Monthly Archives: August 2009

Thursday Myths & Legends 101: Selkies

selkieSelkies are one of my favorite changeling legends, seals that can remove their skins and become human.  They originate in Orkney Islands, and are mainly prevelent in Scottish, Irish and Icelandic tradition. It is said that a selkie can come on land and come into contact with one—just one—human, but then they must return to the sea for seven years before they can come ashore again, though some places say one year.  Selkies in their human form are supposed to be particularly beautiful and attractive—so as you can imagine, there are quite the number of selkie one-night-stands.

Male selkies are said to have power over storms, and to sink ships to avenge against seal-hunters, but they also are drawn to women who are unhappy in their romantic life—a woman can even summon a selkie man to her by letting seven of her tears fall into the ocean.  Children born as a result of these trysts are often selkies also, and as a result often leave their mothers.

Female selkies tend to have a hard lot in stories.  Just like the males, they can shed their skin and once they put it back on they must return to the ocean for a set amount of time, but if their skin is stolen from them, and hidden (or in some cases, burnt) then the woman must marry the man who has stolen her seal skin.  They make for good, dependable wives as they will do precisely what their husbands ask of them, but they often miss their home in the sea—and possibly family in the sea—so much that they are simply miserable in their land-locked lives.  Quite often in stories like this, the seak skin is discovered by one of the selkie’s children by accident, and she will put it on and escape back to her home in the sea, never looking back at the life she’s leaving on land, except maybe once in a while to visit her children and play with them in the waves.

There’s exceptions to every rule, however, and there is another story of a selkie woman who truly loves her human husband, and warns him away from fishing in dangerous waters, but when he goes anyway, and his ship is wrecked, she returns to her seal form to save him, even though it means being banished from her happy home.

So why do I love such a melancholy myth?  haha  I think it’s because of those little exceptions, the ones where the love is real and not enforced.  And something about a means to capture a mythical creature has always fascinated me, because the idea that a human could have a magical being in their power is undeniably alluring, though maybe it appeals to the darkest side of ourselves.

If your interest is piqued about Selkies, there have been a few somewhat-recent uses of them in fantasy tellings… I’d recommend checking out the film The Secret of Roan Inish, or the children’s novel The Sooterkin, by Tom Gilling.


Book Geek Wednesday: StereoOpticon Review

Hello dear readers! Isabelle here, with her first book review. And because I never do anything simple, I decided to review the YA anthology, StereoOpticon: Fairytales in Split Vision published by Drollerie Press, which contains not one, but twelve YA stories! That’s right. TWELVE. So get comfy, because we’ve got a buffet of young adult goodness coming your way.

The book starts off with an in-depth introduction by publisher Deena Fisher about some of the classic fairytales of her youth and how the anthology offerings pull from these in completely original ways. And as I read, I found she was right. Many of these stories felt familiar, they had a certain magic about them that brought their perspective worlds to life yet when I dug deeper, I could still find the heart of classic fairytales at their core. There’s a lovely flow to the book as a whole and I was always surprised when one ended, making me eager to jump into the next one right away.

The highlights for me were: Castle of Masks by C.S. Inman, a moving and surprising retelling of Beauty and the Beast; The Gallows Maiden by Francesca Forrest which had some of the most disturbing and memorable imagery I’ve read in a long time; and Falling by Imogen Howson, a futuristic retelling of Rapunzel which works so well, I’m hard pressed to believe the original took place in a stone tower long long ago.

These three stories stuck with me long after I finished the anthology and are some of the best examples of how truly talented this collection of authors are. They managed to put their own stamp on stories that we’ve heard many times before and do so brilliantly.

But don’t think just because I’ve highlighted those three that the others were only mediocre. Quite the contrary! This book is full of gems. I was left wondering about the true identity of the mysterious Don Joaquin all throughout A Necklace of Rubies by Cindy Lynn Spear, and I cheered when Jac decided to follow his heart in The Orb of Enori by G.L. Simmons. Trust me, when I tell, this book is full of what makes YA fantasy great.

I give it a hearty: A


Lisa’s Tuesday Perspective: The Hourglass Door by Lisa Mangum

Hello, there! Lisa here with today’s pick, my most recent read, Lisa Mangum’s debut novel, The Hourglass Door.

hourglass_door

Description from Amazon.com:

His past. Her future. Can love bring them together in time? Abby’s senior year of high school is going according to plan: good friends, cute boyfriend, and college applications in the mail. But when Dante Alexander, foreign-exchange student from Italy, steps into her life, he turns it upside down. He’s mysterious, and interesting, and unlike anyone she’s ever met before. Abby can’t deny the growing attraction she feels for him. Nor can she deny the unusual things that seem to happen when Dante is around. Soon Abby finds herself drawn into a mystery whose roots reach into sixteenth-century Florence, and she uncovers a dangerous truth that threatens not only her future but the lives of those she loves.

