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  • Why History Matters: A Storyteller's Thougts

    In the past year, I did something I never thought I'd do - read The Histories, by Herodotus: in many ways, the oldest form of recorded history. As a storyteller, this made me think about history in a different way and raised several interesting questions: What caused this ancient historian to decide on the concept of a tale of mere facts, so unlike the wild tales that other storytellers were telling? How did The Histories impact later history books? And what, when it comes down to it, is the point of a history? This last question in particular carries a lot of weight with it, and, though some believe that reading history is a dull undertaking that they’ll leave behind the moment they finish high school, the point of history is so much more than memorizing dates—and, in my opinion, at least, the learning of things past should continue long after higher education is finished. Why? I'm so very glad you asked. History Illuminates the Past History illuminates the present like little else. Imagine, for a moment, what it would be like to examine traces of the past with none of the story that accompanies it. Imagine visiting the Coliseum and having no idea of the countless lives sacrificed on that wooden floor; imagine studying the liberty bell in a time when what it rang for had been forgotten. The past touches the present in so many ways—in statues, in landscapes, in cultures, and in more. History is the thread that weaves these tapestries together and makes experiencing these landmarks all the more meaningful. History Animates the Past Contrary to popular opinion, history—at any rate, history as it should be—is not a dull list of dates and names to be memorized and rattled off with no knowledge or interest in the surrounding story. History is not the date that Constantinople fell; history is the story of how Constantinople—the city that was said never to fall “until the moon was eaten from the sky”----fell the night of a lunar eclipse. History is not knowing the day Nathan Hale, American patriot, was executed for treason; history is knowing that his last words, “My only regret is that I have but one life to give for my country” were, in fact, the lines from a British play. History is not knowing Hitler’s full name or the many lieutenants who served under him; history is the story of those Germans who opened their homes to Jews, of the secret passages threading their way through German-occupied territories for these refugees to find shelter, of the children who refused to join Hitler Youth and instead did all they could to love their neighbors. History is the tale of human motivation, of wreck and ruin, of rise, of tragedies and the glints of hope that survived in them. History Explains the Past As any storyteller can tell you, without developing backstories, the present is robbed of much of its meaning. And once history has been studied, then the current state of things will make much more sense. Without knowing the Native Americans’ tale, what reason is there for the protected areas of the United States? If the world wars had been forgotten, why would countries spend so much time and energy on inventions made to protect themselves? Knowing how modern civilizations become what they are today can give much more sense to current situations—and can keep people from repeating the same mistakes that their ancestors made time and time again. So Does It Matter? History matters. Those are two words that many school children will groan at—but if history was taught as it should be, perhaps they would not. If history was presented, not as a list of facts to memorize but as a tale that showcased humankind at both its best and at its worst. . . if history classes were times to call back the times of chivalry and challenge students to act as the knights of old. . . if students could see the present through the lenses of their ancestors who fought “for the ashes of their fathers and the temples of their gods”. . . then maybe it would be clear. History matters—and without history, the present is robbed of nearly all its meaning.

