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BOOK LIST: My Favourite Fairy Tales Retellings

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

I love fairy tale retellings ... here are a few of my favourites! 

'The Glass Slipper' by Eleanor Farjeon
I read this retelling of the Cinderella fairytale while walking home from primary school one day and was so entranced I walked straight past the turnoff to my street. I might have kept walking for hours if a neighbour hadn’t driven past and honked me back to reality. 

I love this book so much that I named my daughter Eleanor after the writer, with her pet name being Ella after the heroine. The Glass Slipper is full of wit and charm and whimsy and word play, the prose dancing like poetry. After I left my primary school, my one regret was that I hadn’t smuggled the book out of the library in my school bag and kept it. 

Years later, I found it in a second-hand shop and fell upon it with squeals of excitement. This is very much a classic children’s book, published in 1955 – the Prince does no more than kiss Ella’s hand – but it is so full of joy and innocence, it will always be one of the most magical books of my life. 

For 8+

'The Stone Cage' by Nicholas Stuart Gray
A beautiful retelling of the Rapunzel fairytale, told from the point of view of the witch’s cat, this is an absolute classic fairytale retelling. Reading this as a child is what first made me think of writing my own Rapunzel tale – I wanted to make my heroine a little feistier than Nicholas Stuart Gray’s sweet and loving Rapunzel. 

What I love most about this book is the personalities of the witch’s cat and the witch’s raven – one is arrogant, selfish and smart-mouthed, the other serious-minded and scholarly. 

For 8+

Cold Iron by Sophie Masson

Published as Malkin in the US, this is a retelling of the English fairytale ‘Tattercoats’, interwoven with elements of Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream’.  ‘Tattercoats’ is a Cinderella type story, about a persecuted heroine, but in this book it is not the sweet and maltreated Tattercoats who is the heroine, but the brave and feisty serving-girl Malkin, and her friend, the goose-boy Pug. Cold Iron is a small book, but packed to the brim with personality. Sophie Masson writes with a light, deft touch, lavishing attention on her minor characters and on the scenery, so that the book gleams like a little jewel.

I also love Sophie's most recent fairy tale retellings - Moonlight & Ashes and Scarlet in the Snow - gorgeous and romantic and surprising. 

Wild Magic by Cat Weatherill 
This is a wonderful fresh take on the Pied Piper legend, which explores why the Piper may have lured away all the children of the town of Hameln and what may have happened to them afterwards. The primary protagonists are Mari and her little brother Jakob, and the land they have been taken to is a place of wild magic, fearsome beasts, and an ancient curse than must be broken if they are ever to escape. The writing is beautiful, and the story itself gripping and suspenseful.  I’m surprised this wonderful book is not better known. 

For 8+ 

Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George 
I thought, from the title, that this must be a Cinderella- retelling, but it is in fact ‘The Twelve Dancing Princesses’ which Jessica Day George has re-told in this sweet and atmospheric novel. Even though Jessica Day George has done a classic retelling here, in a fantasy otherworld very much like Europe, and with the plot line adhering closely to the original tale, she has done it with a light touch, a sense of humour, and just enough twists and turns to keep the reader turning the pages.  A captivating fairytale retelling. 

For 8+

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
Since being made into a movie with the beautiful young Anne Hathaway, Ella Enchanted is possibly the best known retelling of Cinderella. As always, though, the book is much better than the movie, being filled with humour and surprise and intelligence.

At birth, Ella is given the gift of obedience by a well-meaning but air-brained fairy called Lucinda. The gift is more of a curse for poor Ella, and so she sets out to find Lucinda and undo the spell. She has all sorts of adventures along the way, some of which include a prince, a pumpkin coach and a glass slipper, but Gail Carson Levine takes great delight in twisting the known elements of this most popular of tales to give it new life.


The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
The Goose Girl was Shannon Hale’s first book, and launched her career.  It is a retelling of the Grimm Brothers story ‘The Goose Girl’, which is one of the lesser known tales but still filled with a few gruesome touches, like a dead horse’s head that talks. 

Ani, a crown princess, can talk with birds and animals, but her talents are not appreciated in the royal family. When Ani is sent off to marry the prince of a neighbouring kingdom, her treacherous maid-in-waiting schemes to take her place. Barely escaping with her life, Ani disguises herself as a goose girl while she tries to find a way to reclaim her rightful palace. With some surprising twists and a satisfying ending, this is a lovely romantic retelling, suitable for children or adults. 