I seem to be one of the slim few (really, check the reviews) who didn’t really fall in love with this book.  It’s being hailed as a Twilight-esque romance, which I suppose it is, but something just didn’t click for me.  Don’t get me wrong, there are some great concepts here, and some of the descriptions are fabu, but I just didn’t get all that captivated with the main character, or even her love interest.  The bad guys are a bit too bad, and the good guys are almost too good.  But my biggest problem with the novel may yet be answered in the sequel…

Because the thing is, Dante shows up on the scene and seems to be in love with Abby automatically.  The vice-versa happens pretty quickly also, but we’re inside Abby’s head, so it’s only really her side that we get to see.  She never questions (as many a teenager might) just what Dante, gorgeous darksome mystery boy sees in her of all people… and as the reader, I’m very curious.  But there’s a hint of intrigue on that part, just the smallest hint that you might blink and miss, and so I find myself wanting to read the sequel (The Golden Spiral, due out 2010) despite my feelings thus far.  I have to give some credit to the fact that this is a debut novel, after all, and the last forty pages or so really are done wonderfully, setting up the next book nicely, and there are a few side characters (one in particular) who are really very nice additions.  I admit that she pulled a number or two over on me as well, which I’ll let you find out about for yourself, if you like. 😉

This does feel a bit like a Twilight rebound book, but it’s not a copy of the story by any means.  Mangum’s mythology is definitely all her own, which is a nice thing to come across in fantasy these days.  Certainly Hollow-Tree worthy, at that, with something as simple as walking through a door…

I think I’ll give it a hopeful C+ rating… if some big questions are answered in the sequel (why is Abby so special, for example?) then that could end up being raised, but we’ll have to wait and see!


Movie Magic Monday: Penelope

Hello, readers!

And welcome to our first Movie Magic Monday. I’m your host, Isabelle. *throws confetti, plays theme music* Get comfortable, have a seat, and pass the popcorn. 😉

My first choice of movie to be featured on MMM (as it will now be affectionately called) is the 2008 romantic comedy, Penelope. It stars Christina Ricci as the title character Penelope, and features Catherine O’Hara, Reese Witherspoon in a small but significant role, and James McAvoy (go ahead, swoon, I’ll wait a second).

Now I’ll be honest, I had little to no expectations for this movie. I watched it only because I’m a big fan of Christina Ricci and okay, I’ll admit, I was still in love with McAvoy from Becoming Jane.

But the trailer bordered on cheesy- with that feel good music blaring and the whole learn to love yourself undercurrent. Don’t get me wrong, I love an inspiring story as much as the next person, but I don’t like being manipulated into feeling something. Some movies are good about that. The right music, the right lighting, the right puppy dog eyes, meant to make the viewer bawl. It all feels staged to me.

See what I mean? The story, about a family curse and finding true love and accepting yourself as you are, well it all felt a little contrived and overdone.

But, as is the case with any truly magical story, within the first five minutes of the movie, I’d forgotten all those hangups and started to really enjoy myself.

What I loved about this movie is that it doesn’t pretend to be anything but what it is: a modern day fairytale. It opens with Penelope’s narration, helping us understand the family curse that resulted in her appereance at birth. It’s all done in a very tongue in cheek fashion, a bit over the top and surreal, just the right tone for a fairytale comedy.

Sheltered by her mother and hidden from the world, Penelope is forced to ‘court’ a series of blue blood suitors through a two way mirror. They’re all signing confidentiality agreements – and they’re all running away the moment Penelope steps out from behind the glass.

Yahoo Movies does a good job describing the rest of the plot:

Lemon, a mischievous and eager tabloid reporter wants a photograph of the mysterious Penelope and hires Max to pose as a prospective suitor to get the shot. The handsome down-on-his luck gambler finds he’s falling for Penelope, but not wanting to disappoint her or to expose his surreptitious ways, he decides to disappear. Fed up by his latest betrayal and determined to live life on her own terms, Penelope breaks free from her family and ventures into the world alone. She finds adventure and Annie, her first friend and becomes the person she was meant to be.

All in all, I was pleasantly surprised by this film. James McAvoy added real depth to what could have been a cardboard character. His gambler turned false suitor was charming, intelligent and irresistable. He has the ability to say so much through his eyes. There were times when I felt my chest constrict just because of the expression on his face.

His attempts to woo Penelope while behind the glass are my favorites. And the scene where she first reveals herself to him… well, it’s amazingly done and truly gutwrenching.

The set was also spectacular. Penelope’s room (pictured above) is every girl’s fantasy. The colors are vibrant and fun. Personally, I loved her purple coat and scarf. 😀

If you’re a fan of old fashioned fairytales such as Rapunzel or Beauty and the Beast, this movie has the feel of both of those mixed together with a modern spin, twisted in a fun, new way.

My Rating: (a surprising) A


Welcome

Myths and legends have been an integral part of literature since it was first formed.  As long as stories have been told, mankind has sought to embellish and enrich their lives by way of irreverent gods, baleful dragons, knights-errant, and damsels in distress.

In the modern world and in the face of modern literature, it is easy to brush aside fantasy as something of a lesser value, as if a story that requires a supernatural element in order to be told, must be lacking in some other way, but the fact remains that the oldest stories we have, from King Arthur to Beowulf have something of fantasy to them, and even Shakespeare himself deigned to control the actions of gods and fairies by way of his pen.

Of late, fantasy has been embraced especially by fans of Young Adult literature, as can be seen by the rising number of YA series involving witches, wizards, vampires and all forms of heroes, out to save countless dystopias.  Despite the popularity, though, there has been no central place created to celebrate the extents YA fantasy has reached.

That is our intent here, to create a place for authors and readers alike to find and share new worlds, just a step beyond our own.  To follow Alice down the rabbit hole, take the second star to the right and step through that dresser drawer… only we’ve been all those places before.  And there are many, many more waiting to be found if only we know where to look.  It’s those little entrances that we seek out here, a glassy pond, a locked door, a hollow tree…

In creating this blog, Isabelle and I are hoping to embrace and announce everything that is new and upcoming in that little world where Young Adult and Fantasy collide.  We are very committed to this liminal little genre, and hope to see it grow and flourish as time goes on.  We hope that this place can be a part of that.  We look forward to spotlighting novels and authors who excite us, and in hearing from you, the all-important reader, as we take this journey together.


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