I recently read the most recent book in Leah Cypess’ “Sisters Ever After” series. This clever MG fantasy series upends fairytales by re-centering the story on a previously-unknown sibling of the tale’s original protagonist. The main character of The Piper’s Promise is Clare, the little sister that Cypess invents for the infamous Pied Piper, who she names Tom.
The Pied Piper fairytale runs something like this: The Pied Piper draws all the rats from Hamelin with his magic flute, and then, when the town withholds the promised payment, draws all of Hamelin’s children away, never to be seen again. The classic tale invites questions–where did the Piper get the flute? And what did he do with all those children? Cypess delights in unfolding her answers to these questions slowly, drawing us both into the time-slipped Faerie Realms and into layers of backstory and intrigue.
Readers who relish the factions and intrigue of Tui T. Sutherland’s popular Wings of Fire series will find much to enjoy in Cypess’s underground faerie realm, where the lean cast of fae characters nonetheless manages to run the gamut of shifting allegiances, high stakes, and betrayal. The focus, however, is on the bond between Tom and Clare, as Clare moves from a young girl reliant on her brother to a courageous heroine who must choose between her Fae upbringing and her humanity. Clare’s steadfast belief in her brother’s essential humanity propels her to unravel the truth behind his seemingly cruel actions.
I found this to be an imaginative retelling of the Pied Piper tale that wraps the essence of sibling love in faerie magic, with a side of nearly-grown-up politics and intrigue. Well worth the read for fantasy readers aged 9-12, especially fans of anything faerie; like the others in the series, it may especially appeal to little sisters.
The next book in the “Sisters Ever After” series, The Last Rose, will be out in early December.
I’m perenially catching up on my reading, and just finished Kacen Callender’s 2020 MG debut, Hurricane Child. It was a thoroughly engrossing read. Set in the US Virgin Islands, it delivered a multisensory immersion into the life of a lonely 12-year-old. The main character, Caroline, is friendless and motherless. Her isolation nurtures her unique spirit. Caroline’s not quite like anyone else on the inside, and knows it. She sees spirits, and falls in love with an equally unusual girl.
The book’s structure feels a little messy, but in a way that works. Middle school is messy. For example, Caroline’s questions around her ability to see spirits are left unresolved. But that’s OK. No one’s finished figuring themselves out at 12.
Today I had the pleasure of meeting one of this year’s Writers of the Future winners, John Haas. John’s a talented author and a published novelist. His debut novel, The Reluctant Barbarian, was published by local small press Renaissance Press. His fiction has also appeared in numerous anthologies & magazines.
I’m really looking forward to seeing John’s story in Writers of the Future 35. Congratulations, John!
In a perfect world, I’d have time every month to read every sff magazine and zine and listen to every sf, fantasy, and horror podcast. In the real world, of course, I rarely make it beyond my 4 or 5 favorites. But… sometimes I’ll write a story, or a poem, and when it’s done, it doesn’t seem quite right for any of the magazines or zines I read every month… Hooray, it’s time to go market-hunting! I get to explore and discover new magazines, zines, websites, podcasts, communities, etc. I’m nominally looking for a place for a given story, but the fun is really in reading the free issues online. Continue reading “There’s always new SFF to discover…”