  • Sneak Peek into Trust the Traitor

    My current work-in-progress is titled Trust the Traitor. TTT is the first of a duology and is a YA fantasy that follows a boy named Adrian as he is forced to discover if he can do good, once and for all, in a tyrannical empire where that means death. Today, it's my pleasure to give you a few sneak peeks into various scenes of TTT. Some claim that Larien is a myth. A story, they say. An improbable fancy meant to be a vain reassurance for those overwhelmed by the darkness of death. Others say that, while Larien itself is a myth, the Lost Legend is not. That the dead board that phantom vessel and spend all of eternity sailing stormy seas, never to rest again. I don't know how to counter such arguments. I don't even know, truly, if Larien exists. Because maybe they're right. Maybe Larien really is only a dream. I just don't know. But one thing I do know: Sometimes the truth you can’t find in reality secrets itself away in dreams. And if we’re to survive this with any shred of courage left, then may Larien be one of those dreams. Now may the love of Larien keep us all. “One day they’ll tell stories of what happened here. It’s up to you to decide what they’ll say.” Ilana was different. She wasn’t like the rest of us, even though, in so many ways, she was. She was just as afraid as us—sometimes even more so. But although she’d never try to deny the existence of the monster under the bed, she was always the one to whisper that maybe the monster was just as scared as us. She was the first to start singing and the last to stop, the one who could tell stories that would make all of us believe, even if only for a moment, that courage was possible, that love was powerful, and that goodness would win out in the end. “Adrian, wait,” she says, raising a hand as I turn. “What is it?” Even to my own ears, my words are tinged with dangerous impatience. “You can join us,” she says evenly, a strange glint in her eye. “You and me and Martin—we’d find them in less than a tick. You could get out of here alive, Adrian.” She tosses me something that I barely catch. A coin. A golden coin to seal all her promises. “Thanks for the offer,” I say, flinging it back. “But I don’t trust traitors.”

  • A Thought on Happy Endings

    Sometimes I hate happy endings. You know the ones. The neat, square, too-good-to-be-true endings where everything coincidentally turns out to happen just right for our heroes. The ones where all the pain and sorrow was forgotten, as if it never happened, as if things like that don’t have effects, as if the characters will never be hurt again. Because real life? It’s not like that. It’s not neat, not orderly, and it’s never assured that you’re at the end of the pain. Trauma has after-effects. Grief runs a course that lasts years—if it ever ends at all. And memories never truly disappear. The play I’m in has the first kind of ending—the too-good-to-be-true kind of one. And I was thinking about it. I hate the dismissal of the hard parts of our stories and the happy-go-lucky feel of the whole thing. But after thinking about it for a longer time - and realizing that I certainly don't enjoy tragedies - I've come to a conclusion that reaches beyond our world. The Greatest Story Ever Told I'm sure most of you know which one I'm talking about - the one where the prince came to his rebellious people and gave his own life for them so that they wouldn't have to. Sounds like an amazing story, right? And it is - it's the greatest story ever told. Still, though, think about it. The prince came, died, conquered death itself. . . and then left. His friends who had done everything with him for three years were left to discover who they were without him. The darkness of the world was as dark as ever. The followers of this prince were targeted and punished for their love. The twisted faces and cursed "I hate you"s didn't disappear. The screamed "I'll do what I want"s stayed. People still left. People still suffered. People still died. Doesn't sound like much of a happy ending, does it? By Its Cover Sometimes I think that the eighty-so years we have on this Earth are merely the cover of our stories. And we all know not to judge a book by its cover, don't we? Because, one day, a trumpet shall slice through the weeping of those on Earth. A curtain of light shall sweep over the darkness. And our prince shall return - this time not to die once, but to reign forever. We who follow the instructions he gave us shall rise with him, away from the ugliness of this world. In fact, the ugliness will be nothing more than our memories - at long last, the world will be made new. Note that I said it'll still be in our memories. This is an opinion of my own, but I don't believe that we'll forget the pain of our journey through this fallen world, even there. But Scriptures talk of the King himself wiping away our tears - just imagine. A cover of pain and an entire book of healing. And this reign shall last forever. Just imagine the true meaning of that word - forever. Day after day after day after day of singing and dancing and not needing to fight against the darkness anymore. And that's what I call a happy ending. So what ending should stories have? Real life in this world - the only world those who write and those who read know - is dark. The life in the next is brilliantly bright. So how should our stories be written? Personally, I support bittersweet endings. Endings that acknowledge the trauma. .. acknowledge the pain. . . acknowledge the grief. . . and draw hope out of that regardless. Not a blind, none-of-that-matters kind of hope. That's not true hope. But the kind of hope that grows stronger with darkness because now it has something to shine through. The kind of hope that is a defiant cry, a courage that rips through the darkness, a pair of cracked lips that whisper songs of healing at the darkest point of the night. And, after all, that may be the very best kind of hope of all.

