A Thousand Beginnings and Endings is an anthology of East and South Asian fairytale retellings and reimaginings written by a group of YA authors. I was lucky enough to find that my library system had this, so I did the proper book-hoarding thing and requested it. I’m going to review each story one-by-one
Forbidden Fruit by Roshani Chokshi – 3 stars
Forbidden Fruit is a retelling of a Filipino love story. The prose is nice and alluring. I haven’t read Roshani Chokshi’s work besides her Aru Shah series. I have no problems with her prose, but sometime her themes are little off target for me. Maybe I was just miffed that Maria didn’t bother to look a couple steps further for her heart. Easily fixed problems that aren’t easily fixed miff me, but I suppose that’s a part of the tragic love story.
Olivia’s Table by Alyssa Wong – 5 stars
Ouch, Alyssa Wong was out to hurt me and shed a single tear with that dead mom part of the story and how Olivia broke up with Priya and didn’t even tell her about what was going on in her life. There was something about that stoicism or emotional detachment that got to me. Add in a story about mother-daughter relationships and ghosts finding peace, and you have me in your clutches. This almost reminded me of Mei’s story in Shadow Girl by Lianna Liu, which wasn’t received very well on Goodreads, but eh my opinion is more important here because this is my blog and I think you should read Shadow Girl if you really like Olivia’s Table.
The bit about Chinese-Am history in Arizona is not prior knowledge I had and I love the inclusion of it. I remember watching a Buzzfeed supernatural episode where Ryan and Shane went to Vulture Mine in Arizona, so instantly I made the connection between mine work and the Chinese American history in Arizona that Wong mentioned with Chinese mine workers. I remember writing a short story or research paper about the Hungry Ghost Festival in the 7th grade, though I’m not sure how accurate my research was. But hey, I was the only Chinese kid in class, no one could fact check me on that lol.
Steel Skin by Lori M. Lee – 3.5 stars
Ok so who else was shipping Alang and Yer in this one? Lee’s writing just gave me the instant vibe that these two had a little thing developing. But that aside, Yer’s perceieved memories of her and her dad got me again alskfjsdl;kf there’s too much parental relationship angst in this book already. I had some trouble deciphering the terms for the futuristic technology. I enjoyed the misdirect where Yer thought her dad was the android and also how Lee handled Yer’s grief over her mom’s death.
Still Star-Crossed by Sona Charaipotra – 2 stars
I’m sort of in the same boat as Forbidden Fruit as I am with this one. I don’t really see the story doing anything beyond Reincarnated stalkerish almost dad.
The Counting Vermillion Beads by Aliette De Bodard – 3.5 stars
I quite enjoyed this one especially with the sisters’ relationship and how it brought up that the sisters are changed people.
The Land of the Morning Calm by E. C. Myers – 4.5 stars
Again with the dead mom trope, but it still made me feel the feelings. This story has some nice shout-outs @ DIY Hogwarts letter and Toph Beifong cosplay. I do love nine-tailed fox spirits showing up.
The Smile by Aisha Saeed – 4 stars
This story set out to do exactly what the author described in the post-script, so I’m satisfied. This was solid , but not anything that went beyond my expecations, since I always read the post-scripts for these stories before the actual story.
Girls Who Twirl and Other Dangers by Preeti Chhibber – 2.5 stars
I thought this story was full of petty. Petty I can understand, but still petty nonetheless. I liked the framing of this story more than the actual events of the story. Dinesh was rude, but even the story lampshaded that the girls were comparing him to this great evil LOL. The food descriptions always get me, so that’s a plus. I really like the friendship between the girls in this too.
Nothing into All by Renee Ahdieh – 4 stars
I usually don’t like Ahdieh’s style, but I really liked the push and pull type of relationship Charan and Chun had and how Charan always felt like she had to pull her punches because Chun always hung her guilt over her.
Spear Carrier by Rahul Kanakia – DNF
Code of Honor by Melissa de la Cruz – 3 stars
This really brings me back to when I played Gossip Girl Party but with vampires. The twist was predictable, but there’s enough heart in the main character’s quest to find a place to belong that I can’t penalize this too harshly.
Bullet, Butterfly by Elsie Chapman – 2.5 stars
Maybe I’m not very receptive to the more romantic stories in this collection. Zhu being accepting of Liang no matter his gender was nice. The love story didn’t speak to me as I thought it would; I got the impression there was not much to that life and part of it stemmed from desparation – which I understand, and it was probably purposefully added on Chapman’s part. This is a tragedy of two lover kept apart because of familial duty. I was never a fan Romeo and Juliet either, so maybe this doesn’t appeal to my taste.
Daughter of the Sun by Shveta Thakar – 2.5 stars
I really like the concept of Daughter of the Sun, especially how the author chose to blend two retellings together like this. The reason I rate it so low is because, instead of seeing the relationship between the leads form, we are just told it does and actual personality is substituted by a list of hobbies and interests, which made it dull reading for me.
The Crimson Cloak by Cindy Pon – 5 stars
My fave. MY FAVE. Cindy Pon never disappoints me. This story has the best narrative voice in the entire collection (IMO). Unlike many of the other romance story retellings, the relationship in this one feels fleshed out, as the two leads feel like they have fully formed personalities AND backstories. I feel this is the most complete retelling out of the bunch too. It successfully repurposes traditional elements of the plot into a more modern (this is still ye olde times) reimagining.
I love how the couple ended up adopting their kids instead of upholding the idea that the only way to have kids is to have them biologically. Honestly, it’s like Cindy Pon knows what my heart wants.
Eyes like Candlelight by Julie Kagawa – 4 stars
I love fox stories and I love seeing greedy pigs get their just desserts. I’m not really a fan of that blink it and miss it sex + leaving the product, a creepy child, to haunt kit-daddy’s grave, but this story is otherwise fine.