Wednesday, October 24, 2018

15 Short Retellings of East and South Asian Folklore

Title: A Thousand Beginnings and Endings
Authors: edited by Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Release Date: June 26th, 2018!

From Goodreads...
Star-crossed lovers, meddling immortals, feigned identities, battles of wits, and dire warnings. These are the stuff of fairy tale, myth, and folklore that have drawn us in for centuries. 

Fifteen bestselling and acclaimed authors reimagine the folklore and mythology of East and South Asia in short stories that are by turns enchanting, heartbreaking, romantic, and passionate. 

Compiled by We Need Diverse Books’s Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman, the authors included in this exquisite collection are: Renee Ahdieh, Sona Charaipotra, Preeti Chhibber, Roshani Chokshi, Aliette de Bodard, Melissa de la Cruz, Julie Kagawa, Rahul Kanakia, Lori M. Lee, E. C. Myers, Cindy Pon, Aisha Saeed, Shveta Thakrar, and Alyssa Wong. 

A mountain loses her heart. Two sisters transform into birds to escape captivity. A young man learns the true meaning of sacrifice. A young woman takes up her mother’s mantle and leads the dead to their final resting place. From fantasy to science fiction to contemporary, from romance to tales of revenge, these stories will beguile readers from start to finish. For fans of Neil Gaiman’s Unnatural Creatures and Ameriie’s New York Times–bestselling Because You Love to Hate Me.

My Reviews!
*Minor spoilers*

Forbidden Fruit by Roshani Chokshi: It was an ill-fated thing to claim that a heart is safe. Hearts are rebellious. The moment they feel trapped, they will strain against their bindings. It had all the flavor I've come to expect from Roshani's writing, and it did not disappoint me. But wow, SUCH SADNESS. It's not a happily-ever-after kind of tale, which is definitely not a bad thing. Sometimes, life just doesn't work out. And people harden their hearts and turn bitter and angry over the smallest of moments.

Rating: 4 stars

Olivia's Table by Alyssa Wong: "If you honor everything I've taught you, then I promise that I will never leave you." Ohhh, I loved this one so much. It's a story of grief and healing, of letting go and honoring those who came before you. Olivia finally follows in her mom's footsteps, to cook for the ghosts at the Ghost Festival, so that they can move on. Because of her food, they're able to find peace. Her mom had done it, and now she would. And I just loved those quiet moments in here, the ones that spoke of tradition and mourning and giving voice to people who are forgotten. Simply amazing! 

Rating: 5 stars

Steel Skin by Lori M. Lee: was enjoyable, but not to my tastes really. I'm not a huge science fiction person, though I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked this. Yer thinks her father's an android, after he's been keeping secrets. He was taken when the recall happened, and she never knew what had transpired except that her mother died and her father changed. But tables are turned, and while I wasn't surprised by the twist, I didn't mind so much. It was an interesting take on deception and trickery! 
Rating: 3.5 stars

Still Star-Crossed by Sona Charaipotra: "You don't know how to choose until you're right there, on the precipice, giving away your everything for something that may be real or may be a shadow, a ghost you're chasing."Young Taara meets a boy at a party and finds more than she was ever expecting. But I'm a *little* confused? Why was Nick constantly searching for Taara, when it's her mom his soul had fallen in love with in a previous life? Or was it Taara instead? IDK, MAN. I get the star-crossed love thing, and the story it's based on. But this just didn't quite hit the mark for me, and I spent more time wondering what the hell was happening. 

Rating: 2.5 stars

The Counting of Vermillion Beads by Aliette de Bodard: Cam's hand remains hanging in the air, with the touch of Tam's fingers still on hers, not sure whether she should laugh or cry or both. I ADORED this one! Not only was the writing beautiful, but so was the relationship between the two sisters. In spite of all they've been through, and how different they are, their bond stays strong and true, and that ending was amazing. I was so impressed with this one, and I would gladly have read MORE of it! 
Rating: 5 stars

The Land of the Morning Calm by E.C. Myers: Mom didn't disappear with the game or the kumiho bead. Part of her has continued on in me and in our memories, and in everything she created in life. omg this one almost made me cry. I teared up in the latter half, in the moments between Sun Moon and her mom, who died five years ago. Sun is just trying to move on, to heal, but there's something holding her back. Her grandfather thinks her mom is a gwisin, a ghost who keeps haunting them. But what Sun finds is so much more, and through it all, she's able to let go. SO MUCH LOVE FOR THIS ONE. 
Rating: 4.5 stars