  • Interview with Candice Pedraza Yamnitz

    Hey, story-lovers! I recently had the pleasure to interview the amazing Candice Pedraza Yamnitz, and after putting off the transcript for a bit too long, it's my joy to publish our conversation! To begin with, would you be willing just to introduce yourself? Yes—my name is Candice Pedraza Yamnitz, and I am a YA fantasy author. My debut novel, Unbetrothed, just came out in February, so I’m really excited to talk about it and share about, just, the whole publishing process. Personally, what do you think makes a good book? What do you look for in a good book? I just want it to sweep me away where I feel like I am the character and I’m on an adventure. The tagline of this blog is “Remember the stories”, and it’s championing the idea that stories can spark hope even in the darkest of situations. Do you have any personal experiences that would go along with that? I definitely agree with you, first. And my favorite book is A Voice in the Wind—I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of it; it’s by Francine Rivers. I always give a caution with that one which is, like, if you struggle with sexual sin, that’s not the book for you, but it definitely inspired me to, first of all, to write something with a little bit of hope and to not back away from a Christian message. Another thing is it inspires me is to pray more, because that’s like a huge theme you’ll see woven throughout the entire story. How would you describe yourself in three words? [laughs] Can I think that quickly, or do I need to edit my words a few more times. . . I am, I don’t know. . . spunky. . . spontaneous. . . I’m not trying to go for s’s, I promise. . . and impulsive? I don’t know. When you were writing Unbetrothed, why did you write it? What inspired you to start writing it? Well. . . I think I was going through an interesting season. I’d just had my second child, I was a youth group leader, and I was just struggling with that feeling of inadequacy. I think it was finally then that it hit me, like, I am never going back to teaching. And, you know, just being at home with a toddler—if you’ve ever had a toddler or have ever been around one, you know that they are very difficult. So there was that, and I was struggling with inadequacy and self-worth at that time, and then I’m looking at my youth group girls, and I’m like “Oh, they’re struggling with it too.” It looked a little different than mine, but, I mean. . . Some of us had similar responses, some of us didn’t, and that’s kind of what inspired the theme and the main character. How did you get the idea? We talked about what inspired writing it, but did it start as a character, as a line of dialogue, as a plot. . . ? How did it start? It’s hard because, I like to, you know, daydream about books like months in advance, and it was kind of just one of those things that I kept on thinking about, this character. . . I think it was the character first and her going on some adventure for magic. I was like, Okay, this’ll be fun, and I started just daydreaming about it all the time, couldn’t get it out of my head, and, finally, when January came around, I was like, I am writing this, so. . . kind of what started it. If you could meet the characters from Unbetrothed, what would you say to them? Oh. . . I think I say it through her dad, like, “You really don’t need this gifting to be, you know, to think that you’re okay, that you’re worthy and everything." I kind of say it through her parents a little bit, but she doesn’t get it and she has to do what she has to do in order to get what she thinks she needs in order to have worth. When you were writing it, who were you writing it for? Who was the ideal reader in your mind as you were writing? The ideal reader was a teen girl anywhere between thirteen and eighteen, maybe even older, like mid/young twenties, loves reading edgy fantasy with strong woman characters, and who might like picking up—what is it, I’m like It’s The Assassins' Creed but, no, it’s not that one. . . like Sarah Maas’ books, that type of thing, or even the select and that kind of thing, but they want something clean, and they want something with a Christian message. Was there anything strange or unusual that you had to research for writing it? Oh, goodness, plenty of things. So, I mean, first I spent way too much time figuring out distance, like how long it would take to travel up mountainsides and, like, around mountains, and on horseback versus walking. There’s that. That wasn’t really the strange one; the strange one was figuring out how people die, like how long does it take for a sword wound to kill someone? Like, how much money actually leaks out, can you actually survive, yeah. I mistakenly killed someone with a cheek wound, and my editor was like “Um, no, absolutely not”, and then we had a detailed conversation about death. When you are writing, did you listen to any music while you were doing it, and what? I listened, like, you go to youtube and you look up “emotional instrumental music”, and I found one, and I listened to the same one over and over and over, had it on my favorites, but then I changed laptops and I have no idea where that music is anymore. But, like, it was perfect—it swept me away and I was able to write while listening to it and got caught up in scenes, so, yeah, I recommend it to anyone—I actually wish I could share what I was listening to, but it got lost with the laptop. What was the hardest part to write? Was it the beginning, the middle, the end, a