Winter is coming. which means it’s the perfect time to get cozy and read something full of magic and snow. Winter is a time of wonder, and the season features heavily in fairy tales for that reason. The three books this week are all based on wintery fairy tales, each one steeped in the magic of old stories, and delightfully chilly atmosphere.
Spinning Silver, by Naomi Novik – Miryem lives with her family in a tiny village next to a vast forest. Each year, winter stretches, and the snow and freezing temperatures stick ar0und longer. The icy climate is caused by the Staryk, icy fairies who demand gold from the villagers. When Miryem boasts that she can turn silver into gold, the Staryk king hears her, and whisks her away to his kingdom so she can fill his storerooms with gold. This retelling of Rumplestiltskin follows Miryem, as well as Wanda, the daughter of an abusive farmer, and Irina, a woman forced to marry the cruel czar. These three women take control of their own lives, fighting against the roles society has cast them in. Instead of being saved by the men in their lives, the three women do the saving. Full of magic, snow, and strong women who fight for themselves, this is a fresh new take on the old story.
The Bear and the Nightingale, by Katherine Arden – Vasilisa lives in a small village on the edge of a dark forest where winter seems to linger year round. She lives in a world where the villagers honor their house spirits, share stories of magic and wonder, and understand that magical beings wander the woods. Vasilisa’s mother dies in child birth, and years later her father marries a woman from another village. Her new stepmother is very religious, and wants her new family, and the rest of the village, to stop honoring the spirits that live alongside them. When they do, bad things start to happen, and it’s up to Vasilisa to put things right. Like Spinning Silver, this is about women who refuse to do what is expected of them, and who do the saving themselves. Based on the Russian tale of Vasilisa the Beautiful, this is as snowy and magical as it gets.
Hiddensee, by Gregory Maguire – This retelling of the famous Christmas story “The Nutcracker” follows Godfather Drosselmeier from childhood to his later life as a toymaker. Dirk Drosselmeier starts his life living with an old couple in a forest in Germany. When circumstances force him to leave his home, he first becomes an apprentice to a minister, and later moves on and eventually becomes a toymaker. Along the way he meets Felix, who becomes a lifelong friend, and the grandfather of Klara, the little girl Drosselmeier gives the nutcracker to on that magical Christmas Eve. Dirk is awkward, unemotional, and doesn’t quite understand how the world world works, which is a perfect portrayal of the mysterious man from the original tale. With strong themes of family, friendship, and what’s important, this retelling breathes new life into the classic tale.
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