Bonded by Michelle Argyle – High Tea & Fantasy

You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me. ~ CS Lewis

So. High Tea & Fantasy. At last.

This feature has been in the works for nearly a year. I copped out the last time I attempted this and had An Introduction to Tea rather than a book to recommend.

But this is High Tea.

Mmm, tea and cookies!
Mmm, tea and cookies!

So go get your nice tea set out. Get something to munch on.

And, well, you can go snag an e-book copy of Bonded and read it before you read this post, but I’ll do my best not to spoil the stories. 😉

My tea selection this month is Stash’s Cinnamon Vanilla. I’ve had a hankering for autumn lately, even to the point of being sorely tempted to make pumpkin bread, but I am limiting myself. To tea.

Cinnamon Vanilla is an herbal tea, so it is caffeine-free, and it has a much milder cinnamon flavor than some teas do (such as Harney & Son’s Hot Cinnamon Spice). I personally love it with a spoonful of honey for sweetening.

And yes, the tea I am giving away this post is the Cinnamon Vanilla. I got (a different) Michelle addicted to this stuff, so trust me, it’s good.

I’m trying out a new cookie recipe, too: Saigon Cinnamon Ginger Cookies. Though I don’t have Saigon cinnamon for the recipe, so it’s just regular cinnamon. And also regular ground ginger. I’ll try the recipe with the fancy stuff someday!

It was pretty simple to put together, and honestly the dough logs seem super convenient to just cook one dozen cookies (instead of the four dozen the recipe makes), and stick the rest in the freezer. So now I have cookie dough for whenever I want it!

So, do you have your tea yet? Well then, let’s get on to the good part – the book!

Bonded cover

What happened after Cinderella married her prince? How did the evil sorceress in Sleeping Beauty turn evil in the first place? Discover these stories and a world filled with magic, forbidden love, elves, sprites, dragons, and the most powerful creatures of all–the fairies–in Bonded, a collection of three fairy tale inspired novellas.

I don’t even remember how I discovered Michelle Argyle a few years ago. I’m sad that it took me this long to finally read one of her books, because I really enjoyed it.

Bonded is basically an anthology – it is three different novellas in one set, but I wouldn’t call them independent of each other, and that’s part of what captivated me as I read the book, but I’ll get more into that part in a bit.

The first story is a Cinderella sequel – and it’s heartbreaking.

By Ricardo Maragna, G. P. Jacomb Hood (illustrator 1889) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Cinders begins with a frustrated Cinderella (her name is Christina). She’s already had her ‘happy ending’, and is struggling with her new royal status, feeling desperately out-of-place. So much so that the only place she feels she belongs is exactly where she just escaped from – the kitchens. The servants don’t know quite what to make of these encounters.

But most of all – Christina doubts she actually loves her new husband, Prince Rowland. And she doubts his love for her, because it was coerced, essentially. With magic. So there’s no way he can really love her, in her mind.

And she’s haunted by the memory of someone else. A stranger who captured her interest and made her feel alive, but she hasn’t seen him in two years. Eventually, she thinks if she can just get free of Rowland, she can find her stranger, and see if what she feels for him is truly love.

But the magic that brought her and Prince Rowland together is strong, and it’s going to cost a lot for it to be undone.

The kingdom is already on the brink of war. Rowland’s parents think the Christina can make a difference. But she just doesn’t see how.

Cinders conclusion is bittersweet. Christina is going to have to learn that there are consequences for the choices she makes, but that she can’t let regret over those choices dictate her future.

The second story is a retelling of One-eye, Two-eyes, and Three-eyes.

By Hermann Vogel (1854-1921) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Thirds begins with Issina, a young woman who is obviously on the brink of starvation.

In many ways, this story is more reminiscent of the Cinderella stories that we are familiar with.

Issina’s father is dead. According to her mother and sisters, Issina is the one responsible for his death. But she was only an infant and has no memory of what occurred.

But because she killed her father, she is tormented by her family. She’s made to do all the hard labor, and not allowed enough food – only the scraps.

But she is considered the ugly sister. Because she has two eyes, like normal people, instead of one or three like her more exotic sisters.

All she wants, almost more than a single meal each day, is the chance to present her name to the festival council and to be taught the magic of growing things, and eventually become a grower.

But she has no magic, according to her family.

And eventually, it turns out she really doesn’t have magic, but she has something even more powerful.

The final story is a prequel for Sleeping Beauty.

I don’t know that I can talk a lot about this story without giving it away.

It is a Maleficent origin story, essentially. But it is completely unlike the movie that just recently came out (and the movie was fantastic in its own right, just so you know).

So I’m going to talk about some of the more technical sides of this story, because this is really the crown jewel of the entire set.

In Cinders, we’re introduced to the world where all of the Bonded stories take place, and while we’re told about magic and elves and sprites and fairies, that’s really all we’re told.

Thirds shows us more about the elves and the sprites, and their relation to the world within Bonded, and how they interact with humans.

Scales is where the worldbuilding truly begins to shine. Most of Scales takes place in the fairy realm, and their land and culture is completely different from what we’ve seen so far in Bonded.

But what left me breathless at the end of Bonded (just as much as the stories) was how with each new ‘layer’ of story, the worldbuilding became more intricate and evolved.

It was masterfully done, and this will definitely be a book I read again and again, partly for pleasure, and also to see just how Argyle revealed things so efficiently.

And now for the giveaway…

Sadly, I do not have it in my budget to obtain another copy of Bonded to give away right now. But the e-book is only $4.99, and it’s more than worth the price. There’s always the paperback version if that’s more your… well… cup of tea. 😉

Also, I must limit it to within the US only. Partly, I don’t know that cookies will withstand international shipping, and also as I said, budget. I don’t have money for international shipping right now.

What I do have to giveaway is…

Tea and cookies! No, there are not a dozen cookies on that plate... there will be a dozen cookies in the package that is mailed.
Tea and cookies! No, there are not a dozen cookies on that plate… there will be a dozen cookies in the package that is mailed.

One dozen (12) Saigon Cinnamon Ginger Cookies, and a pack of Stash’s Cinnamon Vanilla tea (10 foil tea bags).

To Enter The Giveaway…

You simply need to comment below! Make sure you submit a valid email address on the comment form, in case I need to contact you. Like if you win.

If you want to comment, but you DO NOT want to be entered in the giveaway, just say so in your comment, okay? 😉

You must comment to be entered in the giveaway.

If you want to earn ADDITIONAL entries (up to three more!), make sure you’re subscribed to my blog (one additional entry – there’s a follow button in the sidebar!), and just share this post on Twitter and/or Facebook (one entry for each place up to two total). Please just comment with a direct link to your tweet or status where you shared the post.

(PS – if you want to share on a different social media site than Facebook or Twitter, that is fine. Just make sure that you can link me to the post directly and that I’ll be able to see it. Basically, up to two additional giveaway entries for sharing this post on any two different social media sites.)

The giveaway will end at 11:59ish CDT on Wednesday, August 13, 2014. Winner will be announced on Friday, August 15, 2014.

So, do you have any favorite fairy tale retellings to recommended? Have you read Bonded, or is this the first you’ve heard of it?

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About Rebekah

Rebekah Loper writes character-driven epic fantasy featuring resilient women in trying and impossible circumstances who just want to save themselves but usually end up saving the world, often while falling in love.
She lives in Tulsa, OK with her husband, dog, two formerly feral cats, a small flock of feathered dragons (...chickens. They're chickens), and an extensive tea collection. When she's not writing, she battles the Oklahoma elements in an effort to create a productive, permaculture urban homestead.