Saturday, August 18, 2018

Book Review: Fairest Son by H.S.J. Williams

Hi ho, my friends! I've got a book review for you today! Recently, I had the honor of reading Fairest Son, a novella by H.S.J. Williams, and loved it so much that I have to shout it to the world.

Fairest Son is a gender-bent retelling of Snow White. I don't know about you, but I was instantly intrigued by that twist alone. But it gets even better! This little tale draws from Irish mythology, including Seelie and Unseelie courts, the sidh, and a lot more that would be too spoilery to mention.

Here's another thing you should know: I read Fairest Son in one sitting. The plan was to read three or four chapters and then move on to writing a blog post. But I kept scrolling . . . and scrolling . . . until I lost track of time and read the story right to the end!*

*I stopped once for a cookie break. Those are important.

The Fair and Foul courts of the fey folk have long yearned for one to bring them together in peace, but hopes are dashed when the fairest prince and the prophecy concerning him are laid to ruin. Burdened with shame and sorrow, the prince flees to the cold mountains far above the forests and lochs with nothing but animals and goblins for company.

When a human huntress stumbles upon him in her search for a legendary predator, their fates are intertwined. But she hides deadly secrets, and if he dares to trust her, he may risk the doom of both courts to an ancient evil...

Wonderful Things

1. Unexpected twists

No spoilers here, but this story deftly twists and weaves the Snow White we all know into a fresh new tale--a tale that stands strongly on its own, yet sends little winks and nods to its source materials at all the right moments. Every "aha" was a delight!

2. Wild fey

Disney's Tinkerbell is nice and all, but the kind of fairies that really enchant me are those that tend toward the wilder side. A little darker, a little more capricious and untamed, a little truer to the fairy tales of old. The Seelie and Unseelie courts here were populated by just that sort of fairy (a.k.a. sidh), which made me happy.

3. Perfect pacing

Novellas are tricky when it comes to pacing. Longer than short stories, they must have a strong enough plot to merit about 20,000-30,000 words; but shorter than novels, they don't have the space to delve into the characters or the world quite as deeply as a 400-page tome. Yet Williams crafted a story that sucked me in quickly, settled me into the world comfortably, and made me fall in love with the characters in very short order. I didn't feel that anything was lacking or terribly rushed. But now the problem is I want more!

4. Lovable characters

Like I said, I fell in love . . . most strongly with Prince Idris! He is a gentle soul, yet strong. Deeply hurt and disfigured, yet trusting. His mirthful disposition was a ray of sunlight in a snowy landscape. Calling him a "precious bean" or "soft cinnamon roll," as is the practice of many fangirls when talking about this type of character, just isn't good enough for dear Idris!

Our main character, the reserved and secretive huntress Keeva, formed the perfect complement to him. Capable and cunning, she held her own without being an emotionless "strong heroine." And guys, I ship these two so hard!

The band of seven goblins, cleverly named by personality, were a lot of fun too! They paralleled Disney's dwarves somewhat and were surprisingly easy to keep track of--which is no small feat when there are seven of them running around.

5. Pretty prose

I'm a sucker for lovely narrative. It's no substitute for a good story, of course, but it's the delicious icing on the cake. And Williams achieved a style of prose that harkens back to the time of fairy tales, with an omniscient style and a whimsical voice that reminded me at times of Anne Elisabeth Stengl.

6. Stirring themes

THIS IS THE REASON I'M GIVING IT FIVE STARS. I can't tell you how or why or what happened without giving away the ending, but Fairest Son had me grinning, widening my eyes, clutching my heart, and then at last smiling softly with satisfaction, all because of its beautiful themes. Though unexpected, they arose naturally from the story and put a twist on love and redemption that I didn't see coming.

Not-So-Wonderful Things

1. A few typos

Just a small handful, really, and perhaps a phrase or two that could have been smoothed out. Very, very minor details. I loved the story too much to care.

2. It wasn't long enough!

Okay . . . so that's not really a negative, because it is a novella and Williams did do a fantastic job of fleshing everything out within her space limits. But I enjoyed my time in these pages and want more!

In Conclusion

Fairest Son is a beautiful, moving tale of a disfigured fairy prince and the huntress who finds him in the woods. It is a story of recognizing the foul among the fair and uncovering the fair among the foul. It balanced elements of Snow White within a rich world drawn from Irish myth, written with both humor and heart. It's definitely worth a buy, and I hope to get it in paperback as soon as I can! (Partly because there are two gorgeous illustrations inside that need to be petted admired on the page!)

I hope Williams goes on to write full-length novels too, because I would gladly spend more time under her enchanting spell. Five stars from me!

From the beginning, H. S. J. Williams has loved stories and all the forms they take. Whether with word, art, or costume, she has always been fascinated with the magic of imagination. She lives in a real fantastical kingdom, the beautiful Pacific Northwest, with her very own array of animal friends and royally loving family. Williams taught Fantasy Illustration at MSOA. She may also be a part-time elf.

Website // Amazon // Goodreads // Instagram // Hannah's art page

[I received a free ebook copy of Fairest Son in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are entirely my own.]

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Subplots and Storylines - July 2018 // ANNOUNCEMENT

The month of July, in its swirl of humidity and heat, seemed to orbit around the gravitational pull of the Realm Makers conference I attended. The first three weeks were full of preparation for the trip, then the conference actually took place, and then I spent the final week recovering!

Life Subplots


Filmed and posted a vlog, because why not put off one's blogoversary celebration until the busiest month of the year, right? (Here's part one and part two.)

Put together my Cinder cosplay, which involved attacking a t-shirt with scissors and genuine mechanic grease and testing out silver face paint on my "cyborg" hand.

Also revamped my one sheet for The Brightest Thread in order to have material on hand for pitch appointments at the conference.