certain scene? I would think it’s the first few chapters. Writing an unlikable character—‘cause technically Beatriz is unlikable, and it’s funny because people either really dislike or her really love her because they can relate to her. And it’s incredibly challenging to just write a character who’s kind of snobby. Were there any times while you were writing that you wanted to give up on it? Oh, yes. For sure. So, like, I wrote it, and I—I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of “pitch wars”? So it’s like a mentoring contest thing, and I decided to finish before pitch wars because I was going to submit it. So I was going to edit it a bit more before that and submit it, because, obviously, it was ready. And, obviously, I got no bites for that, so I edited it again and again, and I went to a conference. The agents were like “Hey, submit it to me!” But one agent was like ‘Well, it’s your writing”, and I was like, “Okay. . . what does that mean?” So, yeah, I needed to improve my writing. So I kind of quit writing for a few months and worked on something else and came back to it, and it kind of went back and forth for a while just me querying and editing. And after a certain amount of time, I was like, “I think I should give up”, like, I’m not going to do anything with this, but one last hurrah before I give up is that I wanted to join the ACFW Genesis contest, and I was like, “Okay, the only finished manuscript I have is Unbetrothed, so I am going to submit this one because it’s what I have.” So I ended up becoming a semi-finalist and getting all this feedback and it was really encouraging. And I went to a conference and asked people “How do I use this feedback that I was given?” And they told me “Well, you can do this, this. . .” and I had options and I had something to do with it. So I submitted to an agent again but I didn’t submit Unbetrothed because it needed some work. And I just continued working on that feedback; I did faith pitch—I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of that one—through Twitter, so for you or anyone who hasn’t heard of it, you just go to Twitter and you hashtag #faithpitch, and it happens, maybe, I think twice a year now? My agent liked it, and I submitted it to her, and in a week she was like “Send me the whole thing.” So I sent her the whole thing, and I got a contract. And after you get a contract you go through an editing process again and you submit, and it’s kind of like querying except with publishers. So, yeah, I think I’ve given up on that one over and over again but it keeps coming back, because I really enjoy the characters. So it was the characters that kept reminding you of why you liked it and why you were writing it in the first place? Exactly, and it was fun, I mean, I had fun with it. A lot of friends who read it are like “Oh, I was laughing at some points”, and, like, I think it was just kind of playful. I mean, it still goes kind of dark, it’s fantasy and everything, but there are just instances where I’m like “I’m just going to play with the character a little bit”—she’s just kind of snobby and thinks too much of herself; we’ll just make her mess up here, and we’ll make her mess up here again, and just, you know, that sort of thing. It was just one of those kinds of things where you’re just playing back and forth with the character and putting her in different situations. You mentioned it was kind of a long process; when did you start writing? How long did it take to do the first draft? So the first draft was actually pretty quick. Like, I started it in January—it was five years ago—I started in January and wrote the first ten chapters, and then I, like, probably got off on tangents, and I stopped. So, in July, I’m like, I’m definitely going to do pitch wars. So I finished probably three fourths of the book in July, and that’s it. So, yeah, that was the first draft; it was pretty quick. So I recommend it to anyone; if you’ve got a story in your head, write a synopsis and then just go and finish the story just because it’s best to have that first draft. So, yeah, it was pretty quick. At one point you mentioned a sequel—are you planning on putting this into a series, or. . . what’s next for you in the publishing process? So I don’t know how the publishing process works for this, but, usually with my friends who’ve had series or duologies, they get a contract for two books, or whatever. They just write it. For me and my publishing house, I got a contract for one book, and I’ll have to submit to them again. I don’t know how it works, and I have to write the sequel, because, when I was writing Unbetrothed, I was going to finish it, like, make it a clean cut, like, the end, happy ending. But I think as I was going I realized: The character arc is done, but I haven’t wrapped up everything. And I like series, so—I’m like, it’s not a bit thing for me, but I want it to be a series, but, at the same time, it’s like “Okay, well, I’m going to have to leave this a loose end or it’ll feel too quick for me, like it’s not the proper end.” All right, well, last but not least, where can we find your book? Where is it being sold, and where can we get a copy? Well, you can go to amazon, and you can go to goodreads, and you can find a list of stores—I don’t know every store; I haven’t seen them all. Like, the Book Depository of Colorado, Barnes and Noble, and then a million other stores that I have no idea what they are. So. The easiest way is amazon. It’s been a pleasure to have you for an interview!

