Tag Archives: Villains

Urban Enemies edited by Joseph Nassise

Overview
Image result for urban enemies book cover

Title: Urban Enemies
Author: Joseph Nassise, Jim Butcher, Kelley Armstrong, Jeff Somers, Craig Schaefer, Lilith Saintcrow, Kevin Hearne, Caitlin Kittredge, Carrie Vaughn, Jonathan Maberry, Faith Hunter, Jon F. Merz, Diana Pharaoh Francis, Steven Savile, Domino Finn, Seanan McGuire & Sam Witt
In: Urban Enemies (Joseph Nassise)
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Short story collections, Urban fantasy, Villains
Dates read: 31st July – 30th December 2019
Pace: Medium
Format: Anthology
Publisher: Gallery Books
Year: 2017
5th sentence, 74th page: He’d sent her out of the morgue just long enough to make a quick phone call in private.

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Synopsis

Villains have all the fun

For every hero trying to save the world, there’s a villain trying to tear it all down – and in this star-studded urban fantasy anthology, the villains get their say. Told from antagonists’ points of view, this is a rare glimpse into the dark side of your favorite series.

John Marcone decides to battle a cantrev lord instead of going after Harry Dresden in Jim Butcher’s “Even Hand” (Dresden Files). Loki traverses Hell to ahve a sit-down with Lucifer in Kevin Hearn’es “The Naughtiest Cherub” (Iron Druid Chronicles). Kelley Armstrong’s “Hounded” (Cainsville) tells the tale of the Huntsman’s plot to replace his missing hound in a most surprising fashion. The cuckoos are powerful telepathic predators, but one finds herself with difficult decisions to make in Seanan McGuire’s “Balance” (InCryptid). In Jonathan Maberry’s “Altar Boy” (Joe Ledger), the man called Toys is no saint, and certainly isn’t playing around…

Includes other stories by Domino Finn (Black Magic Outlaw), Diana Pharaoh Francis (Horngate Witches), Faith Hunter (Jane Yellowrock), Caitlin Kittredge (Hellhound Chronicles), Jon F. Merz (Lawson Vampire), Joseph Nassise (Templar Chronicles), Lilith Saintcrow (Jill Kismet), Steven Savile (Glass Town), Craig Schaefer (Daniel Faust), Jeff Somers (The Ustari Cycle), Carrie Vaughn (Kitty Norville), and Sam Witt (Pitchfork County).

Thoughts

I really enjoyed this collection, but it was a little more difficult to get through. Unlike a lot of anthologies, every single one of these stories was placed in an already established world and series. However, unlike the few other books that I’ve read which have the same setup, these shorts didn’t stand by themselves very well. Actually, some were just downright confusing because I had no idea what was happening.

What I did love about this collection is that even though I wasn’t 100% about what was happening… there was a little introduction at the beginning of each story. It just explained the worlds and series in a brief manner. Not excellently because I still didn’t actually get what was happening in a number of stories, but enough that it helped me to place the stories a little.

I’d be keen to reread a number of these short stories. Particularly once I’ve actually read the series in which they are situated. At this point, they’re all on my wish list, so it’ll happen… eventually. I seriously need to stop starting a series and then starting a new one… should really finish a few before I get too hooked into a new series.

 <- Everywhere ReviewEven Hand Review ->
Image source: Simon & Schuster

Return to the Isle of the Lost by Melissa de la Cruz

Overview
Image result for book cover return to the isle of the lost

Title: Return to the Isle of the Lost
Author: Melissa de la Cruz
Series: Descendants #2
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Fairy tales, Retellings, Villains
Dates read: 13th – 26th December 2019
Pace: Medium
Format: Novel
Publisher: Scholastic
Year: 2016
5th sentence, 74th page: ‘Oh, and it’s always best to be home before midnight.’

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Synopsis

Mal’s an expert at intimidating her enemies, but she’s broken the habit since leaving her villainous roots behind. So when she and her friends Evie, Carlos and Jay all receive threatening messages demanding they return home, Mal can’t believe it. Sure, she’s King Ben’s girlfriend now, and she’s usually nice to her classmates, but she still didn’t think anyone would be silly enough to try to push her around.

