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Amadan na Briona

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Inherent Vice
Thomas Pynchon, Ron McLarty
The Best Horror of the Year Volume Five
Ellen Datlow, Laird Barron, Conrad Williams, Ramsey Campbell
Locus Solus (Alma Classics)
Raymond Roussel
Blackout (Newsflesh Trilogy, #3)
Mira Grant, Paula Christensen, Michael Goldstrom
The Stepsister Scheme - Jim C. Hines This is very light, very enjoyable fantasy. I didn't expect to enjoy it as much as I did, but it reminded me of Terry Pratchett and Bill Willingham and Piers Anthony (not the pervy Piers Anthony, which is to say, 90% of his output, but the guy who occasionally writes about female characters without drooling on his keyboard).

Danielle Whiteshore is the "Cinderella" of legend. She married her Prince, they got busy on their wedding night, and just when she's starting to think it really is a dream come true, her two stepsisters show up and try to kill her. And kidnap her prince.

It turns out, of course, that her stepsisters are working for a more sinister power. Danielle wants to go rescue him. Her mother-in-law, Queen Beatrice, calls upon a couple of ladies who are also guests of her castle: Ermellina Curtana, aka "Snow White," and Talia Malak-el-Dahshat, aka "Sleeping Beauty."

Of course there is a lot more to their stories as well. The woodcutter, the dwarves, the enchanted slumber, etc., are all much darker than the Disney version.

The three of them go on a quest to rescue Prince Armand from fairyland. The best part of the book was not the adventure, although that was fun and fast-paced. It was the three fairy tale princesses with very different personalities who bonded, learned from each other, and acted like the heroes in a buddy film, always like women but not ostentatiously drawing your attention to the fact that they are Chicks! Adventuring! This isn't a Buffy-like allegorical feminist fantasy. They just ride forth and kick some evil witch-queen butt.

The characterization of the main characters and the minor ones alike was engaging all the way through; Jim Hines made them real and believable despite openly flirting with all your Disneyfied expectations. The tale turns dark when it needs to, but this is not grimdark fantasy. There's some bloodshed and sacrifice, but the Princess must rescue her Prince — that's how all fairy tales end, right?

This is not breaking new grounds in fantasy literature by any means, but if you like this kind of fantasy, I recommend it highly, it's an author enjoying himself with the genre.