  • 17 Quotes for the Bookish Soul

    Ask anyone who knows me, and they’ll tell you that I am in love with quotes. Of course, when you throw the bookish element in there, too. . . how can you go wrong? So, without further ado, I present my list of 17 quotes for any story-lover! “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” — C. S. Lewis “Show me a family of readers, and I will show you the people who move the world.” — Napoleon Bonaparte “If you don’t like to read, you haven’t found the right book.” — J. K. Rowling “A library is a hospital for the mind.” — Anonymous “If a book is well-written, I always find it too short.” — Jane Austen “I am a part of everything that I have read.” — Theodore Roosevelt “It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines who you will be when you can’t help it.” — Oscar Wilde “A classic is a book that has never finished what it has to say.” — Italo Calvino “I have lived a thousand lives and I’ve loved a thousand loves. I’ve walked on distant worlds and seen the end of time, because I read.” — Geore R. R. Martin “One must always be careful of books and what’s inside them, for words have the power to change us.” — Tessa Gray “Keep reading. It’s one of the most marvelous adventures anyone can have.” — Lloyd Alexander “I have claimed that Escape is one of the main functions of fairy-stories, and since I do not disapprove of them, it is plain that I do not accept the tone of scorn or pity with which 'Escape' is now so often used. Why should a man be scorned if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls?” ― J. R. R. Tolkien “The beautiful thing about reading old books is realizing all your struggles aren’t a you thing but a human thing.” — Atticus Finch “We read to know we are not alone.” — C. S. Lewis “A room without books is like a body without a soul.” — Cicero “I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson “Fairy tales are more than true, not because they tell us the dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” — Neil Gaiman There you have it! Which of these was your favorite—and do you have any of your own favorites to add to the list? I’d love to hear them!

  • Something Strange About Dying

    There’s something strange about dying. You’re in the battle, ducking and dodging and shooting. And, through it all, there’s a voice hissing in your ear: If you make one mistake, this is the end of your story. And, when you don’t listen to it, it brings in the fear. It strangles you as you race behind the barriers; it clutches at you when you realize that that gun right there is pointed straight at you, and that the one who holds it will not hesitate. It drags at you as you squeeze the trigger, knowing full-well what that bullet will do. But, then, when the worst happens, and you feel the pain—warm and crippling—arching across your back and know that, while you can still move, there will not be much more in your story. . . everything changes. Because then the worst has happened. That price that you were so reluctant to pay has been ripped from your hands, and, suddenly, there is nothing more to lose. The fear melts into a quiet dread, but you can push it aside. You can stumble to your feet and grab a gun; you can take the risk you were terrified of only moments before because, now, that ultimate cost has been paid. Having nothing left means having nothing to lose. There’s something strange about dying.