The Smile by Aisha Saeed: Belonging meant he could place me wherever he liked, whether in his bed or in this dank tower. Belonging is not love. It never was. And another: "As long as I live within these walls I am not free. My heart is all I have to freely give." Oh, what a story! This is about a girl named Naseem, a beautiful dancer who catches the eye of the prince, and becomes his courtesan. He renames her, uses her, and what love looks like is only a relationship born of his whims. Not hers. So she chooses her heart, her freedom, over a life that feels like chains around her wrists. 
Rating: 4 stars

Girls Who Twirl and Other Dangers by Preeti Chhibber: Hundreds of thousands of gods, and sometimes one sees you. Preeti's story was super fun! Girls exacting revenge on a jackass boy who never apologizes for his dancing aggression? YES, PLEASE. It was interspersed with the story of Ma Durga and Mahishasur, a legendary battle between good and evil. And while Dinesh TOTALLY deserved the embarrassment he got, the girls start to feel a little bad. So they help him out, and the holiday is saved, and the main character, Jaya, gets her flirt on. 
Rating: 3.5 stars

Nothing Into All by Renee Ahdieh: "Promises from a thief are as useful to me as a pebble in my shoe." Renee is one of my favorite authors, so I couldn't wait to read her story! And it was good. It was about a complicated sibling relationship, which is one of my weaknesses. Chun and Charan are so different from one another, and their history is messy, that you almost wonder why Charan makes the choice she does at the end of it. But forgiveness can be freeing. And I loved that this was centered around goblins, and magic, and the question of what treasures one would ask for if they could. 
Rating: 4 stars

Spear Carrier by Rahul Kanakia: was very... boring. So this MC gets a visit from a god, and without knowing what he's getting into, he's thrust into a war that seems to have no point to it. And so he wonders why the fuck he's there, and what he should do. So... he literally stops everyone in the midst of battle to get an answer that is less-than-convincing, and he goes home a coward. Like, sorry, I know you're ordinary and you don't think this gods-war that you have no part of is not worth dying for, but you ran away from it. You weren't brave like the heroes you admire. Ugh, I don't know. I just didn't care about any part of this story. 
Rating: 2 stars

Code of Honor by Melissa de la Cruz: was about vampires. Or aswangs, in the case of our main character, Aida. Once her mother died, she left the Philippines and has been searching for home ever since then. From New Delhi to London, she never stays in place one long. But when she overhears a rumor about vampires in New York, she goes there and gets in at this super-elite private school. And what she finds is a coven, and possibly a home, even if the mean-girl who hates her is the one welcoming her in it. I'm not really a vampire fan, but I liked this! 
Rating: 3 stars

Bullet, Butterfly by Elsie Chapman: "Don't forget we're only ever soldiers here in Shangyu, and soldiers never get to be the ones who wake up from a spell, or who even get to break a spell. We're just the dragons guarding the gate, ordered to keep breathing the fire of those who cast the spell in the first place." I loved this one! It's sad; it's heartbreaking. It's a retelling of what is considered the Chinese version of Shakespeare's most famous tragic (though this one is far older), so I guess I shouldn't have expected a happy ending. But oh, man, had I wished for it so much for these characters. They deserved more than a war-torn country and their soldierly duties. 
Rating: 4 stars

Daughter of the Sun by Shveta Thakrar: Hers, they promised, was a heart meant to be shared with one who could not only bear her light but would even reflect it back at her. It was SO GOOD. I've read a previous story from Shveta (in the Toil & Trouble anthology), and loved it too, so I was eager to read this one. And it did not disappoint. I wasn't sure where it was gonna go, but I ended up adoring the way that Savitri tricks the apsara into prolonging the life of her beloved, the only person who matches her heart and reflection. Her cunning and bravery and determination were a sight to behold. 
Rating: 4 stars

The Crimson Cloak by Cindy Pon: It was so easy to love, but no one had ever warned me of loss. Told in a unique narration, by the goddess herself, telling us readers the true tale of her and her love, Cowherd. The goddess was the youngest of seven girls, but she had the most beautiful color: crimson. And she was a firecracker. She wanted and desired, and she played her parts perfectly. Until one day, when she discovered a boy and his ox in the forest, and she decided to get to know him. This story was super great! 
Rating: 4.5 stars

Eyes Like Candlelight by Julie Kagawa: omg THAT ENDING. I was reading this and liking it, and then I ended up REALLY enjoying it by the time I finished. Of course, I loved the kitsune fox shape-shifters (because foxes are my faves), and I liked how it was woven in with a boy who just wanted to save his family and his village. But while what happened is sad, that ending was fabulous! 
Rating: 4 stars

Overall Thoughts:
This has been one of my favorite anthologies that I've read so far! I only disliked two of the stories, and I largely loved the rest of them. A few brought tears to my eyes, and there were others that blew my mind. I love how varied the collection was; how it was contemporary and fantasy and science fiction and mythology. There's something in here for everyone, and I'd gladly read multiple books like this! 


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