The thing is, it kind of worked. Especially since she and her friends have a sneaking suspicion that their villainous parents are behind the messages. And when Evie looks into her Magic Mirror, what she sees only confirms their fears. Maleficent’s just a tiny lizard after her run-in with Mal at Ben’s Coronation, but she’s the worst villain in the land for a reason. Could she have found a way to escape? Whatever’s going on, Mal, Evie, Carlos and Jay know they have to sneak back to the Isle and get to the bottom of it.

Without its infamous leader, the island’s even worse than when they left it, but the comforts of home – even a home as gloomy as the Isle of the Lost – can be hard to resist for recently reformed villains. Will the kids be able to beat the evil bubbling at the Isle’s wicked core, or will the plot to destroy Auradon succeed?

Thoughts

I absolutely loved The Isle of the Lost, but I did get a little confused at the beginning of this. I was expecting the story to pick up where the first one ended. But, I’m thinking that the movie is the middle story to the two stories. Since at the end of the first novel, the four are still on the Isle. And at the beginning of this, they’re in Auradon Prep, have boyfriends and girlfriends and a life of their own. I actually checked online multiple times to make sure I had the right book. It was. And once I got over my confusion, I thoroughly enjoyed this story.

I can normally have a bit of a guess at the direction which a story that I’m reading is likely to take. Especially when it’s a young adult book. And one that is based on Disney (which I am stupidly obsessed with). Yet, this story wasn’t like that. I was constantly surprised at the direction which this took. Each moment I thought I had a handle on what was happening… the story changed direction. New characters with unexpected Disney parents would appear, change tactic. New challenges would arise. I loved it. Once I got over my initial confusion… I couldn’t put it down!

There is this idea in stories and the world that returning home and family is generally a good thing. I don’t find it to be that way. And this story seriously echoes that sentiment. For which I am grateful. I like that this is about not following in your parents footsteps. Or doing what they want and expect. That it’s about finding your own path, and realising that sometimes, you’re better off where you are, rather than returning to a past that wasn’t exactly healthy for you.

De la Cruz is very good at weaving Disney lore into the stories in a way that is incredibly surprising. The appearance of Mum for example was not one that I expected, but I love the mad witch, so it was also brilliant. Using this intricate knowledge to create the talismans and their powers was an unexpected choice. Yet, again, one that I absolutely adored. It was fun, engaging and makes me incredibly keen to pick up the third novel. I’m going to try and hold out for the new year though and finish the books that I’m currently reading.

 <- The Isle of the Lost ReviewRise of the Isle of the Lost Review ->

Image source: Amazon

Circe by Madeline Miller

Overview
Image result for circe madeline miller book cover

Title: Circe
Author: Madeline Miller
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Family, Greek mythology, Strong women, Villains
Dates read: 26th March – 3rd April 2019
Pace: Medium
Format: Novel
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Year: 2018
5th sentence, 74th page: I tried to mimic the sounds I had heard Aeetes make when he had healed my face.

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Synopsis

In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe has neither the look nor the voice of divinity, and is scorned and rejected by her kin. Her isolation leads her to discover a power forbidden to the gods: witchcraft.

When love drives Circe to cast a dark spell, vengeful Zeus banishes her to the remote island of Aiaia, where she learns to harness her occult craft. But there is danger for a solitary woman in this world, and Circe’s independence draws the wrath of men and gods alike. To protect what she holds dear, Circe must decide whether she belongs with the deities she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.

Breathing life into the ancient world, Madeline Miller weaves an intoxicating tale of gods and heroes, magic and monsters, survival and transformation.

Thoughts

I can’t believe it took me THIS LONG to pull this book off my shelf and read it. It was just amazing!! And rave worthy. And completely, completely world-shatteringly good. The only reason that I didn’t read it in one sitting is because I got about 60 pages in and stopped. I had work that I had to do, and I knew if I didn’t stop then, I never would. Five days later I blocked aside almost a whole day so that I could forget about the world and just enjoy the amazing journey that Miller was able to take me on.

From the very first chapter, I had a box of tissues next to me while I was reading this. Something about the way the storyline was unfolding made me think that this would be a Greek tragedy. No one would have their happily ever after, and, since I was holed up in my house to read this, I could let the resulting flood of tears wash over me. Luckily for my sanity, and happiness, it wasn’t a tragedy at all! Don’t get me wrong, there were heart rending moments, but everything actually worked out all right. And I turned that final page with a great big, happy smile on my face.

