(can we all just take a minute to revel in the prettiness of this cover? O.O)
Only a madman would go into Faerie of his own accord.
The one thing John the blacksmith loves more than his peaceful, hardworking life in Middleton Dale is the tailor’s free-spirited daughter Janet. But unlike John, Janet dreams of adventure beyond the Dale. And when her dreams lead her into Faerie to be captured by a dangerous witch, John realises he must dare the perilous realm of the Lordly Folk to free his bride.
A poignant and profound retelling of the Grimms’ fairytale Jorinda and Joringel, set in the fantastical realms of Elizabethan folklore.
I know I’ve said this before but Suzannah Rowntree’s writing is like decadent cake. And it only gets better with each book.
Pendragon’s Heir was delicious; The Bells of Paradise made for a delightful treat on an afternoon relaxing, like a sleepy kitten, in a patch of warm sunlight.
First of all, Suzannah Rowntree has a knack of making her fairytale re-writes feel, not so much like retellings, but like original fairytales themselves. The world of Bells is vivid and full and never too involved or overwhelming. I loved every glimpse of Faerie and the sense of otherness and fey just around the corner.
“Here were strange and preposterous marvels: mice the size of goats being sold, saddled, and bridled by little brown men, a lady in a gabled hood carrying a tiny lion like a lap-dog…”
Secondly, the hero of the story is refreshingly unique in that he isn’t some ardent youth off on a quest or a prince bored with his lot in life; instead John is a simple blacksmith, content with his world and his people until events upset the equilibrium of his life. I like that he is a reluctant hero–he would never even consider himself a hero, actually–and his journey throughout the story felt so real and near to my heart, despite the fact that I’m much more similar to Janet’s character. We only spend roughly an hour’s time with John (about as long as it takes to read the novella), but it feels like so much more, and he’s already one of my favorite male protagonists of 2016. The literary world needs more Johns, methinks.
Thirdly, the story of Bells itself is well-worth devouring. Again, it isn’t even that long, but there’s so much depth and richness to it. I love it when a book gives me chills, whether it’s from a character epiphany or a slice of gorgeous description or a bit of skillful plotting. In particular, every now and again a book will give me a fleeting glimpse of Sehnsucht, a tiny glimmering of the world beyond the tapestry, as Montgomery sums up so well:
“It had always seemed to Emily, that she was very, very near to a world of wonderful beauty. Between it and herself hung only a thin curtain; she could never draw the curtain aside–but sometimes, just for a moment, a wind fluttered it and then it was as if she caught a glimpse of the enchanting realm beyond–only a glimpse–and heard a note of unearthly music.”
~ Emily of New Moon, by L.M. Montgomery
A book that does that for me is a book I will treasure. The Bells of Paradise actually brought me close to tears from the dance of joy and beauty and fire that I could just barely see beyond the surface of the story. I had a similar experience recently with Golden Daughter and let me tell you, people, it’s not something you forget quickly.
So, if you love fairy tales or delicious writing or humble heroes or even just want a quick read to while away an afternoon, by all means pick up The Bells of Paradise. You will be glad you did, my friends.
*I received a free ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.