Review: Song of the Red Cloak by Chantel Acevedo

From Goodreads: Two Spartan boys grow up together, and become inseparable friends. One is a prince of Sparta , destined to rule this ancient Greek state, the other a slave, or helot, who serves the young prince. In the harsh training camps, or agoges, where boys are groomed to become the great warriors of Spartan fame, their skills are honed and brutally tested. Only citizens may aspire to the warrior’s Red Cloak, and one of the tests is the annual crypteia, or hunting of the helots. A beautiful and mysterious young Sibyl speaks of an uprising of the slaves. The Oracles warn of a deadly conflict between two ruling factions. Evil forces will challenge the two boys and test their loyalties, as secret truths about their own identities are revealed.

Buy it now from Hicklebee’s.

Heidi From Ya Bibliophile sent me this book. I promised to read it fast and pass it on (which I have done) but I was nervous. I knew Heidi had loved it and I have this rule that I don’t read self published books, it keeps me from reading something bad quality right?

Song of the Red Cloak put a chink in my gatekeeper armor. This book was fabulous. It reads like you are watching Troy or Clash of the Titans (but its actually good) and I found it absolutely unputdownable. Acevedo touches on the most fascinating points of Spartan history and lore to accent her story.

We begin the book with two fathers pouring wine over their just born babies faces. One cries, one does not. A sibyl says that the princes will betray each other and cause upheaval in Sparta, it is decided that one of the two must die. As the father of the chosen child- the one who didn’t cry- stands over the crack in the earth ready to end his just born babies like, it is then he begins to cry. The father lost his nerve and brought shame to his family for not going through with killing the child.

Skip ahead a few years and you meet Galen. A helot slave to the agoge and best friends with one of the two princes. The other wishes him dead for sullying the royal line with his filthy helot friendship.

Sparta has been without a Sybil for twenty years, when one is found and kidnapped Galen swears to do everything in his power to keep her from being sent to the rock. THe new sybil sees that Sparta will be undone and Galen works with his friends to stop the prophecy from coming true.

Song of the Red Cloak is a story about friendship, betrayal and finding yourself in a world where everyone has mistreated you. The characterizations were interesting, well fleshed out and completely authentic to me. Much like the ballad of the 300 these Spartans have a bitter sweet story and the author did a fabulous job bringing it all together for one thrilling chariot ride through Sparta.

I loved Song of the Red Cloak and urge you to pick it up as well. Especially if you are a lover of fabulous characters, Greek Myth, prophecy, and love stories.

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Princess of the Midnight Ball

Let me start off by saying normally I wouldn’t bother reading a rewrite of a fairy tale. I like originality and most of the time you do not find that in a revised story. I did however find “Princess of the Midnight Ball” to be interesting enough to try. Jessica Day George is an author that was completely off my radar until this book came to my attention, and I am apt to research and read more of her novels after having read her rewrite of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses”, originally a Brothers Grimm fairy tale in German. You can read the Grimm Brothers version of the story here. As most Grimm stories its a small short story with a dark ending. In Grimm’s version, the princesses were naughty girls going off to dance with princes underground each night until their shoes were worn out completely. The King of the realm put out a notice that anyone who can solve the mystery picks his bride and is the King of the realm after his death. An old soldier is coming home from war when stopped by an old woman, he tells her he fancies being king, and she tells him how. He ultimately wins the crown and the hand of the eldest daughter.

In George’s story, the princesses were forced to dance each night because of a deal their mother made with the “King Under Stone”. They don’t want to fool anyone and instead of drugging them to sleep like in the original story, An enchantment falls over all in the princesses rooms, to sleep until they are safe in bed again.

Another thing the author changed was the princesses all had names of flowers that their mother had given them. Flowers that had grown in her country, and flowers that could be found in the garden the King made for his Queen.

The old soldier turns into a handsome young soldier and passes an old woman on his way to town who tells him how to win, but not what he is up against. He is trying to find his family in the town, and his uncle happens to be the King’s gardener, he takes the boy to the castle to work on the garden. There he meets Rose the oldest daughter.

He quickly figures out all is not right with the princesses. The stories of shoes being ruined each night. Of course Rose can tell him nothing, part of the enchantment. An old gardener helps him along his way with herbs and ideas.

Eventually every prince in the realm has tried to figure out the secret and went home and was found dead within a week. The princesses were under suspicion of witch craft and the church comes down hard on the King and his daughters. The young solder turns gardner then asks the King if he may have a go at finding out what the princesses are doing and is granted his wish. The old gardner gave him some herbs to ward off evil and enchantment and he is able to follow the princesses.

George kept the part of silver trees in the underworld from the original story but told how they came to be there, a tidbit I won’t share with you. Of course it’s a fairy tale so everything in the end is okay, but there are some really dark twists and turns along the way.

To me this is a truly amazing retelling of one of my favorite childhood stories. The Brothers Grimm were favorites of mine as I always had a lust for the dark side of stories. I love the way George’s story is fleshed out and makes all the minute details of the original come to life. I really felt I was stuck dancing my nights away reading this book. I strongly suggest picking it up if you like a dark fairy tale.

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