A Tale of Two Impulse-Buy Reads (Double Book Review)

If my contemplation of the following reading experiences goes to show two things, they are 1) you never know when an impulse-bought book will knock the feet right out of from under you, and 2) you don’t have to be a hot psychotic man to infect me with empathy for your capital-“C” Crazy against all reason; it can work for psychotic girls, too.

Part One: My View through the Mountain Door

I picked this one up from the store’s shelf on a whim, because I had book money and this book’s cover was fetching and its premise was Greek mythological. As it turns out, it’s a take on mythology unlike any I’ve encountered before.

The Book: “The Door in the Mountain” by Caitlin Sweet.

Genre: YA Fantasy

Blurb: Lost in time, shrouded in dark myths of blood and magic, The Door in the Mountain leads to the world of ancient Crete: a place where a beautiful, bitter young princess named Ariadne schemes to imprison her godmarked half-brother deep in the heart of a mountain maze, where a boy named Icarus tries, and fails, to fly … and where a slave girl changes the paths of all their lives forever.

The Door in the Mountain

My Thoughts: So, wow. That happened. I hadn’t expected the ending to be so abrupt; hadn’t realized beforehand that it wasn’t the end at all – that “The Door in the Mountain” was only book one, with a sequel to follow. That surprise discovery left me reeling, but I’m glad there will be more. Though the story was strange and dark and often uncomfortable, I find that I am not all opposed to a continuation of the excruciating magic.

The idea of everyone (or, well, most everyone) being godmarked – born with special powers (blessings, curses, sometimes combinations of both) from the various deities – was an inventive touch, as were the recreations of such notorious folk as Icarus, the Minotaur, and others.

The royal family of Crete was all kinds of messed up, dancing drunkenly back and forth over the line between sympathetic and repulsive. I can’t even imagine what sort of twisted things they’ll get up to in the next book. I expect I shall stare in fascinated, cringing horror.

I didn’t fully understand the bond between Chara and Asterion – the enigmatic slave girl and the boy who was both prince and bull – but you know what? I’m okay with that. Loyal friendship is chosen, with or without reason beyond that one heart has determined to love the other. Princess Ariadne might have learned an important thing or two from them, rather than follow in her parents’ venomous footsteps.

The book’s over, and so help me, I wasn’t ready for it to be. You can be sure my eventual purchase of Book 2 will be more than random whim.

HSYRT? (Hey, Should You Read This?): Clearly, it left a mark on me, but you know yourselves better than I do. If what I’ve described sounds like a tale you’d like to experience, get thee to a purveyor of books!

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Part Two: So Good, Such Evil, Much Wow

This tale starts much as the one before. Same bookstore trip, gift card bucks to spend, another cover that called me, this time with a fairytale premise I could hardly resist. Thus did I soon enough find myself devouring the artistically edge-weathered pages of…

The Book: “The School for Good and Evil (#1)” by Soman Chainani.

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

Blurb: The first kidnappings happened two hundred years before. Some years it was two boys taken, some years two girls, sometimes one of each. But if at first the choices seemed random, soon the pattern became clear. One was always beautiful and good, the child every parent wanted as their own. The other was homely and odd, an outcast from birth. An opposing pair, plucked from youth and spirited away.

School for Good and Evil

This year, best friends Sophie and Agatha are about to discover where all the lost children go: the fabled School for Good & Evil, where ordinary boys and girls are trained to be fairy tale heroes and villains. As the most beautiful girl in Gavaldon, Sophie has dreamed of being kidnapped into an enchanted world her whole life. With her pink dresses, glass slippers, and devotion to good deeds, she knows she’ll earn top marks at the School for Good and graduate a storybook princess. Meanwhile Agatha, with her shapeless black frocks, wicked pet cat, and dislike of nearly everyone, seems a natural fit for the School for Evil.

But when the two girls are swept into the Endless Woods, they find their fortunes reversed—Sophie’s dumped in the School for Evil to take Uglification, Death Curses, and Henchmen Training, while Agatha finds herself in the School For Good, thrust amongst handsome princes and fair maidens for classes in Princess Etiquette and Animal Communication.. But what if the mistake is actually the first clue to discovering who Sophie and Agatha really are…?

The School for Good & Evil is an epic journey into a dazzling new world, where the only way out of a fairy tale is to live through one.

My Thoughts: This one kind of left me breathless. You don’t go into a fairytale expecting it to surprise you; the genre’s biggest claim to fame, love it or leave it, is its overall predictability. But for every plot point I saw coming, there were a dozen others that twisted and writhed and looped around anything I might have guessed, causing me to question right along with the characters: Just who is actually Good/Evil here, anyway??

These characters, man. Talk about humanity! Dumb and clever, admirable and horrid… and that’s just Sophie, though the same description could easily apply to much of the rest of the cast! Chances are I’m talking particularly about Sophie, though, given that she might possibly be my favorite. She drove me crazy, but doggone it, I couldn’t help rooting for her to get her act together – partly for her own sake, and partly for Agatha’s, bless her irrationally loyal heart. Agatha may or may not tie for favorite.

I’m sure I’m neither the first nor the last to compare this duo to Glinda and Elphaba from the musical “Wicked”. Yeah, I know, it was a book first, but I couldn’t get past more than a few pages. So as far as my head canon is concerned, this is the “Wicked” novelization Gotham deserves.

HSYRT? (Hey, Should You Read This?): For anyone in the readersphere complaining that there aren’t enough stories out there centered around female friendships and helmed by dynamic antiheroines, this is a series starter I’m telling you to check out.

Such are my thoughts on the books. Have any of your own? Share below!

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