Most importantly, I stuffed myself with as many fresh strawberries and sugar snap peas as possible, because their growing season doesn't last long.

The (In)famous Realm Makers

You might be sick and tired of me and all the attendees raving by now, so I'll spare you a regurgitation of the details and will instead point you back to the link in the first paragraph of this post, in case you missed my recap!


Because yes, an introvert needs to crash after two days of travel and three days of non-stop people. And a lover of words and worlds must somehow step back into real life after being to Narnia and back. Recovery involved sleeping . . . and more sleeping . . . and typing up all my Realm Makers notes* . . . and also watching The Fellowship of the Ring.

*Thirty typed pages of notes, people. THIRTY.

I also just enjoyed summer and played water balloon volleyball and took my siblings to the city for a ride on a surrey bike. It's like a tandem bike, except built for four people and shaped like a golf cart with pedals. Lots of fun! Pedaling uphill is not for the faint of heart. Or faint of legs.

P.S. I had a blast participating in Nadine Brandes's Instagram challenge for the month of July! If you're on Insta, I'd love to connect with you there!

Screen Storylines

Avatar: The Last Airbender season 1
I actually watched five episodes of this with my sisters, which is more than we've seen in a while. We just got to some good backstory for Zuko!

Once Upon a Time season 6
Two episodes of this with my sisters. One of the episodes was deep and interesting and involved Prince Charming. It felt like the Once that I've always loved. But the other episode . . . blegh. A certain person acted very out of character, plus he was played by a different actor. This whole season has been a bit of a mixed bag.

The Fellowship of the Ring
Can you believe this was only my second time watching it? I still get emotional at . . . well, pretty much every part. The Shire, the little hobbits at the start of their adventure, the forming and the breaking of the fellowship, Gandalf and the Balrog, Boromir, Sam swimming after Frodo. MY HEART IS SO FULL. This was my sisters' introduction to Middle Earth on the big screen, so that was even more fun!

Page Subplots

My reading accomplishments were pretty pitiful this month, especially after devouring nine books in June. I read just one book in July. Sniffle. I did start a second, but it's still not finished.

Last of the Nephilim // Bryan Davis

War is coming. In this, the seventh instalment in a story world that started with Raising Dragons, all the heroes gather in Second Eden to face the coming storm. Dragons, giants, prophets, oracles, warriors, healers, the old, the young--all are desperately needed.

What I loved:
  • Elam got lots of time on the page
  • Sapphira had to face the darkness yet again
  • All the action scenes with the plane were great! (Merlin II, is it?)
  • Dikaois--he ranks right up there with horses like Bree from C.S. Lewis's The Horse and His Boy
  • Second Eden is such a cool setting!
  • Angel's choice near the climax--I get shivers every time I read that scene
What I didn't like:
  • A very minor complaint. The identity reveal of someone's grandfather didn't seem quite as important as the characters were making it out to be, but maybe I missed a detail, what with my reading time being spread so thin.

Overall, Last of the Nephilim is an epic book that sets the stage for my one of my favorite series conclusions ever: The Bones of Makaidos. 5 stars for this reread!

(Speaking of Bryan Davis, he has a fantastic discount on his books going on until August 5th!)

Writing Storylines

As I mentioned, I did rework my one sheet, so that kind of counts toward writing. Right?

I also edited chapters 3-5 of The Brightest Thread. It's still slow going, but that's all right with me. Some of the editing is dealing with deep-seated story elements, particularly around the beginning, and that always takes longer. This month, I hope to ease into the early/middle chunk of the story, which should be a bit easier to work on.

Almost forgot--I wrote and edited a super short flash fiction called Blackened Shell. I submitted it to Splickety for consideration in a live critique session they did at Realm Makers. While I wasn't selected as one of the ten stories they critiqued, I did learn plenty of tips and tricks for improving my flash fic next time!


(You probably scrolled right to the bottom to see what this is all about, didn't you? Come on, be honest now!)

Life is always busy. I'm not a fan of that term, busy, although I use it all the time. Truthfully, every day is composed of the exact same twenty-four hours, and we choose how they are filled. But they are always filled with something. Therefore, life is always busy full.

I choose to fill several hours each week with blogging because I love it. I love writing new posts to share with you here, whether they're life updates like this or book reviews or jolts of inspiration to wake your heart. I love reading all of your comments and having conversations with you.

But there are also other things I love, and on top of that, there are some "have-to's" filling my hours--just like your life, I imagine. Balance is key, and different seasons demand we shift our balance from time to time. So I'm shifting some things around right now.

Not to worry! I am not quitting the blog! I REPEAT: ADVENTURE AWAITS IS STILL ALIVE. Neither am I leaving on hiatus. Rather, I am adjusting my posting schedule for a while. With college beginning in less than four weeks, I have a few boring affairs to get in order. I'd like to edit more of TBT before classes start too, and it'd be nice to read a few novels before the textbooks come down in a landslide. So here's how it's going to be.

Old posting schedule: Every Saturday, including a
Subplots and Storylines recap every month.

New posting schedule: Every other Saturday, including the
same Subplots and Storylines recap every month.

This means that instead of four or five posts a month, you'll be getting two or three. It may feel weird to keep such frequent S&S posts with the new schedule, so I may slow those down too. We'll see! This new schedule will go into effect starting now (so don't be alarmed when there's no new post next Saturday) and it will run until I graduate college at the end of April 2019.

See, I've been ruminating on ways to make Adventure Awaits an even better place to visit, and I know that pushing out sub-par content simply for the sake of a schedule would have the opposite effect. I'd rather give you better posts, even if they come less frequently.

How does that sound, questers? Thoughts? How was your July? And your summer in general so far? Let's chat!