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From Serial Killers to Fairy Tales
We do run the gamut here at AB4T. Quite a variety to introduce today, but all three fall under the broad category of speculative fiction.
Let’s begin with our starred review, a blood-filled serial killer/government experiment-gone-wrong thriller, with an interesting twist. It was released alongside a companion YA novel — Project Cain — which is told from the point of view of one of its teen characters — a clone of Jeffrey Dahmer. Obviously, this is for readers who like their books violent and blood-filled.
Granted, Cain’s Blood has a completely different tone and intention, but it will be of interest to certain readers of last year’s Alex Award winning graphic novel, My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf.
Continuing in the horror/dark fantasy vein, Four Summoner’s Tales is a collection of stories written by four popular authors who were given a single premise. One of them is Jonathan Maberry, author of the Rot & Ruin series. Maberry’s contribution is set in the world of his adult series, the Joe Ledger novels, however, so it may in turn lead teen readers to those. Christopher Golden is another contributor that young readers may recognize. We reviewed Joe Golem and the Drowning City: an Illustrated Novel back in 2012.
And then there’s the fairy tale selection. As we know, not all is sunshine and light in that world either. In The Fairest of Them All, Carolyn Turgeon explores “what happens when fairy tale heroines grow up and don’t live happily ever after.” In this twist on Rapunzel and Snow White, at least one becomes a wicked queen! Turgeon has transformed classic fairy tales before in Godmother and Mermaid (yep, you guessed it — twists on Cinderella and The Little Mermaid respectively).
* GIRARD, Geoffrey. Cain’s Blood. 352p. Touchstone: S.& S. Sep. 2013. Tr $25.99. ISBN 9781476704043; ebk. ISBN 9781476704067.
Adult/High School–Biotech companies have overstepped their boundaries in their quest to perfect the ideal weapon. A new breed of clones has been created, all with the DNA of serial killers, and, of course, with the consent of the United States government. Now teenagers with the DNA of Ted Bundy, the Boston Strangler, John Wayne Gacy, and others are on a killing rampage across the country, and it’s up to retired black ops agent Shawn Castillo to quietly end the storm before the media notices. There’s only one problem–not all of the clones deserve to die. It’s nature vs. nurture–some of them were raised by good families and have no idea why bad people want them dead. Castillo befriends a young clone of Jeffrey Dahmer, and the two of them reveal even more secrets that threaten American society and the roles that clones might play in our future. This book might contain the bloodiest road trip ever through the American heartland, so how could it not entertain teens? While not literary, it serves patrons who want a fast, enjoyable, stay-up-all-night read. A young adult title, Project Cain, told from Dahmer’s point-of view, has the same release date. Teen readers of horror, science fiction, and mysteries will devour this book–give it to fans of Barry Lyga’s I Hunt Killers (Little, Brown, 2012) or Daniel Wilson’s Robopocalypse (Doubleday, 2011).–Sarah Hill, Lake Land College, Mattoon, IL
ARMSTRONG, Kelley & Others. Four Summoner’s Tales. 384p. Gallery: S. & S. 2013. pap. $16. ISBN 9781451696684.
Adult/High School–In this thematic anthology, four well-known authors wrote stories from this premise: “A strange visitor comes to town, offering to raise the townfolk’s dearly departed from the dead–for a price.” And some of those prices are doozies. The stories include a mélange of genres; but each one has more than a touch of horror. Kelley Armstrong’s “Suffer the Children” has slimy strangers promising to restore a town’s dead for a price that turns out to be far too high. In Christopher Golden’s “Pipers,” Mexican drug traffickers invade a music festival, killing a lot of people. The stranger who comes to town promises loved ones resurrected from the grave, as well as revenge for this assault to their community. David Liss’s “A Bad Season for Necromancy” features an 18th-century English scoundrel who profits from the ability to raise people from the dead. The war in Afghanistan is the setting for Jonathan Maberry’s “Alive Day” and, in a twist on the theme, the stranger, an American special-forces agent, pays the price. Plots are taut; there are many teen characters; and the suspense and horror are strong. Each story has a hook at the beginning and a shocker at the end. Add the attractive cover to the mix; and you have a sure sell to a teen audience.–Ellen Loughran, Hunter College Library, NY
TURGEON, Carolyn. The Fairest of Them All. 272p. Touchstone: S. & S. 2013. pap. $15. ISBN 9781451683783; ebk. ISBN 9781451683790.
Adult/High School–Turgeon has created a fresh mash-up of two fairy tales; she begins with a fairly straightforward version of “Rapunzel,” but then imagines that Rapunzel, whose hair gives her the ability to feel the thoughts of anyone who touches it, eventually becomes the wicked stepmother/queen of from “Snow White.” The prince who visits Rapunzel via her hair is a bit of a cad, leaving her pregnant (with a son who dies at birth) to marry a princess from a neighboring kingdom; also, it turns out, he’s having a fling with a servant girl who turns up on the doorstep of Rapunzel and Mathena, her witch-mother. When the queen, Snow White’s mother, dies (due, Rapunzel suspects, to Mathena’s ministrations), Rapunzel marries the king, but she is unable to have a child. Meanwhile, she grows first to love Snow White, then, gradually, to resent her. She also develops a relationship with Gilles, the castle falconer whom she will eventually ask to cut out Snow White’s heart. It’s a twisted tale in which almost everyone has secrets and ulterior motives, but in which almost everyone is also being kept in the dark about certain vital facts. Rapunzel and even Mathena are surprisingly sympathetic characters, given some of their actions. Teens who like fairy-tale retellings will find much to appreciate in this one, and may perhaps be inspired to create their own blended tales.–Sarah Flowers, formerly at Santa Clara County Library, CA
About Angela Carstensen
Angela Carstensen is Head Librarian and an Upper School Librarian at Convent of the Sacred Heart in New York City. Angela served on the Alex Awards committee for four years, chairing the 2008 committee, and chaired the first YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adult committee in 2009. Recently, she edited Outstanding Books for the College Bound: Titles and Programs for a New Generation (ALA Editions, 2011). Contact her via Twitter @AngeReads.
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