The Penitent, Part One of A. Keith Carreiro's The Immortality Wars, has the feel of a medieval morality tale but with more fantastical elements.
Pall, who was born with a pall over his face (hence the spelling of his name) and has always had a rough life because of it, has been injured and finds he now has gaps in his memory. The archer Savage finds him and saves him, but a band of depraved soldiers discover the injured Pall and start to torture him. This starts to release some memories that do not seem feasible to Pall, such as turning into a fish. Luckily, a gruesome monster, The Unger, is nearby to further save Pall. However, Pall and his ragtag crew are never safe for long as there always seems to be a new enemy just around the bend.
I really wanted to like The Penitent, but I had the hardest time following what was happening. I found myself rereading constantly and still coming away with only a foggy notion of what was happening. I also felt like there were some leaps in the story, but that could have just been a result of my confusion.
I can see what A. Keith Carreiro was aiming for with The Penitent, but I, personally, just had trouble getting there.
Twisted: The Girl Who Uncovered Rumpelstiltskin's Name
by Bonnie M. Hennessy
published by self
I also enjoy fairy tale retellings, and Bonnie M. Hennessy creates an interesting one in Twisted. The original story of Rumpelstiltskin is not that long, but Hennessy does an admirable job giving flesh to the tale.
Aoife has spent her life running her family's land while her dad boasting while gambling and drinking their money away at the brothel in town. One day, he gets in over his head when he claims to the new duke that his daughter can spin straw into gold. Aoife tries to convince the duke that this was metophorical by showing him how he can improve the financial success of his estate, but he wants it done for real. The magical little man that Aoife always feels watching her in the woods, and who saved her one day from drowning, saves her again by doing the impossible deed. But when Aoife chooses to marry the duke to save her family from ruin rather than staying with her protector, the heart of the little man hardens and his wrath comes with a terrible price that will also unearth many secrets.
Hennessy takes the Rumpelstiltskin story and creates a plausible backstory to all of the elements. There are a few instances, though, that seem to happen just because they have to without any real cause and these hinder the story just a little as they muddle the characters' characters. The ending, however, is big and bold with many twists that make up for those few disjointed passages.
Twisted is a fun yet dramatic read that will appeal to older YA and adult fans of fairy tale fantasy. I hope Bonnie M. Hennessy tries her hand at more stories in the future.