Love fairy tales and mythology?
Fans of mermaids, dragons, unicorns, and other mythical creatures?
Enjoy when a beloved classic tale is retold?
A Twist in the Tail Thursdays features all this and more!
“But what if he was really their enemy? What if the ones they'd been suspecting hadn't done anything wrong, but he was the one doing something bad—by keeping his secret from he people of Abaton, for witholding what the Pearl was doing to him even though that was putting them all in danger."
~Pinocchio, LORD OF MONSTERS
We, the readers of the world, have a deep deep hunger for retellings of fantasy adventures we grew up with as children. You see the proof of it smattered across the YA section, and a little more cautiously speckled throughout middle-grade. Most of the retellings focus on taking stories that once featured Princess's who needed rescuing and make THEM the hero of the story. Which is great. But when I found LORD OF MONSTERS by John Claude Bemis and realized it was a retelling of and expansion on Pinochio, I pretty much lost my fangirl head. Because I don't think I've seen anyone pick this particular fairytale up and give it a reboot, and to see something different being handled was exciting!
That excitement only grew tenfold when I actually started reading, because this book is fantastic. LORD OF MONSTERS is actually the second book in the OUT OF ABATON series, but if like me you have not had the pleasure of reading THE WOODEN PRINCE yet do no fret! This novel stands very much on its own two feet and there's enough explanatory backstory to give you all the information you need to know about Pinocchio's backstory. The gist is that he used to be an automaton in the Venetian empire, and now he's (wait for it . . . ) A REAL BOY. What he's finding out in this novel is that you need more than flesh and bone to be a REAL anything. He and his friend Lazuli are now the Presters/Rulers of Abaton, a place where elementals and chimeras thrive in a peace that the Venetian empire has never known. But there are questions about whether or not Pinocchio and Lazuli are too young to safely rule, and though he is made of flesh and not wood Pinocchio finds himself still viewed as and feeling like an outsider.
Humanity isn't something you can just slip into. It's hard work, a learned process, if you will. Understandably Pinocchio is a bit overwhelmed, but his heart and soul are filled with the best of intentions for his friends and the people of Abaton. When Monsters of old begin to escape from a secret prison and threaten the safety of his new home, Pinocchio and Lazuli strike out on an adventure to find answers. He is the only one who can use the Pearl, a mystical item with great power entrusted to him by the previous ruler Prester John. Tension quickly arises though because every single time Pinocchio channels this power his body begins to turn back into wood. Can he save his people without sacrificing himself. Is what makes you human in whether you are made of wood or flesh, or is it in your actions and the things that you fight for?
This story asks so many important and clever questions wrapped up in sword fights and flying ships and mythical beasts. Lazuli and Pinocchio's friendship and their loyalty and belief in one in another is a driving force which honestly warmed my heart so much, but they both experience moments of doubt in themselves which cause various sorts of consequences. Beyond that this story weaves together themes of tolerance, for the Abaton people look down on anything they deem monstrous without taking the time to really assess or attempt to accept. Pinocchio's fears feel very real and identifiable, he's wondering whether he deserved to be human in the first place, if he's being punished, which is something we all can wonder when we're in the middle of a struggle. But even at his lowest he's driven by a need to protect and do right, which makes him such a great hero.
If you're in the mood for a fantasy adventure that feels both familiar and new all at once, I highly recommend this middle-grade adventure for ALL ages. The dialogue is witty, the imagery as they travel through Abaton is absolutely gorgeous, and the character development is something I think anyone of any age could relate to. You can start with THE WOODEN PRINCE or dive right into LORD OF MONSTERS. Either way the point is that you need to let auther John Claude Bemis whisk you away into fantastic and uncharted territory!