  • A Writer's Letter to a Recently Finished Project

    There is nothing like the moment when you write your last sentence. As all writers will tell you, the feeling of reaching the end of a novel you've been writing and dreaming about and brainstorming and working on day after day after day is about as close to magical as you can get. I recently finished a fantasy novel entitled Flame's Dust - and here's my letter to that novel. Dear Flame's Dust, Wow. Just wow. Where do I begin? It was summer when I started brainstorming. You remember that, right? I'm sure you do. And it was hard - so hard. So many times when the pieces just would not fit together. . . and far too many times where I was tempted to give up. But I didn't. Somehow, every time, there was something to remind me of why I was writing this. A quote or a song or an idea that rekindled the flame and whispered: You can do this. And then it was October first. The day to sit down and let the words flow. They didn't come as easily as I wished. But they came - they did. The first chapter. . .then the second. . . then the third. My word count was ticking up, day after day. One thousand words. Two thousand. Three thousand. And then things stopped. So many things threw writing off track. So many unexpected struggles and sapping energy and no time to write. At one point, I even took an entire month off to focus on another project. Things never really got back to a consistent schedule after that, did they? But so many reminders. So many things that made me remember why I had chosen to go on this journey with you. And so I kept writing, even when it was so dull. So hard. So different from everything I wanted to do. And then it happened. January 31st was my deadline for myself, and I almost thought I didn't make it. But there I was. 9:45 on the last day of January, sitting cross-legged, fingers flying over the keyboard. Wrapping up the loose ends. Seeing my characters in their final scenes. Wondering, wondering, wondering if I'd be able to pull the end off. And then typing the very last sentence. It's been a whirlwind, Flame's Dust. It's been crazy, and not always in a good way. But it's also been beautiful. It's taught me so much. Helped me become so much more disciplined. Shown me the reward of sticking with a project long after the appeal was gone. And so, if there was one thing I'd say to you, you novel drenched in shadows and woven in starlight. . . It would be thank you. Thank you for the amazing journey you brought me on. Thank you for everything I learned about writing. Thank you for reminding me, along with Evren and Adrias and all my other characters, that the stars will come out. Thank you. - Karissa

  • Book Review: Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster (Jonathan Auxier)

