Thursday, 17 October 2013

Fairytale Retellings

TITLE: Sisters Red + Sweetley
AUTHOR: Jackson Pearce
PAGES: 346 + 310
RATING:  (3/5)

RECOMMEND?: To female readers

Afternoon readers,

I've always loved fairytales, and I don't actually have a reason for it. I think I just love the way mystery and adventure is intertwined with fantasy, yet in a fairytale there is always a lesson to be learned from it. At the closing, you are always brought back down to reality. I've read about fairytales ever since I was young, and their stories have always plagued me. Perhaps it's because deep down inside, I'm still a child at heart. The stories still get to me now.

I began reading books by a writer called Jackson Pearce. My best friend loves her work, and every time I saw her bookcase the covers of her novels were decorated with clever art depicting a familiar fairytale. So I finally asked what they were about. I was told that they were essentially re-tellings of classic fairytales, but with modern twists and better plot lines. I wasn't sure what to make of them, but I figured I'd never know until I picked them up.

Sisters Red is the retelling of Red Riding Hood, but of course with a modern twist. In this instance, Red Riding Hood isn't a poor girl wondering through the forest, she's a werewolf slayer. Similarly, the werewolves aren't called werewolves, they're called the Fenris; and Red Riding Hood isn't just one girl, she's two, namely, sisters called Scarlett and Rosie.

The re-telling is obviously aimed at teenage females, and strong ones at that. Scarlett and Rosie are incredibly strong characters, they don't wait for a huntsman to save the day for them, they don't beg for mercy, they fight. They've been trained to battle with the Fenris ever since an accident which left Scarlett scarred. I was worried that because of this audience, the book would turn into one of those teen paranormal romance books which everyone is reading nowadays. But it's got a lot more depth than that.

Scarlett's scarred face means she's not just one of those average girl characters which we see popping up everywhere. She's got something different about her. Boys don't fall in love with her and people shy away when they see her face. It brings something new to the story and sets it apart from everything else. Yes, there is an element of love in it, but how can you possibly write a story for teens without the love element? Plus, it's not just a passing theme, it's quite essential.

One thing which really surprised me about the book is the way in which it was written. It's written in third person with every other chapter alternating to focus on each sister. I thought perhaps that it would get confusing to read with both sisters having similar ideals and thoughts, but this doesn't happen. Pearce has fleshed out and developed both of the sisters so well that it's easy to tell which girl is speaking at which point. In terms of characters, I admire Pearce in the way she manages to use hers.

Sweetly is the sequel to Sisters Red. I was very confused because reading the blurb, it mentioned no-one at all from the previous book. I was really curious to see how it intertwined together. My friend had also said that she preferred Sweetly, so I dived into this book with great expectations.

It did not disappoint. I, too, preferred the second book to the first, but only because Pearce had obviously developed her writing style and thrown in a lot more things for us to think about. This time, we were shrouded in not onto the supernatural, but mystery, action, romance, and a hint of teenage rebellion.

Sweetly retells the story of Hansel and Gretel, but this time with two teenagers from America called Ansel and Gretchen. Looking to seek out a new home to escape their haunting past, they stumble upon a town which has long been neglected by the people who live there. Then they meet a girl called Sophie, who is hiding a lot of secrets, and I mean a lot. There is a huge amount of mystery going on in this novel, we're constantly trying to fit the pieces together to figure out what's happening. We get new names and new faces to slot into the story, yet we lose none of the supernatural elements that we received in the first book.

So how do they tie together? Well, the Fenris are back again. Plus, there are small hints along the way which tie us back to Sisters Red. They are only small things, but they're enough to make us guess that they will cause both sets of siblings to reach each other in the near future. By the end of the book, things are slotting together. It is only when you've closed it for good that you realise how clever Pearce has been to wind the stories around each other.

The third book in the series is out, and it's called Fathomless. I have yet to read it, but will update with my review as soon as I have. I'm currently reading Doctor Sleep by Stephen King, and I've recently finished Rebecca and The House of Hades. I'm excited to write about both of these books, as Rebecca has become one of my favourites!

I apologise for the sloppy review. I'm feeling rather under the weather, and I'm sitting in bed with a cup of tea. Hopefully, that means I'll be let off for sitting in bed all day and reading my books.

Thanks for reading!
Rachel x

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