Timeless Fairy Tale Series // by K.M. Shea

(Edit:  Apparently, I forgot to review one of the book when I initially posted this!  Whoops!)

This series of fairy tale retellings currently includes ten different titles.  I’m hoping that we get at least one more – while these books do read individually for the most part, there are definitely threads that weave through them all, and we didn’t quite get the conclusion to that big story that I was hoping for.  But Shea is still an active author, so there’s a good chance that another book is in the works.  Currently, the series runs as follows:

  • Beauty and the Beast (2013)
  • The Wild Swans (2014)
  • Cinderella and the Colonel (2014)
  • Rumpelstiltskin (2014)
  • The Little Selkie (2015)
  • Puss in Boots (2015)
  • Swan Lake (2016)
  • Sleeping Beauty (2016)
  • The Frog Prince (2017)
  • The Twelve Dancing Princesses (2018)

The series had a lot of ups and downs, but on the whole were basically 3-4* reads.  At their best, the books are funny with engaging characters and interesting interpretations of classic fairy tales.  At their worst, they’re unnecessarily complicated with characters who act unnaturally to forward the story.  One thing that I really loved about the series as a whole is that Shea has created an entire continent of countries where all of these stories are taking place, and most of them happen in a country that is somewhat similar to the country where the fairy tale originated.  This added another level to the interest of what was going on.

Below, some brief thoughts on each book –

Beauty and the Beast

3.5/5.  An enjoyable retelling with likable main characters.  The lack of backstory for Ellie made it difficult to get to know her or to understand her attitude.  There were also rather muddled motivations concerning why anyone would particularly want to kill the beast.  Still, I loved the relationship between Ellie and Severin, and the overall introduction into this world.

The Wild Swans

3/5.  Not a bad story, but a VERY bad love triangle that just got progressively worse before ending with a “pick your own” conclusion?!  This story had a lot going for it, but the love triangle aggravated me so much that I could barely give it 3*.

Cinderella and the Colonel

4/5.  Possibly my favorite out of the whole series.  I absolutely loved Cinderella and also loved the Colonel.  I loved their relationship and everything else that was going on.  There was a lot going on with the political situation in this story, which sounds boring but actually added a lot more depth.

Rumpelstiltskin

3.5/5.  I really loved Rumpelstiltskin himself, but Gemma got on my nerves.  Few things are as annoying as listening to someone go on and on and ON about how unworthy and unimportant they are – it got to a point where it basically sounded like she was bragging about how humble she was.  However, there was a lot about this story that I really liked, especially seeing some loose ends get tied up that were left behind from The Wild Swans.

The Little Selkie

3/5.  One of my least favorites from the series.  There was a lot of fun potential here by taking The Little Mermaid and making the main character a selkie instead.  But sadly, this story was just plain boring.  Absolutely nothing happened for huge swaths of time except for Dylan (which is definitely a boy’s name in my mind, which added to my low-grade annoyance throughout) wandering around eating.  Like 25% of this book was describing Dylan eating.  We get it.  She likes to eat.  Move on.  Also, Dylan is supposedly the captive of this other guy, but… he just leaves her to wander around loose?  And even though she can’t talk, she can write things down and communicate that way, so it seemed extremely strange that he just let her do whatever she wanted.  This was definitely a book where a lot of characters had to act weirdly in order to make the story work, and that always annoys me.  It meant that I felt like every single character of this book was a bit slow in the head.

Puss in Boots 

4/5.  This one was a little confusing because it went back in time (compared to the other books) and then forward in time.  But it was overall just a super fun story, and mostly got a 4* rating because Puss is hilarious and legit says all the things I would expect a cat to say the entire time.

Swan Lake

3.5/5.  There was a lot of fun with this one – I really liked Odette and her whole gang of people.  The whole top-secret thing she was smuggling definitely dragged on too long, but there were other fun bits to make up for it.

Sleeping Beauty

3/5.  Probably  my least favorite of the whole series, and almost a 2/5.  I literally wanted to strange the “hero” Isaia, who kept acting like his selfishness and self-centeredness was all about Briar and protecting her when it wasn’t, it was just about him and his poor little feelings.  A lot of what happened in this book felt extremely contrived so that it would fit into the overall timeline for the series, and it made the whole story awkward.  I just couldn’t understand how Isaia could go on and on about how he was “respecting Briar’s wishes” when she literally came to him and said, “I’m about to fall asleep; I love you; please come kiss me ASAP because the SAFETY OF THE WORLD LITERALLY DEPENDS ON IT.”  And then he just sits around FOR A YEAR bemoaning the fact that he has to sit around because he’s “protecting Briar.”  Give me a break.  I may have been able to get past it, but Briar also annoyed me a LOT.  Basically everyone in this story needed to take a class on basic interpersonal communications.  For instance, I had to listen to things like “Briar winced when her mother called her Rosalinda…” like fifty times, but Briar never says, “Mother, while Rosalinda is a beautiful name, it just doesn’t feel like my name.  Do you think you could call me Briar Rose as a compromise?”  Instead, she just expected everyone to magically know how she felt about everything, and then spent a lot of time bravely working through her hurt feelings when they didn’t.  Also, her grandpa made zero sense.

The Frog Prince

3.5/5.  This book definitely felt like it was more about the big series story than it was about the smaller book story.  The book story was okay, but the interesting part of this one was the series story progress.

