Updated: Jun 29
There is a special place in literature for fairy tales. These memorable stories are at once enjoyable and carry important messages for children and adults alike. Though writers like the Grimm Brothers and Hans Christian Andersen have laid the foundation for fairy tales in English literature, it is wonderful when contemporary authors use these stories as a springboard for even more delightful narratives.
Kindled Embers by KC Simos is the first in the Dryad’s Cede series and incorporates a fairy tale approach within the plot. It is the story of a twelve-year-old girl named Eliza and how she adventures with her benefactor, Jonas, to clear his name after he has been accused of stealing a precious treasure from the Palace where they both work. Simultaneously, King Christian is in the process of arranging a marriage between Prince Anders and a Princess of an adjoining kingdom to help ensure long-lasting peace. Through gripping action sequences and a clue-driven mystery, each piece of this puzzle comes together beautifully at the end. Please see my full review here.
I couldn’t put this book down! Though it is on the shorter side of middle grade stories, its concise nature and expertly designed plot make it just the right size. Satisfying in its execution, readers will love as each clue is carefully unveiled and then linked together at the end. Just like in traditional fairy tales, the moral of the story is revealed as all of the characters give explanations for their behavior throughout the narrative. Echoes of The Princess and the Pea are found in this story, but they are wrapped in a compelling mystery that readers will love solving alongside the protagonists.
Though this book wraps up quite well, it is more than open to a sequel. Middle grade and even older readers who enjoy period-style, fairytale mysteries will love entering Eliza’s world and uncovering the truths within it. I highly recommend this book and hope you have a chance to read it!
Spring Tyde is the prequel to the Dryad’s Cede series, taking place four hundred years before the rest of the series. This is a shorter book, only about forty pages, but it packs a punch. Here, readers meet Chastain, a wood nymph who lives in an isolated chestnut tree in the middle of a meadow. When young Prince Frederick stumbles upon her, the two create an unforgettable friendship that lasts for generations to come. Please see my full review here.
Though this book can be read alone or at any point in the series, I am glad that I read it between the first and second stories. I wasn’t initially aware of the connection between this and the other books, but it became clear in a way that reminded me of when sunshine re-emerges after a cloudy day. Excellent writing and just the right length help this story give readers a better understanding of the foundation of the world in which Dryad’s Cede takes place.
Feather Frost is the final book in this series and is the longest of the three. Beginning five years after where Kindled Embers ends, Eliza is now seventeen and she and her childhood companions from the first story have all grown up. Each one of them has ambitions and desires that were only hinted at in the first installment, and the plot reflects their increased maturity. Though this story includes more peril and romance than the first book, it is still written through the lens of a fairy tale that is at once accessible to younger readers while appealing to older ones, as well. Please see my full review here.
I loved getting to know more about Eliza’s back story and how she came to live with Jonas at the palace. Where other stories could incorporate secrecy and drama with the reveal of information like this, however, this book does not. Honesty and acceptance are universal themes in these books as characters of all ages strive to do their best at any given moment. References are made to classic fairy tales of old as an homage to the greats who came before, and they increase older readers’ engagement with the narrative due to their familiarity.
Like Kindled Embers, I read this book straight through in one sitting. The descriptive and compelling storytelling combined with a straightforward and multifaceted plot kept me going to learn what would happen next. I grew to love the characters and the story, especially as it becomes more complex alongside Eliza’s increasing maturity. It is an enjoyable conclusion to this lovely series.
While each of these books can be read on its own, the three really do go well together. Spanning over four-hundred years, readers are given a glimpse of three different times in the world of the Dryad’s Cede instead of a longer look at a single point in time as is the case in many other series. Each book incorporates a fairy tale-like element as the author is greatly inspired by the works of Hans Christian Andersen. Please see my full review here.
Collecting all the books together in one binding, this makes for an excellent gift for readers who enjoy having an entire series at their fingertips. Confident middle grade children through adults will appreciate the concise presentation of these stories as they dig deeper into this fictional world.
I hope you will check out these wonderful stories and include them in tales your family can read together. Well written and entertaining, these will be books you will love returning to as time goes by.
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