For 12+

North Child by Edith Pattou 
Known as East in the US, this beguiling book is a retelling of a traditional Norwegian fairytale ‘East of the Sun, West of the Moon’, which is an Animal Bridegroom type story. 

Rose was born into the world facing north, and as a north child, superstition says that she will be a wanderer, travelling far from home. This prophecy is fulfilled when she rides away on the back of a white bear to a mysterious castle, where a silent stranger appears to her night after night. When her curiosity overcomes her, she loses her one true love, and must journey to a land east of the sun and west of the moon to save him.

For 12+

A Curse As Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce 
I love fairytale retellings that are set in the real world, at a real time in history – somehow they make the fairytale seem so much more possible. A Curse As Dark as Gold was one of my favourite reads last year – a beautiful, romantic retelling of the well-known Rumpelstiltskin fairytale, set in a British wool town during the Industrial Revolution. This story is really brought to life by the atmosphere of the mill, the heroine’s family home which is being threatened with closure. It also has a really charismatic and surprising villain, which helped add suspense and surprise to this well-known tale.

Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold by C.S. Lewis

I had adored C.S. Lewis’s Narnia series as a child and so one day, while staying with my great-aunts, I found this book on a bookshelf and sat down on the floor to look at it. The first line reads: ‘I am old now and have not much to fear from the anger of gods.’  

Entranced, I read on to the end, devouring the book in a single sitting. Till We Have Faces is a retelling of the Cupid and Psyche myth, which is not properly a fairytale, except in its obvious similarity to Animal Bridegroom tales such as ‘Beauty & the Beast’ and ‘East of the Sun, West of the Moon’. It is, however, still one of my all-time favourite retellings.

For 16+

Deerskin by Robin McKinley
This is a heart-rending retelling of ‘All-Kinds’-of-Fur’, the Grimm tale about a king who falls in love with her daughter and seeks to marry her. Known under different names in different cultures, it’s probably best known as Tattercoats, Catskin, or Donkeyskin. In some versions of the tale, the princess manages to outwit and escape her lustful father, before hiding herself in the skin of a wild beast and working in the kitchen of the king of a neighbouring country. In time, the second king comes to recognise the princess hidden beneath the filthy furs, and marries her. 

In Robin McKinley’s novel, the daughter does not escape until she has been raped by her father, making this one of the most powerful, and ultimately redemptive, novels ever written about incest. 

Robin McKinley has written many other beloved fairytale retellings, including Beauty and Rose Daughter (both retellings of ‘Beauty & the Beast’) and Spindle’s End (a retelling of Sleeping Beauty), which I adore as well. 

Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier
A retelling of the Six Swans fairytale, this was Australian author Juliet Marillier’s first published book.  Although she has written a number of gorgeous, spell-binding fairytale retellings since – including Heart’s Blood (‘Beauty & the Beast’) and Wildwood Dancing (Twelve Dancing Princesses), 

Daughter of the Forest is still my favourite. It is set long, long ago, in Ireland, and begins when Sorcha, the seventh child of the family and the only girl, is only a child. The whole atmosphere of the book is filled with romance, enchantment, beauty and danger, making it one of the best retellings ever written (in my humble opinion).

Other must-read fairy tale retellings by Juliet Marillier include Wildwood Dancing, Heart's Blood and Cybele's Secret - I love them all!

I also love Margo Lanagan's novels, especially Sea Hearts - a haunting tale of love, betrayal and selkies by one of Australia’s most extraordinary authors. 

Thornspell by Helen Lowe

New Zealand writer Helen Lowe reimagines the Sleeping Beauty story from the point of view of the prince in this beautiful, romantic fantasy for young adults. Prince Sigismund has grown up in a castle whose gardens and parklands are surrounded by a deep, tangled forest. He is kept locked away from the world, and so longs for adventures like the ones in the stories he loves so much – fantastical tales of knights-errant and heroic quests, faie enchantments and shape-shifting dragons. One day a beautiful and mysterious lady in a fine carriage speaks to him through the castle gates, and Sigismund's world begins to change. He dreams of a raggedy girl trapped in thorns, and a castle that lies sleeping … soon he is caught up in an adventure as perilous and strange as that of any story he had ever heard …

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

What a wonderful, amazing, magical book! I just loved this and think it’s one of the best books I’ve read in a long while. I wish I’d written it. A retelling of the Russian fairytale, the Snow Child, set in Alaska at the turn of the 19th century, it seems far too accomplished to be by a debut novelist ... I can only look forward hopefully to many more books by Eowyn Ivey.

