Fairest Of All: A Tale Of The Wicked Queen By Serena Valentino [Book Review]

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Book Review: Fairest of All: A Tale of the Wicked Queen by Serena Valentino | YA | Fairy tale retelling | fantasy | RachelPoli.com

I bought the book.


The tale of the young princess and her evil stepmother, the Wicked Queen, is widely known. Despite a few variations from telling to telling, the story remains the same—the Queen was jealous of the girl’s beauty, and this jealousy culminated in the Queen’s attempt on the sweet, naive girl’s life.

Another tale far less often spoken of is the one that explains what caused the Queen to become so contemptuously vile. Still, some have attempted to guess at the reason. Perhaps the Queen’s true nature was that of a wicked hag and her beautiful, regal appearance a disguise used to fool the King. Others claim that the Queen might have hated the girl for her resemblance to the King’s first wife. Mostly, the Queen is painted as a morally abhorrent woman who never loved another being during the course of her miserable life.

In fact, the theories about exactly what cause the Queen’s obsessive vanity and jealous rage are too numerous to catalog. This book recounts a version of the story that has remained untold until now. It is a tragic tale of love and loss, and it contains a bit of magic. It is a tale of the Wicked Queen…

My Review:

Book Cover | RachelPoli.com

Similar to the covers of the other books in this series, I love how simple it is and also the surprise on the actual book. The jacket is of the Queen and the cover of the book is her old wicked witch self.

First Thoughts | RachelPoli.com

I bought this book along with The Beast Within. I love fairy tale retellings and this series sounded good so I picked it up.

Plot | RachelPoli.com

This plot delves a little deeper into the Queen’s backstory with some twists. A little bit of it stayed true to the Disney tale, but for the most part it was as original as it could be. Honestly, it wasn’t the best twist, in my opinion. Though it did work somewhat and even though it took me a while to get through, it was okay.

The tale can get pretty dark and I think that’s what redeemed it a little more for me. There were actual stakes for the characters, unlike The Beast Within, which was the book I read right before this one.

Characters | RachelPoli.com

The witches have returned and are causing trouble once again. They weren’t bad plot fodder, but they still annoyed me quite a bit.

I found the Queen to be a great character. I actually really enjoyed her and wished she wasn’t such an “evil” Queen. The cards were laid out against her from the start and I was rooting for her along the way.

The other characters, such as the king and even Snow White, weren’t that memorable to me. I was disappointed that the only character I cared for was the Queen.

Writing Style | RachelPoli.com

The writing didn’t do it for me. I felt it was pretty bland and there wasn’t much emotion put into the scenes, the description, or the characters. While the idea was pretty good, I felt as though this could have gone through another round of edits or two to make the words really come alive.

Overall | RachelPoli.com

This was better than The Beast Within. Of course, I realized this is technically the first book in the series while the Beast one is the second. Since I liked the first more than the second, I’ll be interested in the third book. Yes, I plan on reading the third book just to see how it is. I’m curious. But first, I need a break from these books.

Fairest of All: A Tale of the Wicked Queen by Serena Valentino gets…
Book Review Rating System | 3 Cups of Coffee | RachelPoli.com3 out of 5 cups

Favorite Quote:

“I cannot live in fear of losing him, for fear of not living my life at all.” –Serena Valentino, Fairest of All: A Tale of the Wicked Queen

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Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and if you enjoyed this post, please share it around!

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What’s In A Name?

This past April I wrote something a little different for Camp NaNoWriMo. Instead of my usual mystery novels or super-power fantasy novels, I decided to retell my favorite fairy tale.

I wrote The Lost Girl, a retelling of Peter Pan.

First things first, I had to do a bit of research about the time period. Peter Pan takes place in about 1904.

So, when coming up with a name for my lead female character, I looked up the most popular names from the 1900s. Grace was number 42 (according to the list I found).

I chose the name Grace because I think it’s a pretty name. It’s a common name. It’s simple. Even though it was popular way back then, it’s still pretty common.

The name Gwen is number 78 on that list. I like the name Gwen, but it’s never my first choice.

I was also trying to find a name for Grace’s mother as well. I ended up using Grace as my main character and a different name for her mother. Gwen didn’t make the cut at all. And to be honest, if a new female pops up in my story, I will not choose the name Gwen, no matter how big of a character she is.

Because while I don’t mind the name Gwen, there is just something about it. Something I don’t understand.

What's In A Name: Gwen

I’ve read a fair share amount of Peter Pan retellings lately. It’s partly why I decided to write my own. Peter Pan is my favorite and I thought of a great idea from the ABC show Once Upon A Time and from all the Peter Pan tales I had been reading.

If you follow my book reviews, you’ll know I’ve read some Peter Pan tales and I haven’t been a fan of a few of them. More than a few of them, actually. But I still add those tales to my to-be-read list anyway. They all sound good and I love Peter Pan, so why not give them a try?

I’ve noticed that fairy tale retellings have become pretty big lately and a lot of retellings that are coming out are about Peter Pan. This means getting The Lost Girl out in the world will either be pretty “easy” (I say that lightly) or really hard.

But I know there’s one thing my novel has that the others don’t: a different name.

Every time I go to my local bookstore with Kris, we always search through the young adult section. As I said, fairy tale retellings are what’s currently “in” at the moment and there are a lot of Peter Pan stories.

