Monday, August 19, 2013

Belle Noir by Ava Zavora

Title: Belle Noir
Author: Ava Zavora

Genre: Fiction (Short Stories / Fairy Tales / Romantic Relationships / Retellings / Coming of Age / Self Discovery / Fathers-Daughter Relationships)
Publisher/Publication Date: CreateSpace (6/1/2013)
Source: The author.

Rating: Liked.
Did I finish?: I did!
One-sentence summary: Five short stories inspired by fairy tales and magic, set in a variety of universes with a different twist to each story.
Reading Challenges: E-book

Do I like the cover?: I do, a bit (although I feel like it also could be a romance or paranormal cover).  It hints at one of the stories, 'Grotesque', really well!

I'm reminded of...: Mary Robinette Kowal

First line: Some curses fade and leave nothing but the faintest mark, a tea stain on watered silk., from 'Transfigured'

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow or buy (especially as it is $1.99 on Amazon).

Why did I get this book?: I love fairy tale retellings!

Review: This slender collection of five short stories is familiar (three of the five stories were inspired by Beauty and the Beast) and darkly bittersweet. More in the Grimm vein (pun!) than Disney, Zavora leaves the reader feeling uneasy and discomforted -- which is a surprisingly fun state to be in!

Each story lingered with me and, frankly, got under my skin (although I will say, the titular story 'Belle Noir' is the one I really can't shake!). The opening story, 'Transfigured', is the most fairy tale-ish in nature while 'No Loyal Knight and True' has the opening of a crime thriller but takes a delightful direction toward Lady of Shallot. 'Belle Noir' is just straight up creepy while 'Grotesque' -- the only story not specifically based on a fairy tale, I believe -- is moody and modern. 'Mirabilis' is more of a fantasy, but I was immediately captivated by the world Zavora wrought and I would love a novel about this place/our heroine.  The volume closes with a copy of Tennyson's poem, 'The Lady of Shalott'.  Zavora includes an 'Afterword' where she talks about some aspect of each story -- a rather fun inclusion I wouldn't mind in every volume of short stories I read!  (For those who love geeky extras, Zavora has a video playlist for each of her stories!)

While the book blurb has an 18+ 'mature' warning in it, there's nothing particularly 'adult' in the stories, and I had to wrack my brain for what might be construed as 'mature'. There are two moments, perhaps, in different stories, that are vaguely disturbing, but no more so than anything you'd find in any other novel. And it's a brief allusion, nothing graphic, so don't let the warning scare you off. This isn't erotica or even sexytimes.  

Dark, punchy, and fun, Belle Noir is perfect for when you're in the mood for a beach read that isn't cheery. Those of you who want something dark and fast for either RIP or Dewey's Readathon in October, consider this collection.  And of course, if you like fairy tales retold, give these a try.

*** *** ***


I'm thrilled to offer an e-book copy of Belle Noir to one lucky reader! To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US and international readers, ends 9/6.


  1. Oh, also a sucker for fairy tale retellings over here. I admit I hadn't seen this one before, but your review intrigues me. I'm not a huge fan of horror/the grotesque, but I am curious enough about this to give it a try!

    (The comparison to Mary Robinette Kowal doesn't hurt, either!)

    1. Jessie, I wouldn't call these horror, really -- just not shiny/fluffy. The last story, Mirabilis, reminded me of some of Kowal's other short fiction I've read!

  2. I love fairy tale reimaginings and actually like the strange and sometimes gross. I would love to win this.

    1. Nothing gross here; the 'Grotesque' in the title refers to a kind of gargoyle, actually! It's worth picking up!

  3. I love retellings too although like Jessie, I'd be giving creepy books a try with this one rather than reading in my comfort zone. It sounds like it was really good book, so I'm interested enough to take a chance on it :) Thanks for the giveaway!

    1. This is very light on the creepy -- really -- it's more in the vein of the original Grimm fairy tales -- no sparkly happy endings! -- but really worth trying.

  4. I haven't read many fairy tale retellings. This sounds very creepy, but fun!