White As Snow by Tanith Lee

Tanith Lee has been called "the Angela Carter of the fantasy field" for her dark and sensuous prose. This is one of the strangest and yet most compelling fairytale retellings I’ve ever read. It is so filled with violence and despair, it is almost unreadable in parts. Yet somehow it haunts the imagination afterwards, giving new depths to the well-known story of Snow-White, and taking it very far away from Disney territory.


BOOK REVIEW: Barkbelly by Cat Weatherill

Friday, August 16, 2013

Title: Barkbelly

Author: Cat Weatherill

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers 

Age Group & Genre: Children’s fantasy

Reviewer: Kate Forsyth

The Blurb: One silver-starry night, a shiny, wooden egg falls from a flying machine high in the air . . . down, down, down through the midnight sky . . . down to the small village of Pumbleditch, where Barkbelly is born. Where he’s the only wooden boy. And where he’s the cause of a tragic accident.

Suddenly, Barkbelly’s only choice is to flee for his life—to run. As he tries to escape his haunting past, he faces extraordinary adventures and dangers. Every wooden step leads Barkbelly toward the dark and startling truth about where he comes from and the burning question of where he really belongs. With deliciously imaginative storytelling, Cat Weatherill creates an utterly magical world—and one wooden boy who’s sure to melt readers’ hearts

What I Thought:

This is a story of a wooden boy and his adventures in searching for his birth family and his true self. Although there are dark and troubling aspects to the story – in particular the references to slave trading of wooden people like Barkbelly and the awful realisation that his birth family is not what he had hoped – the overall tone is playful, funny, adventurous, and filled with subtle lessons about kindness, love and friendship. Episodic in nature, Barkbelly's adventures include meeting circus folk, sailing on a ship and being attacked by pirates, and working in a factory, all of which is related with zest and verve. 

Most of all, I love the use of language. Cat Weatherill is one of the UK’s most celebrated oral storytellers, and Barkbelly is full of the most delightful playful use of poetic devices such as alliteration, onomatopoeia, and repetition, just like a story told aloud

I had loved Cat Weatherill's earlier book Wild Magic which retells the Pied Piper of Hamelin fairy tale (you can read about it here), and so I was really glad to read her newest venture.


SPOTLIGHT: Cat Weatherill, author of Barkbelly, talks about storytelling

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

I'm very excited to be welcoming Cat Weatherill, author and storyteller extraordinaire, to the blog today.

Cat Weatherill is one of Europe’s leading performance storytellers. She has been creating and telling stories to adults and children for twelve years. She is also a best selling children’s author, with books translated into ten languages.   

This is what Cat has to say:

When it comes to writing novels, being a storyteller has its advantages and its disadvantages. In this blog, I will focus purely on the positive! The benefits. How I think it has helped me. And in talking about my writing, I hope to show how you might lift your text from the page and set it dancing in your readers’ ears.

The main advantage to being a storyteller, I think, is having a very distinctive ‘voice.’ It has been formed organically, through hours and hours of live performance. It is this voice that people hear when they read my books and, because it is a storyteller’s voice, it means the books read aloud extremely well. I also have a cinematic imagination – I use words to paint pin sharp images - and I evoke atmosphere in a multi-sensory way.

I am sometimes asked whether I tell the story out loud then write it down. No, I don’t do that, but I do think visually. This is what storytelling is about – creating a string of visual images. You have an image in your head, and you send that image to your listener’s head via spoken words. The image will reform in a different way – it comes through the listener’s personal filters before it reassembles – but that is the joy of it. The uniqueness. I use the same approach to the written word. I imagine a narrative as a necklace: there are beads linked by a thread. I spend time polishing the beads so they shimmer and captivate the reader. And I bring in sounds and smells to evoke the atmosphere fully. Here is an example of a ‘bead’ from Barkbelly:

By evening, the circus was ready to open. Barkbelly left the cottage at dusk and cut through the orchard toward Farmer Gubbin’s land. A low mist was rising. The air was still and curiously charged. He walked on, his heart drumming with excitement. And when he emerged from the shadow of the trees and saw the massive Stardust Palace rising from the mist, he caught his breath and bit his lip. It was too wonderful for words. As he walked through the long grass, his legs grew damp and sticky with seeds, but he didn’t notice. He was looking at the lanterns, bright as beads, strung between the wagons. He could hear the hum of the crowd, the roar of a lion, the crack of a whip.

