Well, I’m coming down from the rarified heights of last month’s reading pace to feature only a single book on my nightstand this month. But though you can’t tell from this picture, Five Enchanted Roses is actually a “beast” of a book when it comes to size. Clocking in at almost 500 pages, I believe it will take me most of the month to get through it.
I’ve been looking forward to this one for quite a while as it features a story by my authorial friend and fellow nightstand collaborator, Jenelle Schmidt. Her story is the third of five retellings of the classic fairy tale The Beauty and the Beast. I’ve never read a collection quite like this. It’s quite unique.
In case you were not aware, Roses is part of a series of books released by Roglewood Press. I really like the concept behind this series of novellas featuring retellings of popular fairy tales. The stories are selected from submissions by various authors and it’s a great way for writers to get exposure and for readers to hear fresh voices. I believe this is the second in the series and another is planned for release next year.
I am well into the fourth story by now and, regrettably, I have to say that this one has been a mixed bag for me. I think that is due to the fact that these stories are all so very different. I so much wanted to love all of these stories equally, but while some of them have really resonated with me, their characters leaping off the page, with others the characters have tripped and fallen before ever really getting off the ground.
Here are a few of my impressions so far. First off, the production values for this book are through the roof. The writing, editing, and artistic direction of Five Enchanted Roses is stellar. I love the chapter heading illustrations and scene break illustrations (I’m a sucker for that sort of thing). And of course as you can see the cover is gorgeous. This may be the most beautiful picture I have ever posted for a Nightstand Books post. The light from above on my nightstand sort of melded unintentionally with the glowing moonlight from the cover.
The first story, Esprit de la Rose, had one of the best beginnings in recent memory. The world felt so rich and the characters so intriguing that I was instantly drawn in. The writing carried me along like a great ship on the waves of the story’s tides. But once the main character got trapped on the cursed ship, the story seemed to flounder. There seemed to be too much going on and I wasn’t sure how it all fit together. While I did enjoy the rest of the story, it did not live up to its initial promise and the ending fell flat for me. Still, the writer shows great promise and obvious talent and I would gladly read more of her work.
The second story, Wither, was the one that sort of crashed the royal ball for me. I got a few pages into it and realized that it was swerving into the horror genre by featuring undead as some of the monsters. While I’m not “dead” set (ha ha) against that sort of subject matter (I think it worked well in Dracula for instance and the first tale in the book featured ghosts of a sort), I simply did not feel compelled to finish this story. Nothing against the writer, she’s obviously quite skilled, but when it comes to reading, anything remotely dealing with zombies or ghouls and the like gets a pass from me so I decided to just move on to the other tales.
The third story, Stone Curse, is the one that so far I’ve enjoyed the most. Of all of them this one seems most true to the original story and most like a classic fairy tale. The writing is top shelf and the main characters and the world felt very fleshed out and real. I did start to suspect the “twist” at the end about midway through the book so the ending was not as surprising as it might have been, but this tale has certainly been the belle of the ball so far, probably my favorite thing Jenelle has written.
With the fourth tale, Rosara and the Jungle King, I must give props to the author for originality as it is the most “out of the box” story of the bunch. But the choice of a first person present tense narrator is so jarring that I’m finding it difficult to get into this. Also the animistic, tribal setting is not one that I am drawn to. It feels less like a fairy tale and more anthropological, but we’ll see how this one ends up.
And there you have it. A beautiful book in many ways, but for me not one I can recommend without reservations. How about you? What’s on your nightstand this month?