You may have noticed that I love fairy tales and fairy tale retellings. So how about a whole series of them?! W.R. Gingell delivers with the Two Monarchies Sequence, a lovely fantasy series with many fairy tale inspirations. For the most part, these are not straight retellings, but rather stories that take a recognizable fairy tale concept and twist it all around. The result is a series that feels comfortably familiar yet at the same time keeps you on your toes.
Also, if you judge books by their covers, these ones are gorgeous.
The series is set in the titular two monarchies, Civet and Glause, two countries whose history is…complicated to say the least. There is also some time travel involved in several spots, which does not help clear things up! The series begins with Spindle, obviously inspired by Sleeping Beauty, in which Polyhymnia is awakened not by a prince, but by an absentminded-genius enchanter named Luck…and that’s just the beginning of her troubles. Next follow Blackfoot (with some hints of Puss in Boots) and Staff and Crown, which follow unlikely hero Annabel’s path to the throne of New Civet.
The last book, Clockwork Magician, will be released this week; it features Annabel’s friend and budding magician Peter, who is in truth a fairly annoying person, yet the author somehow manages to make him lovable. That’s a kind of magic all on its own!
Also in the sequence is Masque, a murder mystery inspired by Beauty and the Beast; though this one is chronologically last, I actually read it first! It’s one of my favorite BatB stories of all time. There is also a Little Red Riding Hood story, Wolfskin, in the same setting, though it does not cross over with any of the other stories.
What do all these great stories have in common? Excellent quirky characters that will come to feel like friends, an intriguing system of magic, some mystery and thrills, and some lovely romance. Occasionally it feels like the story or characters are moving a bit too fast to catch, but a touch of confusion is part of the charm of these books.
This series was my first introduction to Gingell’s writing, and it quickly made me a fan. I’m sure it will do the same for my fellow fairy tale-lovers!