As he drew closer, he could smell cotton candy and hot honeyed nuts. Sausages. Soap. Woodsmoke. Tobacco smoke. Sharp, sulphurous gun smoke!

Barkbelly was lost in a joyous, bewildering chaos of colour and sensation. His fingers closed around the money in his pocket. Three precious coins that would buy a ticket into the heart of this paradise.

I also love playing with language, and think rhythmically. Sometimes I put these rhythms directly onto the page. When they are read aloud, they add vibrancy to the text and feel delightful on the tongue. It saddens me when these lovingly crafted rhythms are lost in translation, along with my alliteration. And my character names! In the Danish version of Barkbelly, he is called Traeskind, which means ‘wooden child.’ That’s just not the same! The warm, cosy humour of the word ‘belly,’ the alliteration, the image of the bark-textured belly – all lost in one translated word. Hmm! Sometimes you just have to let these things go, but it’s a shame. These are my characteristic ‘flourishes’ as a writer. My style.

Here is an example of rhythmic writing, again from Barkbelly, when pirates suddenly attack the ship he is on: 

Chaos and confusion! A bell ring, foot stomp, Flynn fly, do-or-die, panic-stricken sailor cry, chaos and confusion!

And polished alliterative language from Snowbone, when the character Blackeye is flying across the ocean by night:

Over the waves, under the moon, into the east he went. Over sailing ships that snailed across the ocean, leaving their trails behind them, silver as starlight. Over islands, secret-sleeping, scattered like cushions on the wakeful waves. Over sage whales, barnacle blue, singing sea songs older than time.

I am very fond of sound effects in my books. As a storyteller, I use them all the time because they bring a story to life. When I write a book, I add the sounds I would make as a teller, spelled out phonetically. Not only do they bring the text to life, but anyone reading the book out loud will find themselves spontaneously making the sounds too. Children love to hear grown ups making sound effects, but adults often lack the confidence to do it, thinking they will look silly. By adding them to the text, I gently overcome resistance. Here’s an example from Wild Magic:

Finn reached for an arrow, set it into his bow and let if fly: ffoooooo!

But ENOUGH about my writing! Let’s look at how you might bring a storyteller’s sparkle to your work. 

1 Make more magic
I have a comments book. At the end of every adult show, I encourage people to write in it. And the same words appear time and time again: magical... spellbinding... enchanting... captivating. This is not coincidence. I believe the job of a storyteller is to conjure magic: to create a world from a single breath and transport the listeners there, captivating them so fully, they won’t notice the time that’s passing. They will be lost; entangled in the tale.

And that is how we want our readers to be, isn’t it? Gripped! Enthralled. Fervently page turning. And yes, strong characters and great plotting play essential parts in achieving this, but I think a vividly imagined world is vitally important too. As a writer, you journey through a created world and you invite your readers to walk with you. The more ‘alive’ this landscape is to you, the more alive it will be to them. This is where magic comes in.

Set aside some time to explore your world. I find this easiest in a darkened room lit only with fairy lights. I sit in a comfortable chair, close my eyes and start picturing the world of my story. In India, storytelling is sometimes referred to as the Cinema of the Imagination, and this is what you are doing here: running a private movie of your novel’s landscape. Step into it... explore it... experience it. Allow yourself to be surprised by it.

This technique can be used for looking at a specific scene in your book. Picture the setting then bring your characters into it. Note how they move, the expressions on their faces, the power dynamics at work – how they are relating to the space and each other.

This can be an extraordinarily revealing exercise – and very powerful. Some months ago, I worked on an oral story about a very sick girl who was given a pretty dress for her birthday. I had imagined her as frail and wasted, but it wasn’t until I did this exercise that I saw she had no hair. I was shocked. How could I have overlooked something like that? As I watched the scene unfold before me, the girl’s mother tenderly slipped the red woollen dress over the thin body, and I clearly heard her whisper: ‘You’re beautiful.’ I started to cry. In that moment, it had become so real.

