Jasmyn: An excellent grown-up fairy tale

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book review Alex Bell JasmynJasmyn by Alex Bell

“You have never heard a story quite like this one.”

Start a book with a sentence like this, and you’ve given yourself a tall order to fill. However, Alex Bell doesn’t disappoint. Jasmyn is something special indeed, putting me under its spell in a way that only a few books a year ever do.

Our heroine, Jasmyn, is devastated when her beloved husband Liam dies suddenly, just a year after their marriage. Then, at his funeral, things really start getting weird: five black swans fall dead from the sky during the interment. In the coming months, Jasmyn learns that Liam may have had a secret life — and it’s not your ordinary garden-variety secret life. She teams up with Liam’s grumpy brother, Ben, to uncover the truth. Their quest takes them all over Europe, to real-life places as enchanting as any fairy-tale castle.

I figured out one of the Big Secrets pretty early in the book, and so I got to read it on both levels at once: what Jasmyn thinks is going on, and what’s really going on. The difference between the two is heartbreaking.

Alex Bell weaves several old tales into her plot, and fleshes them out with vivid characters and settings, so that the story feels both familiar and fresh. I highly recommend Jasmyn to anyone who likes an excellent grown-up fairy tale.

Jasmyn — (2009) Publisher: One day, without warning, Jasmyn’s husband died of an aneurysm. Since then, everything has been different. Wrapped up in her grief, Jasmyn is trapped in a world without colour, without flavour — without Liam. But even through the haze of misery she begins to notice strange events. Even with Liam gone, things are not as they should be, and eventually Jasmyn begins to explore themysteries that have sprung up after her husband’s death … and follow their trail back into the events of his life. But the mysteries are deeper than Jasmyn expects, and are leading her in unexpected directions — into fairytales filled with swans, castles and bones; into a tale of a murder committed by a lake and a vicious battle between brothers; into a story of a lost past, and a stolen love. She’s entering a magical story. Jasmyn’s story.

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KELLY LASITER, with us since July 2008, is a mild-mannered academic administrative assistant by day, but at night she rules over a private empire of tottering bookshelves. Kelly is most fond of fantasy set in a historical setting (a la Jo Graham) or in a setting that echoes a real historical period (a la George RR Martin and Jacqueline Carey). She also enjoys urban fantasy and its close cousin, paranormal romance, though she believes these subgenres’ recent burst in popularity has resulted in an excess of dreck. She is a sucker for pretty prose (she majored in English, after all) and mythological themes.

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