Enchanted Kingdoms Review: Part 4

In about a month and a half, I completed all 20 books from the Enchanted Kingdoms anthology. It was not easy to read this many novels in such a short period of time. I learned about a lot of terrific authors and some that I probably would not have been interested in reading otherwise. Each of the four sets of books I reviewed follow vague themes. The first five books were contemporary retellings of well-known fairy tales. The second five were horror and paranormal romance. The third set included more traditional retellings, and these last books placed a spotlight on disabled characters overcoming seemingly impossible odds. I thoroughly enjoyed this last set of books and even learned about some new fairy tales.

Enchanted Kingdoms Fairy Tale Anthology Box Set

Silent Melody by Alice Ivinya

This is a creative and beautiful retelling of "The Pied Piper of Hamelin." It's one of the best books in this entire anthology and incorporates new ideas that fully flesh out the characters and settings in an otherwise simple story. When all the children in a small village mysteriously disappear except for a deaf girl named Adelaide and a blind girl named Claricia, it is up to Adelaide to use her other senses to bring them back. Adelaide can't hear the magical music that lured her peers away, but Claricia can. With Claricia's ears and Adelaide's eyes, the two disabled girls help each other to discover a magical land where their village's children are held captive by an evil queen. Both girls undergo horrific tests and must depend on their secret advantages to save themselves. Adelaide unwittingly invests in the aid of Peter, the pied piper, to find a way to stop her peers from being hypnotized by his music. This incredible adaptation is filled with action, adventure, magic, and romance.

Of Blades and Blossoms by Charlotte and Charlie Daniels

It seems a little disrespectful to retell "Mulan" as a contemporary Japanese story since it is more of an ancient Chinese legend than a fairy tale. However, this book bears more similarities Avatar: The Last Airbender than it does to Mulan. It reads like a nostalgic Saturday morning cartoon. A Japanese-American girl named Aki enlists herself as a soldier in a secret war to fight monsters that are trying to destroy the world. She does this replace her little brother who has a blood disease and wouldn't be able to hold his own in a fight. Her spirit guide turns out to be the ghost of an ancient warrior woman who had saved the world thousands of years earlier when it was still acceptable for women to fight in these battles. It isn't the most original thing I've ever read, but it was interesting enough until it ended abruptly with the words "To be continued" with no explanation of how to find the conclusion. The lack of information about the authors at the end of the book made me wonder if they had some sort of falling out with the people behind this anthology due to not finishing their story in time.

Silver Hands by Daphne Moore and D. Fischer

"The Girl Without Hands" is a lesser known Brothers Grimm fairy tale, but I was familiar with it from the last time I gorged all of their stories. This version is less religious than the fairy tale and has a lot more sci-fi elements. It is set in a cyberpunk universe that was very difficult to follow, even as someone who is familiar with the cyberpunk genre and games. Sage is a netrunner who was betrayed by her aunt and has her hands chopped off for stealing something to help her family support themselves after their loss. The details are fuzzy because I had so much trouble figuring out when she was in the computer and when she was in the real world or even what was going on for most of the story. I wouldn't recommend this book for fairy tale fans because it's so confusing. Cyberpunk fans might enjoy it, but I'm not sure how many of them would be reading this particular anthology.

Naiya's Wish by Astrid VJ

"The Nixie in the Pond" is a story I must have missed or forgotten the last time I brushed up on my Brothers Grimm fairy tales. I gave it a quick readthrough before I began this novel, and I was pleasantly surprised by what a complex and beautiful story it is. The novel is a faithful adaptation that retells the tale from the perspectives of the nix, the miller, and the wife of the miller's son. It shows how people in power are capable of doing terrible things without realizing it. Naiya, an enchanted water creature known as a "nix," agrees to help the miller with his financial troubles in exchange for the first thing that cries when he enters his house. She does this in the hopes protecting his newborn son, but he misunderstands and thinks she wants one of his farm animals. After he realizes his mistake, his wife loses all respect for him and does everything in her power to prevent her son, Phillip, from being taken by the nix.

The second half of the story follows Amina, a plus-sized heroine, as she struggles with her feelings for Phillip after a mean girl from the village claims that he is engaged to her. Shortly after Phillip assures Amina of his love and marries her, he falls to the nix's curse. Amina is a complete badass who travels through fire and earth to save her beloved husband and gives up everything dear to her for his sake. She is such a powerful heroine and role model that I downloaded the conclusion to the story using the link provided at the end just to find out what would happen to her. Unfortunately, I didn't enjoy the bonus ending chapters as much as the rest of the book.

Promises and Pixie Dust by Robin D. Mahle and Elle Madison

Judging by the title, I was expecting a retelling of Peter Pan and was pleasantly surprised to learn it is about Thumbelina, one of my favorite underrated fairy tale princesses. This book is far from a traditional adaptation. It weaves an new narrative about how the tiny woman gives up on fitting in with the world of human after her beloved human mother passes away and embarks on a quest to find other little people like herself. It gives her more agency than the pessimistic Don Bluth version and a more substantial love interest in Edrich, the mercenary from her village who swore to protect her. This story adds fun little details about Thumbelina like her tendency to change colors based on her mood and her substantial human-sized appetite. Though it invokes the somewhat stale "lost princess" trope, there was enough new content in it for me to keep wondering what was going to happen next. My only gripe is that I wasn't the biggest fan of Edrich and thought that Lina could have done better.

Click here to read the first part of this review!

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