sell a copy of it. Maybe I’ll break down and read it for this challenge as well. 🙂

    Good luck!

  15. Brian Joseph says:

    This seems like a fun reading event I am very tempted to join in. Alas I am really overextended at the moment. I may have to settle for reading everyone’s commentary.

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