I found the novel Unhooked by Lisa Maxwell through Goodreads. The main character’s name is Gwen.

Then I found The Neverland Wars by Audrey Greathouse at the bookstore. The main character’s name is Gwen.

There was another novel I found at the bookstore, but I can’t remember the name or author at the moment. What I do remember is that the main character’s name was–Drumroll, please–Gwen.

I went back to the bookstore a few days ago and discovered a new Peter Pan story titled Everland by Wendy Spinale. As I picked it up off the shelf, I said to Kris: “I swear, if the main character’s name is Gwen…”

I started reading the summary in the front cover flap and stopped after the second sentence, which read:

“The only ones who have survived the destruction and the outbreak of a deadly virus are children, among them sixteen-year-old Gwen Darling and her younger siblings, Joanna and Mikey.” (Curtosy of Goodreads).


I don’t understand why the name Gwen is so popular among Peter Pan stories.

Is there something I’m missing? Is it a coincidence?

What I do know is that if I ended up choosing the name Gwen for my character, I would be changing it right now. Part of me wants to change Grace just because it starts with the letter “G.”

I don’t know if I’m overthinking things or not. I don’t even know if I have the right to be bothered by this. I just think it’s weird. None of these authors could choose a different name other than Gwen? Gwen doesn’t even have a special meaning that has anything to do with Peter Pan.

What’s even more strange is that Unhooked was published in February 2016. But The Neverland Wars was published May 9, 2016 while Everland was published May 10, 2016. All three books were by different publishers.

Weird, huh?

Names are important. And if you want your book to stand out from the rest, you have to give your characters names no one will forget; especially if you’re writing about the same topic as many others.

Have you ever noticed anything strange about different books like this? What do you think about this “Gwen” fad in Peter Pan stories? Let me know in the comments!

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Camp Is Coming

I can’t believe it’s that time of year again.

NaNoWriMo is something I look forward to all year long. If they didn’t have two Camp sessions before then, I don’t know what I would do.

Yet each sessions always seems to sneak up on me. I think about it, prepare what I’m going to write, then when prep time actually starts and the actual challenge arrives, I panic.

Camp NaNoWriMo 2016 Banner Rachel Poli

Camp NaNoWriMo is coming.

It’s hard to believe it’s only three weeks away. Do you know what you’re going to write?

I’ve had this idea in my head for a long time and decided to save it for Camp. Now that it’s almost time to write it, I’m excited to finally get started on the project but I’m panicking. I want it to come out as well as I believe it to be.

You all know I’m a planner. I’ve been doing slow research here and there. I’m also going to start outlining it soon. I planned on starting the outline last week, but… Well, you know some other happy news got in the way.

I plugged in everything on my Camper Profile. I updated my profile, my cabin settings, and even added my novel already.

I’m doing something a little different this year. If you go onto my profile, you’ll see the genre of my novel is “Fanfiction.” It’s actually a fairy-tale retelling.

But there will be more on that in a later post.

My goal is the standard 50,000 words. I’ll be trying to get at least 2,000 words a day (or one chapter), which is what I usually try to do. That would be over 50,000, but we’ll see how long the novel actually is.

I can’t wait for Camp to start! I’m so excited!

Are you participating in the April session of Camp? What genre are you writing in? What’s your word goal?

You may also enjoy…
Camp NaNo: What to Write
Camp NaNo: Should You Outline?

Once Upon A Time by Brothers Grimm and Kevin Tong

Once Upon a Time book review brothers grimm kevin tong

Title: Once Upon A Time: A Collection of Classic Fairy Tales
Author: Brothers Grimm and Kevin Tong
Genre: Fairy Tales, Myths
How I got the book: I bought it

Summary (from Amazon):

The book itself will be small and gift-sized, and will feature original illustrations by a fantastic artist named Kevin Tong. Tong worked as an artist on LOST’s art campaign and currently does amazing concert posters. His aesthetic is dark and edgy, and lines up nicely with that of the show-exactly what we’re going for with these illustrations. For our book, he’ll illustrate the cover, six full-page interior pieces to go with the tales featured in both the book and the show (Snow White, Cinderella, Rumplestiltskin, Rapunzel, Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty), and a combination of small, decorative images and borders to adorn the interior pages.

My Review (may contain spoilers!):

This book is a collection of 30 fairy tales written by the Brothers Grimm. The original versions of these stories are more complicated (and gory) than what Walt Disney has turned them into.

For example, in the story of Cinderella, there is no magic. There is no fairy godmother. Cinderella just happens to have luck on her side. The stepsisters do not have a happy ending at all.

Most of the stories surrounded the same themes: Greed. Selfishness. With these in mind, you would think there would be no happy endings, but there were. Despite someone doing the wrong thing, they still came out on top sometimes.

Some stories were hard to read. I only recognized seven out of the 30 stories. It was easier to read those seven and be impressed by the changes that were made to them.

Overall, the stories weren’t that bad. Even if some were a little bit odd.

Once Upon A Time by Brothers Grimm and Kevin Tong get 4 out of 5 stars.

Favorite Quote:

“And the miller was afraid and did as he was told. And that just shows what men are.” –Brothers Gimm, Once Upon a Time

Be sure to check out my Goodreads account to see what I’ll be reading next!

Have a book recommendation for me? Check out my Book Review Policy.