Greek mythology seems to be a pretty recurrent mythos which authors like to use in retellings. And why not? It has sex, mayhem and pettiness all wrapped up in one neat little bow. But, most of the retellings that I’ve had the pleasure of reading thus far are quite PG in their set up. They gloss over all of the rape and horrible things that the gods and their followers do. They don’t focus on the fact that women, even in the pantheon often had little to no rights. (Just think of Hera and Zeus… as an adult I actually feel for Hera more than anything). So it was really nice to read a retelling in which these aspects really weren’t glossed over. The impotence and inability of women to be given their own autonomy is the driving factor for many of Circe’s decisions. And it is a way to completely retell a story in which the traditional woman is repainted as one who was just able to stand on her own two feet… which of course, just didn’t go over very well.

 <- More Madeline Miller reviewsThe Song of Achilles Review ->
Image source: Bloomsbury

Troll’s-Eye View edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling

Overview
Image result for troll's-eye view book cover

Title: Troll’s-Eye View
Author: Ellen Datlow, Terri Windling, Delia Sherman, Garth Nix, Wendy Froud, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Peter S. Beagle, Ellen Kushner, Joseph Stanton, Holly Black, Jane Yolen, Nancy Farmer, Michael Cadnum, Catherynne M. Valente, Midori Snyder, Neil Gaiman & Kelly Link
In: Troll’s-Eye View (Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling)
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Fairy tales, Retellings, Short story collections, Villains
Dates read: 12th December 2018 – 1st March 2019
Pace: Medium
Format: Anthology
Publisher: Firebird Fantasy
Year: 2009
5th sentence, 74th page: I could have wept.

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Synopsis

Everyone thinks they know the real story behind the villains in fairy tales – evil, no two ways about it. But the villains themselves beg to differ. In this book you’ll hear from:
the Giant’s wife from “Jack and the Beanstalk”
the oldest of the Twelve Dancing Princesses
Rumpelstiltskin
the witch from “Hansel and Gretel”
someone called Evil Cinderella

Just watch these old stories do new tricks!

Thoughts

This is an incredibly easy, fun and engaging short story collection. It takes some brilliant authors who take you on journeys through well known fairy tales. The fact that these retellings all focus on the villains of the stories just made me love it even more. I always love the highlighting of grey areas and alternate tellings.

Troll’s-Eye View is a collection that is written for a very young age group. It’s simple and quaint. Easily accessible and fun. But, that doesn’t mean that as an adult you can’t enjoy it. There was nothing I enjoyed more than sitting down at the end of a long day and reading one of these short stories or poems. It was a great, fun and quick escape from the real world at a time when I’ve been really quite overwhelmed and stressed.

Most of my anthologies and collections contain only novellas and short stories. Troll’s-Eye View also has poems. They were enough to break up the flow throughout the story and leave you with a smile on your face.

 <- Why Light? ReviewWizard’s Apprentice Review ->
Image source: Amazon

Troll Bridge by Neil Gaiman

Overview
Image result for snow white, blood red book cover

Title: Troll Bridge
Author: Neil Gaiman
In: Snow White, Blood Red (Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling) & Smoke and Mirrors (Neil Gaiman)
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Fairy tales, Villains
Dates read: 12th March 2019
Pace: Medium
Format: Short story
Publisher: Signet
Year: 1993
5th sentence, 74th page: “She’s an innocent,” it said.

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Synopsis

Promise and hope can quickly become lost in life. It might take the troll bridge for a young boy to finally realise this though.

Thoughts

I loved that this was a retelling of The Billy Goats Gruff, but through the lens of loss. Or, more specifically about a lost future and lost chances. It gave a fairy tale that already feels a little eerie a far more haunting appeal. There was something about a broken down village and an abandoned bridge that made you think of people who are broken and unable to fulfil their dreams and potential.

At the beginning of this tale, I kind of felt for the narrative. I thought that his life would be ended prematurely and that he would be sympathetic. And he was, to begin with… and then he quickly became less and less relatable. Less someone that I wanted a happily ever after for. And more someone that I wanted karma to visit… which it did in a round about way. But, that was enough to make me feel a little more comfortable. And to remind me why I love Neil Gaiman’s writings.