2 Get physical

This is taking the above one stage further – getting out of the chair and joining in. I am a very physical performer and have an acting background, so it’s often impossible for me to stay sitting down! I am driven to explore the scene physically. 

Again, this can be very revealing – sometimes in a very practical sense. You might find, for example, that it is physically impossible for your hero to do what you had him doing. 

Charles Dickens frequently acted out scenes from his books. His daughters would hear him hotly arguing with someone in the next room and rush in, only to find him alone. I seem to recall reading that he threw himself into his dramatics with such vigour, his rehearsals of the death of Nancy scene from Oliver Twist (in readiness for a live speaking tour) so badly affected his own health, he died before the tour began. 

3 Read your work aloud
If you want a book to read well aloud, you must read it aloud! Better still, get someone else to read it aloud for you. Make a note of any words or phrases they stumble over, and then change them. With children’s books, ask a child to read and listen to how they pronounce the character’s names – if they can read them at all. With Barkbelly, I was shocked to find my eight year old test reader couldn’t pronounce the name of the very first character named in the book. Page one! What a terrible impression to give: this book will be hard to read. I changed the name instantly.

4 Be playful
... with language and images. A sense of moderation must prevail, of course, or the book will become over-written and florid. A good editor will help judge if you’ve gone too far. But certainly in the first draft, which should be written for yourself (‘with the door closed’ as Stephen King wonderfully puts it) I think you should have fun. It’s easier to cut later than add later.

Well – that’s it! It’s time for me to make yet another cup of tea. I cannot write without it!

Happy writing,


Cat's author website
I love Cat's writing - please go on and read my reviews on Barkbelly  and Wild Magic. I also totally agree with her in regards to the importance of playfulness in writing - I wrote a blog for BOOKTOPIA about that very subject - you can read it here.  

INTERVIEW: Cat Weatherill, author of Barkbelly

Monday, August 12, 2013

Cat Weatherill makes her living travelling the world and telling stories, something I too would love to do. She also writes magical books for children, including Wild Magic, an utterly beautiful retelling of the Pied Piper fairy tale, and Barkbelly, an action-packed fantasy adventure about a boy made of wood.

Cat stole some moments from her incredibly busy schedule to answer a few questions: 

What is your latest novel all about?
It's a comedy called THE HAIRY MARYS, and it's about a group of ten year old girls who grow beards! So it brings in gender and dreams and the Suffragettes.

How did you get the first idea for it?
Like BARKBELLY and WILD MAGIC, it was inspired by a folk tale - this time from the Igbo people in Africa

What do you love most about writing?
I love the fact that books travel... That people all around the world can hear my stories, even if I'm not there to tell them in person.

What are the best 3 books you've read recently?

Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. 
The Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale. 
The Meaning of Night by Michael Cox.

I love The Shadow of the Wind too!

What lies ahead of you in the next year?
Lots of exotic storytelling festivals! I will be performing in India, Switzerland, Kenya, Denmark, Austria and Crete. I have also started writing my first adult novel!

BOOK LIST: Books Read in June 2013

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

I read 13 books in June, bringing my number for the year to a total of 65. My reading was a little broader than usual, with some contemporary settings and non-fiction stirred into the mix. All in all, a happy reading month!

1. The Duke and I – Julia Quinn
I really enjoyed this frothy historical romance - a lovely way to while away a few peaceful hours in a hot bath with a glass of sparkling wine. 

2. The Ashford Affair – Lauren Willlig
I absolutely loved this book which moves between contemporary New York, and 1920s England and Africa. It's a historical mystery, a family drama, and a romance, all stirred together to create a compulsively readable novel. You can read my review here and here's my Interview with Lauren Willig.

3. Keeping the Castle – Patrice Kindl
What a delightful surprise this book was! I'd read a review of it which said it was a cross between Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice and Dodie Smith's I Capture the Castle (two of my absolute favourite books), and so I thought I'd give it a whirl. I loved it! It's funny, romantic, and has a slight satirical edge. I'm hoping to run a longer review and interview with the author in a few weeks' time - keep an eye out!

