By Samantha Pak
Northwest Asia Weekly
Six Crimson Cranes
By Elisabeth Lim
Knopf Books, 2021
Shiori’anma is Kiata’s only princess and she has a secret. In a kingdom where magic is forbidden, she has it in her veins. Generally keeping it hidden, she ends up losing control of her magic on the morning of her engagement ceremony, where she is to meet her future husband for the first time. Although this stops the marriage (which she never wanted to start), it also attracts the attention of her stepmother, Raikama.
A witch herself, Raikama banishes Shiori to a remote corner of the kingdom and turns her six brothers into cranes, warning the princess that for every word she speaks, one of her brothers will die. Penniless, speechless and mute, Shiori searches for her brothers. Along the way, she uncovers a plot to seize the throne and realizes she can work things out – with the help of a shapeshifting dragon, her trusty enchanted paper bird, and the same boy she fought not to marry.
“Cranes” is a story that combines elements of Western fairy tales and East Asian folklore.
Lim does a great job of weaving them all together into a story about a young woman who’s been forced to start her life over, away from everything and everyone she’s known. I really enjoyed how Lim took on the archetypes many of us are familiar with – the “evil” stepmother, a young woman relegated to a lower social position, a prince in search of a missing princess, with only a slipper as a clue – and put his own spin on them. It’s also fun to see how these different elements come together in the end.
Shiori is a strong and intelligent character. And though she’s always had a rebellious side as a princess, it’s not until Raikama curses her that she truly learns to stand up and stand up for what’s right. She shows readers how being speechless doesn’t mean you can’t speak for yourself.
Once Upon a Time: An Enchanting Romantic Fairy Tale
By Roshani Chokshi
Source books Casablanca, 2021
Meet Imelda and Ambrose, a princess and a prince who meet, fall in love and get married in a matter of days. But unlike other fairy tales, the wedding is not followed by the couple leaving at sunset and living happily ever after. Thanks to a poisonous tomato that leaves Imelda sick and on her deathbed, Ambrose makes a deal with a witch, who makes them forget their love for each other, in exchange for Imelda’s life.
Then a year and a day pass and their real story begins.
To find their heart’s desires, Imelda and Ambrose embark on a quest together, braving magical landscapes and battling horrible creatures along the way. They may not have a loyal mount, but they have an enchanted cloak that thinks it’s a horse. And as they get closer to the end of their journey, the magically estranged couple grow closer and discover what their hearts’ true desires are.
“Once More” is a fun take on the traditional fairy tales that many of us are familiar with. While the story contains many of the usual archetypes – princes battling dragons, cursing a witch, finding your true love after knowing them for an extremely short time – things aren’t always what they seem. . Which I really loved. And because it’s about Chokshi, author of my beloved Pandava quintet, there’s humor and commentary from the story’s narrator that will keep readers smiling until the end.
One thing I particularly liked was how Chokshi takes the common fairy tale trope of meeting someone and immediately knowing they’re your one true love, and inspires readers to really put it back in question through Imelda and Ambrose. Throughout the story, as the couple grow closer, they wonder if love is enough to build a strong relationship and marriage, especially since their past experiences with love have meant different things. and have not always been positive. This never happens in fairy tales and I totally agree that we wonder if we should persevere with things just for the sake of tradition or if we should think twice about it.
The magic fish
By Trung Le Nguyen
Random House Chart, 2020
As a young boy growing up in the United States and an immigrant from Vietnam who struggles with English, Tien and his mother come from different cultures. One of the things that brings them together is reading fairy tales that they borrow from the local library. The stories allow Tien’s mother to practice her English, while the stories of love, loss, and world travel give her insight into her mother’s own experiences coming to the United States.
But no matter how much these fairy tales bridge the gap, there’s a conversation he still doesn’t know how to translate into Vietnamese. How does he tell them he’s gay? And if he finds out, will they accept it?
“Magic Fish” is the story of a family caught between two worlds. Nguyen includes fairy tales from different cultures, some that readers will recognize. He does a great job of showing how truly universal these stories are and we can relate to them no matter where they come from or where we come from. It reminded me that one of the reasons I love stories is their universality and the way they can bring people together.
Along with the stories — from those of Tien and his mother to the fairy tales themselves — “Magic Fish” is a beautifully illustrated graphic novel. I haven’t read the medium extensively, but Nguyen shows that a picture is worth a thousand words. He is able to tell these stories without a lot of text, conveying what is happening through images, characters and their expressions. I also enjoyed the different styles he used between the stories of Tien and his mother and fairy tales – which for someone who isn’t that artistic was very impressive.
Samantha can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.