 <- The Springfield Swans ReviewA Sound, Like Angels Singing Review ->
Image source: Amazon

Observing the Formalities by Neil Gaiman

Overview
Image result for troll's-eye view book cover

Title: Observing the Formalities
Author: Neil Gaiman
In: Troll’s-Eye View (Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling) & Trigger Warning (Neil Gaiman)
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Poetry, Retellings, Villains
Dates read: 1st March 2019
Pace: Slow
Format: Poem
Publisher: Firebird Fantasy
Year: 2009
5th sentence, 74th page: Dull, useless things.

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Synopsis

The entire issue with Aurora’s birthday is that no one decided to observe the formalities. And we all know how this story eventually ends…

Thoughts

I absolutely loved this poem. Although Maleficent (or the evil fairy from Sleeping Beauty) has always seemed kind of a terrifying villain, she’s also been the one that I relate to the best. Well, maybe not relate to, but understand. After all, she is retaliating against an incredible slight. Plus, there are so many beautiful retellings in the world now which make her seem far less evil, and just… misunderstood.

Which is probably why I love this poem so much. It highlights the faux pas that was made in “observing the formalities”. And instead of feeling like a tale of an evil witch, it is more about someone who really likes the rules. Which an organise freak like me can completely relate to…

 <- Molly ReviewThe Cinderella Game Review ->
Image source: Amazon

Molly by Midori Snyder

Overview
Image result for troll's-eye view book cover

Title: Molly
Author: Midori Snyder
In: Troll’s-Eye View (Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling)
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Fairy tales, Villains
Dates read: 1st March 2019
Pace: Medium
Format: Short story
Publisher: Firebird Fantasy
Year: 2009
5th sentence, 74th page: He smiled for the first time in weeks.

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Synopsis

In the stories, the child outwitting the giant is a hero. But what happens when Molly just wants to outwit him out of her own greed?

Thoughts

As a child I always admired the children who could overcome the giants in the fairy tales. After all, they’re triumphing over someone and something far bigger and scarier than they are. But, the older I get, the more I realise that children are not necessarily always in the right. And, sometimes they are actually kind of in the wrong… and apparently Snyder agrees with this sentimentality.

You know that the story is a good one when you feel really sorry for the character who would typically be the villain. You know that it’s even better when you actually think that the cute little kid should be nailed into a big box and thrown down the river. Considering this is in a children’s book and about a not-so-good child, well, it kind of offers the chance to see things from multiple points of view from a young age.

 <- A Delicate Architecture ReviewObserving the Formalities Review ->
Image source: Amazon

A Delicate Architecture by Catherynne M. Valente

Overview
Image result for troll's-eye view book cover

Title: A Delicate Architecture
Author: Catherynne M. Valente
In: Troll’s-Eye View (Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling)
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Fairy tales, Food, Villains
Dates read: 27th February 2019
Pace: Medium
Format: Short story
Publisher: Firebird Fantasy
Year: 2009
5th sentence, 74th page: He gave me a slice of honeycomb and shooed me into the garden, where raspberries grew along the white gate.

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Synopsis

Constanze has always wanted to go to Venice with her father, but when opportunity finally knocks, she finds that not everything is as it seems.

Thoughts

I’ve never really questioned why there was a gingerbread house in Hansel and Gretel. Or why it seems to be something that is repeated across fairy tales. After all, it is a really impractical and useless way in which to make a house. And it kind of seems just… sticky to live in.

Valente was able to give a completely plausible reason for the building of a gingerbread house. And a completely understandable way in which the wicked witch from Hansel and Gretel turned out the way that she did… everything about this story just helped to create a reality in which the well-known fairy tale actually makes sense. After it had first poked the holes in it.

As much as I loved this story, it also made me feel kind of sad. The father betrays and then forgets his daughter. She is left unloved, unremembered and just completely stranded. All so he can regain the fame and fortune that he once had.

