Series Review: The Tales Trilogy by G.R. Mannering

Friday, June 17, 2016

Author: G.R. Mannering
Genre: fantasy, retellings
Series: The Tales Trilogy #1 and #2
Roses: 328
Feathers: 288
Published: June 7 2016
Source: publishers via edelweiss

She bears no name. Her silvery appearance is freakish to the numerous inhabitants of Sago, the cosmopolitan capital of Pevorocco in the Western Realm. With her mother vanishing at the instance of her birth, she is sent to live with the cruel, rich Ma Dane, where she is punished daily for something, though she knows not what. Tauntingly named Beauty, she flees Sago in a violent uprising that sets out to massacre all Magics and journeys to the farthest point of the country.

But Beauty cannot hide in the grassy Hillands forever. Before long, the State officials find her and threaten to take her back to war-torn Sago where death surely awaits. In a midnight blizzard she escapes them, running into a deep, enchanted forest to a great and terrible beast who will bargain for her life.

But can Beauty accept Beast? Eternity is a long time. Now for the first time in paperback, Roses is sure to capture your heart as you fall in love with Beauty and her Beast all over again.

For readers 12+, this is a very imaginative, fantasy retelling of a classic fairy tale, which is still popular to the YA genre. With lessons about bullying others and falling in love, this is not only a light, fun read but also engages kids to think about their relationship to others in the real world.

There seem to be more and more fairy tale retellings appearing lately and G.R. Mannering's new fantasy series is set on retelling several old favorite tales, to small and varying degrees of success. The first book, Roses, is a new take on Beauty and the Beast story and it's not exactly a perfect first outing. Despite misgivings about the style of the novels and the writing itself, I was willing to take a chance on the second novel's attempt at retelling Swan Lake, but there found even less to enjoy. Each novel was a lackluster effort at originality and feel plodding  instead of fresh and new.

There were kernels of originality to be found in each book; enough to keep me reading instead of DNFing, at least. I especially liked that the Swan Lake retelling of book two, Feathers, genderbent the roles and got somewhat creative in general. Feathers overall did better at executing new ideas and including new inspirations to the story, but faltered more when it came to the technical aspects of the novel itself. Both books suffer from slow and confusing beginnings and rushed endings that provide little resolution for readers or characters.

The worldbuilding in the series is slim, even after it should, supposedly, have been expanded over the two novels into something substantial. It's so slight as to be nonexistent or otherwise just egregiously generic fantasy. Even for the younger readers this series may be aimed at, "Westernlands" and "Hillands" and "Magical Cleansing" are such broad, ill-defined elements for a fantasy novel. There's no feel of culture, history, or atmosphere to be found. It's an empty story operating in an echo chamber. There's no depth to this world, so there's even less reason to invest in Ode or Beauty's stories.

There are some tired and problematic tropes to be found in these two novels (the less said about Ode and Briar's "relationship" the better...), and each proceed pretty much as expected. There's less invention and more time spent on corny dialogue than desired. The reliance on staid tropes and uninspired stereotypes severely hampers the execution and leaves the Tales Trilogy a half-hearted effort. Even though the second novel ends on a cliffhanger, I can say I won't be tuning in for the third outing in this fairytale retelling series.

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