4. The Rosie Project – Graeme Simsion
This book was another pleasant surprise. I'd heard it was rather like contemporary chick lit, except told from the point of view of an man with Asperger's, and so I was a little reluctant to read it. I've read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time and The London Eye Mystery, and enjoyed them both, but was a little jaded with this type of voice after too many episodes of The Big Bang Theory. I'm glad I read it, though. Its a feel-good read, with enough intelligence to lift it out of the usual chick-lit rut, and it'd make a great rom-com movie. 

5. A Proud Taste for Scarlet & Miniver – E.L. Koningsburg 
The great American children's author E.L. Koningsburg sadly died in mid-April, and I remembered her books fondly from childhood. I had never read  A Proud Taste for Scarlet & Miniver and so ordered it in. It's an unusual book, quite unlike her others which are really about everyday kids. This one is a fictive biography of Queen Eleanor of Acquitaine, one of my historical heroines. Its brilliantly well done, bringing Queen Eleanor and her times vividly to life. 

6. A Monster Calls – Patrick Ness
I had been wanting to read A Monster Calls for quite some time, and seeing Patrick Ness speak at the Sydney Writers Festival in May gave me the impetus I needed to buy the book. What can I say? It's brilliant, surprising, harrowing, humbling. I found it hard to breathe after I finished reading it, and my dreams that night were restless and disturbed. A month later, I am still thinking about it. The book packs a hefty emotional wallop and deserves all the prizes it won. 

7. Barkbelly – Cat Weatherill
A wonderfully written, rambunctious adventure fantasy for children, Barkbelly also carries important messages about the importance of tolerance and compassion. I loved Cat Weatherill's earlier book Wild Magic which retells the Pied Piper of Hamelin fairy tale (you can read about it here), and so I was really glad to read her newest venture. 

8. Dark Road to Darjeeling – Deanna Raybourn
9. Dark Enquiry - – Deanna Raybourn
10. Silent Night – Deanna Raybourn

In April, I re-read The Lady Julia Grey series of historical murder mysteries by Deanna Raybourn and enjoyed them thoroughly (you can read my review of the first three books here). I settled in to read the last 2 books in the series (plus one Xmas novella) this month, and enjoyed them just as much. The characters are always sharply drawn, the mystery is always intriguing (and not always easy to guess), and the ongoing romance between Lady Julia and her enigmatic new husband is a large part of the pleasure. Well worth a read.

11. Me Before You – Jojo Moyes
I read The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes earlier this year and absolutely loved it, and so I thought I'd read some of her other books (you can read my review here). I did enjoy Me Before You, though not nearly as much as The Girl You Left Behind. Its a very readable book, with an unusual premise, and the two main characters do feel quite real. The contemporary setting and voice made it read like chick-lit, yet the tone is one of pathos, not humour. I was moved by the story, but did not cry buckets as had been predicted. Which is not like me (I'm an unashamed crier!) Perhaps because I knew what to expect ... anyway, an enjoyable read, and one that should be read with some tissues to hand, just in case ... 

12. The Bolter: The Story of Idina Sackville – Frances Osborne
In Lauren Willig's Acknowledgements at the back of The Ashford Affair, she mentioned that her novel had been inspired by reading The Bolter by Frances Osborne. it sounded so fascinating I ordered it straightaway and it was just as interesting as I had expected. The Bolter is the non-fiction account of the life of Idina Sackville, the author's great-grandmother, who had inspired the key character in Nancy Mitford's Love in a Cold Climate. She married and divorced numerous times, and was part of a very fast set in 1930s Kenya that led to scandal and murder, as explored in James Fox's well-known book White Mischief (which I have also ordered.) Although The Bolter is non-fiction, it reads as compulsively as any novel - I loved it. 
PS: I have also read and loved Frances Osborne's earlier non-fiction book, Lilla's Feast - here is a review of it I wrote some years ago for Good Reading magazine. 

13. Raven Flight – Juliet Marillier
Juliet Marillier is one of my all-time favourite authors and a new book from her is always reason to celebrate. So when Raven Flight appeared in my mailbox, I gave a little jump of joy and read it straightaway. Raven Flight is Book 2 in the Shadowfell series. I loved Shadowfell and it made my List of Best Books 2012 - the books are classic old-fashioned high fantasy with a quest at its heart. The writing is beautiful and limpid, the setting is an otherworldy Scotland, and the story mixes danger, magic and romance - sigh! I loved it. This is YA fantasy at its absolute best.  

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