I… erm… may have bitten off a mite more than I could chew this month, what with #drachtober, the spooky story challenge, and volunteering to ARC FOUR of the seven Magic Mirrors stories… but… doggone it… I was just so excited for this multi-author release!! And particularly for this one, my own darling Special Unicorn from the submissions I got to read for the Rooglewood contest. (For those of you unfamiliar with the term, Special Unicorns were those entries that received a perfect score from the judges. Doesn’t mean they won, but it should tell you something about the strength of the story even in its non-final-draft form). So I am beyond thrilled that the author has chosen to publish this story herself, because it’s THAT good! And I was very excited to re-read it in its polished form, and I loved it every bit as much the second time through!
Today’s blog tour focuses on Blood in the Snow by Sarah Pennington. This story is absolutely incredible, and I could not be more pleased to be reviewing it today.
Princess Baili of the Kingdom of Seven Rivers, has been declared the fairest in the land by the Dragonglass, which cannot lie. In fulfillment of a prophecy, she is sent to marry the prince of the Kingdom of Three Peaks. But her jealous and ambitious stepmother plots Baili’s demise, ordering her stepdaughter’s escort to kill the princess before she reaches the Kingdom of Three Peaks and take her place.
Thanks to her blood-gift — a gift bestowed upon members of the royal house by which they can use their blood to access powers beyond that of normal men — Baili manages to escape with her life. Bereft of the trappings of her true position and forced to accept the charity of peasants and work in anonymity as a goose girl, can Princess Baili convince anyone of her true identity? More importantly, can she find a way to warn the Kingdom of Three Peaks that more betrayal is coming?
Seven things I love about this story:
1. How seamlessly it weaves together Snow White and The Goose Girl as one story. Ms. Pennington has done a fantastic job weaving this story as though those two tales were always meant to be together. This element of the story was breathtaking and masterfully written and I am in awe.
2. The beauty with which this tale is told, and the strong characters throughout are mesmerizing. I could not put the book down until I was finished reading it! Thankfully, it’s a short enough story that it didn’t take me too long.
3. Baili – I love this character so much! Baili is very interesting and somewhat unique as a fantasy princess. We don’t get much of her back-story, and her character and personality come up so naturally in the story, it’s like getting to know an actual person. Even by the end of the book, I don’t know much about events in Baili’s life before the beginning of Blood in the Snow, but those events don’t matter much. Who she is through the story is the thing that matters, and she is fascinating. She starts out seeming a little weak and naive and pampered, and is frustrated with herself when she cannot make her servants obey her, but she is not helpless, nor is she a spoiled brat. Throughout her adventures, she reveals the possession of a core of iron and a heart of tender compassion, as well as deep integrity.
4. Chouko – the woman who teaches Baili to tend geese. She is a sour character, and at first she basically hates everything about Baili. But Baili sets her sights on winning Chouko’s respect, and eventually gains her friendship. Watching that friendship blossom is beautiful to behold.
5. The Blood Gift. I found this aspect of the story unique and intriguing. The idea of royalty being gifted with power in their very blood, and yet having different talents within their gifts, was just a really fun twist to the story. It added just the right amount of magic and mystery to this fairy tale retelling.
6. The Far-East aspects of the story were also quite expertly woven into the story, and I liked how they helped the characters and the plot feel both fantastical and familiar all at the same time.
7. Prince Liu Xiang. Too often in Snow White stories (and fairy tale retellings in general) authors will knee-jerk away from the “Prince saves the day” trope, but they will then swing the pendulum too far the other direction and make the prince into a spineless, cardboard-cutout type character (OUAT, anyone?). Not so with Prince Xiang! While he does not have a huge role in this story, his presence is a powerful one. From his obvious intelligence that causes him to suspect that the woman who has arrived is NOT, in fact, his betrothed, to his compassionate use of his healing gift to anyone who needs it regardless of station, to his willingness to do battle for those he loves, Prince Xiang is indeed a worthy character, and I really appreciated that.
Honestly, I can’t even begin to tell you all how much I loved this story, you’re just going to have to read it for yourself!!!
Again, there were many other things I loved about this story, but to say more would be to start revealing spoilers… so instead, I’m going to urge you to go pick up a copy today and read this delightful book post-haste!
Five Dragon Eggs