    “That’s how it works, doesn’t it? We are saved by saving others.” — Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster, by Jonathan Auxier Oh wow. This is awesome. Hold on, what. How did he do that? Wow. Oops. We seem to have invaded my thoughts the first time I read Sweep. Let’s leave those thoughts alone for now. . . though, by the end of the review, I hope I’ll have convinced you of Sweep’s worth well enough so that you can think them yourself as you read the book for yourself. Because, let me assure you—Sweep is every bit worth it. Synopsis: For nearly a century, Victorian London relied on “climbing boys”—orphans owned by chimney sweeps—to clean flues and protect homes from fire. The work was hard, thankless, and brutally dangerous. Eleven-year-old Nan Sparrow is quite possibly the best climber who ever lived—and a girl. With her wits and will, she’s managed to beat the deadly odds time and time again. But when Nan gets stuck in a deadly chimney fire, she fears her time has come. Instead, she wakes to find herself in an abandoned attic. And she is not alone. Huddled in the corner is a mysterious creature—a golem—made from ash and coal. This is the creature that saved her from the fire. Sweep is the story of a girl and her monster. Together, these two outcasts carve out a life—saving one another in the process. By one of today’s most powerful storytellers, Sweep is a heartrending adventure about the everlasting gifts of friendship and hope. Plot — ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Crafting a structurally sound book with a plot such as the one Sweep features is hard—speaking from experience here. Developing friendships and making a thousand tiny changes but not always with bit ones is really, really hard. But Auxier did it wonderfully. Everything has its purpose, even if it doesn’t feel like it in the moment. Characters — ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ If you know me at all, then you know that characters are one of the most important part of storytelling to me, both when I read and when I write. And let me tell you—the characters in Sweep were fantastic. Nan’s quick wit, determination, and flaws made her so real, so strong, and so quick to feel like a friend of mine. Charlie was adorable, and the friendship between him and Nan was beyond touching. The Sweep was very thought-provoking, and his selfless acts for Nan touched me in so many ways. Newt and Robin and all the other climbing boys set the scene so well and provided a wonderful backdrop for the story. Toby’s teasing and serious comments balanced each other perfectly, and after Nan and Charlie, he was one of my favorite characters. In short—Auxier knows how to write his characters, and those of Sweep are lovely. Pacing — ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ The flashbacks, though after a while become pleasing, were rather slow at the beginning. The first chapter, in particular, didn’t really grab my interest at first—I actually started the book, got bored with the first chapter, and moved onto another book, only coming back after several months. So, stick it out! Don’t be a Karissa, and have enough patience to get to the second chapter knowing that it definitely picks up once you get there. Worldbuilding and Setting — ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Before reading Sweep, all I knew about chimney sweeps came from Mary Poppins—which, in retrospect, while a wonderful movie, shouldn’t be the only historical influence you get. The backdrop was so quickly painted, so vivid in my mind. . . it was amazing. Prose—⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ I love the way Auxier forms his sentences and plays with words and delivers the most impact possible—it’s amazing, and very worth the read. (I’d also recommend that writers study it, too!) Theme— ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Friendship, freedom, loyalty, responsibility—the themes of Sweep were masterfully well-done. Due to the intensity of it, I probably wouldn’t hand the book to someone under the age of twelve, but if they have the maturity to handle the somewhat horrific backdrop of the climbing boys of London, I would definitely recommend this book. Conclusion Like The Witch of Blackbird Pond, I sped through this book in one day and spent most of the day just reading. (Ah, the glories of weekends.) I’ve read it many times since, and most definitely recommend it—and let me know what you think of it when you’re done! What's your favorite book from this historical time period?

  • Book Review: The Outlaws of Sherwood, Robin McKinley

    “Tales are as much the necessary fabric of our lives as our bodies are.” — The Outlaws of Sherwood, Robin McKinley The tale of Robin Hood, the thief who stole from the rich to give to the poor, has been told and re-told so many times that, surely, it can’t be made into anything new. Surely there can’t be a fresh retelling of it. Surely every Robin Hood tale has to be the same old plot with the same old characters. As it turns out, though, Robin McKinley's The Outlaws of Sherwood seems bent on proving those assumptions wrong. Synopsis: Robin Longbow is a sub-apprentice forester in Sherwood Forest, barely eking out a living-and barely able to control his temper when he is confronted by the taunts of the Chief Forester's favorite. One careless shot, and he has killed the man. From then on, Robin is on the run—but he is not alone. Joined first by his friends Much and Marian, then by more and more people who despise the Norman lords who tax them blind, Robin builds a community of Saxon outlaws deep in Sherwood who risk the gallows and the sword for the sake of justice and freedom. Plot — ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Everyone knows the basic tale of Robin Hood—the man who stole from the rich to give to the poor in the depths of Sherwood Forest. But, somehow, McKinley makes the story so much more than that—and her constant twists and turns and high stakes never failed to keep me reading. The structure was sound and logical, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching her develop the plot points throughout the book. Characters — ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ McKinley’s Robin Hood and Marian and all the familiar cast of characters are full of depth and fears and insecurities—even the famous Robin. No longer perfect at everything, Robin has his own story, motivation, and struggles—all making him so much more real than the versions that depict him as a master at everything and fearful of nothing. Somehow, the author was able to keep Marian from being either a damsel in distress who couldn’t do anything or a I-don’t-need-anyone jerk that many modern female characters become, and I quite enjoyed reading her. Her position in society and her double life was fascinating, and though I never felt very much of an emotional connection to her, I did want the best for her. The many new characters and twists on age-old personalities captured my imagination and made me very impressed with how McKinley balanced her ensemble of characters. Pacing — ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ I, personally, rarely was bored while reading, though I will admit that the first chapter, as well as some parts in the middle, weren’t the fastest-paced. Despite this, the pacing was good on the whole, and the story didn’t lag for too long. Worldbuilding and Setting — ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ One thing I appreciated about The Outlaws of Sherwood was that it realistically tackled the question of how a group of outlaws could practically live in the middle of Sherwood forest. Even down to how they would get shoes, McKinley’s book answered all these questions and didn’t assume that the outlaws would figure them out on their own. Prose — ⭐️⭐️⭐️ The prose wasn’t my favorite, though it did carry the plot. There were a few instances of language that slipped over my head the first time I read it and startled me quite a bit when I read it at a later age. McKinley tended to slip into telling rather than showing at irregular intervals, as well as jumping from one point of view to another, which, from the viewpoint of a writer, was rather irritating. So, on the whole, the writing wasn’t brilliant, but it was acceptable. Theme — ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ To be perfectly honest, the theme was probably my least favorite of the sections. McKinley is not, as far as I know, a Christian, and there are a few scenes that had the potential to turn sour, though she never went that far. Then, too, there was the two or three bits of language. I wouldn’t define The Outlaws of Sherwood as a bad book—though I wouldn’t hand it to anyone under the age of thirteen. Conclusion When I first discovered The Outlaws of Sherwood, I read it quite literally to tatters. Which was a slight problem, since it didn’t belong to me. I wouldn’t give it five stars across the board—but I would also recommend it. The way she twisted the familiar tale to make it fresh and new caught my attention from the start and didn’t fail in its conclusion. What’s your favorite version of Robin Hood?