The Twelve Dancing Princesses

3.5/5.  While there were several moments where it felt like Shea was making things unnecessarily complicated, I overall really liked this story a lot, mainly because I loved the elf king.  There were a lot of fun moments between the two main characters, and I totally shipped them more than almost any other pair (except maybe Cinderella and the Colonel).

*****

So all in all, a bit of a mixed bag.  At the end of the day, I do recommend these books if you are looking for some relaxing fairy tale retellings, but they lack the depth to make them genuinely magical reads.  It really felt like the entire series needed another round of strong editing to help make everything consistent throughout.  Still, there were plenty of fun and funny  moments and a lot of very likable characters.  I’ll definitely be watching to see if Shea finishes this series, as there are still some loose ends to tie up.

Beauty & the Beast // by K.M. Shea // Guest Post

Despite the fact that my sister loves Shea’s books, I still haven’t gotten around to reading them quite yet.  *guilty look*   However, she is rereading them yet again, so I will be posting her guest reviews as they come along.  Mary Rose is my best friend, my sister, and my neighbor, so we hang out together a lot, and ranting and raving about books is kind of a hobby of ours.  :-D  Here is her review – enjoy!

******

//published 2013//

Fairytale retellings are my favorite, I’ve read a lot over the years and I have yet to come across a series as perfect as K.M. Shea’s. Her books continually stick to the heart of the story, pulling out the key concepts and factors, strengthening the characters, adding backgrounds that make sense, all while respecting the original tale. She also has kept a good balance of each of her stories being enjoyable stand-alone reads while also weaving them into an interlocked storyline.

This is my fourth re-reading of all her currently available fairytales so I figured it was finally time to write a review for each as I finished them: 

Beauty and the Beast is a comfortable and classic retelling of the tale, original without being overly fantastical in leaving out the needed aspects. Shea shows a respect for understanding the roots of the story and in so doing crafts an enjoyable retelling. 

Severin is cursed (through no particular fault of his own) and can only be saved by falling in love/being fallen in love with. His servants have been cursed along with him but are overwhelmingly loyal. Our heroine, Elle, falls through the roof of his Chateau, breaking her leg, and so has to stay until she is fully healed. This leads to classic fairytale/Hallmark movie story telling in which love slowly unfolds, drama ensues, but in the end everyone is happy and together (as they should be because this is a Fairytale). 

There were quite a few things I appreciated about this story, and since Beauty and the Beast is a popular story to retell, I’d liked to explain some, hopefully without any real spoilers: 

Severin isn’t cursed through any fault of his own. He is a good person with normal faults and pitfalls, but overall isn’t this terrible “beast on the inside” that deserved to be punished. It makes it much easier, for me at least, to understand why his servants would be loyal enough to be cursed along with him, and why they would care for him so deeply from the start. Also this means he doesn’t magically become a Changed Man when he meets Elle, he is simply still who he is, but improves (as everyone does) as he falls in love with her because that is what love does: improve our true selves. 

Elle is sharp, smart, and quick witted. She’s strong, self reliant, and extremely confident. It is a common theme throughout all of Shea’s books (that I’ve read, which is 90% of them) that she gets female characters right: they are characters, just like everyone else. She does not worry about “gender roles” or “making a statement for the feminists” but instead respects that people are people and allows a character to develop organically regardless of their sex. Elle is no exception. She is still feminine, she still has her own insecurities (as is human), she enjoys using her looks to get at the prince on occasion (well done scene), and she never shies from the fact that she is a woman. HOWEVER, neither does any of that detract from who she is either, because she is strong, focused, determined, and not at all thinking of Severin as a prince who will save her, but merely the love of her life. I appreciate Shea’s writing of women, it will be a common theme in any review I do of her books because she writes women as they aught to be written- not as though they’re struggling against The Man, but as they are: Humans, with pitfalls and strengths, weaknesses and abilities, and it’s so refreshing. And in the end I think we see Elle grow due to her love for Severin as well. 

Love: Shea has the perfect handle on what love truly is. In all the fairytales she underlines it accurately, but in this, the first book, she really sets the tone for what true love is, “You young maidens now days get misty-eyed thinking about true love and the fathomless adoration you will share. It’s not like that. Real love is looking at someone and knowing you wouldn’t mind waking up to their bad breath for the next century, and you are fine with them seeing you before you brush your hair and fix your face for the day. …. Loving a person isn’t a magical, sparkly passion. It’s hard work. It’s putting the other person before yourself. It’s companionship and being able to trust and depend on each other. That loquacious true love everyone spouts about is really finding a partner who will go through the heartbreaks and joys of life with you.” 

In the end this is possibly one of my favorite retellings of Beauty and the Beast, and honestly I give it a 4/5 (only misses being a full five because there’s minor unnecessary drama, like seriously, in real life I feel like there would have been COMMUNICATION, but that’s just me apparently, and honestly it’s not that bad, I just feel like it wasn’t fully accurate to the personalities of the servants at the very least.).

Overall Shea’s fairytales are… simplistic. But in their simplicity they clearly show the depth of each story and its original intent. As a whole the series is definitely a 5/5, please stay tuned for the next review, Wild Swans, a retelling of the Seven Swans. In the mean time- go read Beauty and the Beast by KM Shea!