 <- ‘Skin ReviewMolly Review ->
Image source: Amazon

‘Skin by Michael Cadnum

Overview
Image result for troll's-eye view book cover

Title: ‘Skin
Author: Michael Cadnum
In: Troll’s-Eye View (Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling)
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Easy reading, Fairy tales, Villains
Dates read: 19th February 2019
Pace: Fast
Format: Short story
Publisher: Firebird Fantasy
Year: 2009
5th sentence, 74th page: I breathed metaphors into the nodding poet’s ear.

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Synopsis

Rumplestiltskin has always seemed such an odd name for one of the “fair folk”, but was it his real name? Here Michael Cadnum offers an alternative point of view to the classical fairy tale.

Thoughts

I never quite realised how weird a name ‘Rumpelstiltskin’ is. It’s just a name that has always been. But when you read a cute little short story about how odd that is, you start to realise that it is quite an absurd name…

There were two things that I loved about this short story.

The first was the fact that Rumpelstiltskin started out as kind of a benevolent figure. He is constantly helping and assisting others towards a greater future. This is so completely at odds with the original and my understanding of him that I was kind of taken aback. Even his assistance of the girl spinning straw into gold came from a good place. It was just her attitude that turned it into something more sinister.

I don’t like the idea of eating babies. I thought I should start with that, since I actually loved the fact that a baby was eaten in this story… it kind of seemed like justice to the annoyances of the previously thought of victim of the story. A poetic kind of revenge.

 <- Castle Othello ReviewA Delicate Architecture Review ->
Image source: Amazon

Fairest of All by Serena Valentino

Overview
Image result for fairest of all book cover

Title: Fairest of All: A Tale of the Wicked Queen
Author: Serena Valentino
Series: Villains #1
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Fairy tales, Fantasy, Villains
Dates read: 4th – 16th January 2019
Pace: Medium
Format: Novel
Publisher: Disney Press
Year: 2009
5th sentence, 74th page: Given what Snow has already told us of them, I would advise we keep a close watch on the sisters, for I do not trust them.

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Synopsis

The tale of the young princess Snow White and her evil stepmother the Wicked Queen is widely known. Despite a few variations from telling to telling, the story remains the same – the Queen was jealous of the girl’s beauty, and this jealousy culminated in the Queen’s attempt on the sweet, naive girl’s life.

Another tale far less often spoken of is the one that explains what caused the Queen to become so contemptuously vile. Still, some have attempted to guess at the reason. Perhaps the Queen’s true nature was that of a wicked hag and her beautiful, regal appearance a disguise used to fool the King. Others claim that the Queen might have hated the girl for her resemblance to the King’s first wife. Mostly, the Queen is painted as a morally abhorrent woman who never loved another being during the course of her miserable life.

In fact, the theories about exactly what caused the Queen’s obsessive vanity and jealous rage are too numerous to catalogue. This book recounts a version of the story that has remained untold until now. It is a tragic tale of love and loss, and it contains a bit of magic. It is a tale of the Wicked Queen…

Thoughts

I bought the first three books of this series on a whim because I saw their pretty covers on someone’s Facebook page. Normally I do a little research into a series before I do this. But I mostly just got a little bit too overexcited and just went for it. And I’m really glad that I did! This story takes the original Disney version of Snow White and gives it so many glorious twists and turns that leaves you understanding and sympathising with the villain. One of the scariest villains of my childhood for that matter – the Wicked Queen.

I was expecting a story that justified the Queen’s actions in the well-known Disney version fairy tale. What I wasn’t expecting was for the story to continue on beyond her turning, and to her actual decision making that occurs throughout the entire movie. And even continued on beyond the happily-ever-after. It gave the story a much more intense and intriguing storyline that I just wasn’t expecting.

Although you know that there isn’t really going to be a happily ever after, you still kind of hope for one. Valentino is just that good at inspiring sympathy for a villain. I haven’t had the fortune to read many villain-based tales and I thought that this was a great start into the sub- genre. Especially when considering that this is based on one of the best-known fairy tales. And it uses the Disney version which is the retellings most commonly recognised.

Throughout this story, my heart bled for the Queen. I was so incredibly attached to her and loved that although she turns evil as expected, you could understand more and more why she ended up that way. I can’t wait to pick up The Beast Within and find out how Valentino spins that tale.

 <- The Odd Sisters ReviewThe Beast Within Review ->
Image source: Disney Publishing Worldwide