  • Sleep

    “Sleep,” it murmured. “Go on, sleep.” The fire rippled on the hearth before him, its reflection a soft glow in the king’s eyes. His hands clutched a golden cup before him, the few drops of remaining wine swirling around. Memories wandered through the air with every note of the harp. “Sleep,” the music and memories whispered, brushing past his cheek. “She would want you to sleep.” Warmth wafted towards him from the fire, yet he wrapped the blanket tighter around his shoulders. The harp reminded him of her voice. “I can’t sleep,” he said, voice hoarse, eyes fixed on the fire. “They’re gone.” The music continued, the unspoken whispers silent for a moment. The king’s eyes flitted shut, and, against his will, a long, shuddering sigh escaped. His stomach clenched and he closed his eyes. “My lord,” a soft voice said. He didn’t turn around. The midwife crept towards him and offered the bundle. He didn’t even open his eyes. “The little one still lives,” the music whispered. “Your little one.” Slowly, the king opened his eyes, blinking in the firelight. Then he turned, eyes skimming past the midwife to the tightly wrapped child. Fingers unsteady, he set down the cup and reached for it. The little one murmured something and turned, tiny fist curling around his thumb. The music continued, soft and achingly soothing. “Girl or boy?” he whispered. “Girl,” the midwife said with a tired smile, stray wisps of hair framing her face. The music drifted over and examined the tiny princess. She smiled slightly, dark lashes kissing her cheeks. “My lord,” the midwife said. “I must go attend to Queen Talia’s laying out.” The king’s chest tightened. “Of course.” A soft curtsy and she was gone. The music finished looking over the princess and smiled in the king’s ear. “What shall you name her?” The king studied his daughter. “I shall name you Talia,” he said quietly, “for it is a name worthy of a queen.” Then the tears could no longer be held back and they rushed forwards, spilling out onto his cheeks and catching the fire’s glow. He bent over, clutching his daughter, shoulders shaking. The music continued but said no more words until the tears had ended. “Sleep,” it said once more, wrapping its melody around the king and his daughter. “For your daughter, you must sleep.” And there, in the chair before the fire, music weaving its way through the room, his daughter in his arms, the king slept.