Once Upon A Time…Is how the fairy tales go. But this is no child’s story.This is the tale of Edward Cordwainer, dissatisfied with his position as a lowly shoemaker in the remote village of Houndstooth. Then one night during a surprise erotic encounter, Edward makes a wish to become the most famous man in all the Kingdom.When his wish is granted, Edward experiences wealth greater than he could ever imagine, a lascivious relationship with the Princess and renown throughout the Kingdom.But magic is a tricky lover.The more Edward takes for himself, the more darkness he inflicts upon his wife, his lovers, and the townspeople of Houndstooth. As his one simple wish threatens to destroy his world, Edward must choose between his carnal desires and saving his soul.
Disclosure: My copy was offered by the author in exchange for an honest review.
I finished reading this book two days ago, and I read it in two sittings. I started it one evening, telling myself I’d only read a chapter or two before I went to sleep to see what it was about, but I found it impossible to put down. I had to, eventually, because my eyes couldn’t focus anymore. Why didn’t I read this book sooner? Why, oh why? I do have a theory, actually, but I’ll leave it for the end of the review. Until then, let me just tell you this: The Shoemaker: A Tale of Love, Magic & Unnatural Acts is a gem.
The inside of this book is so pretty! The illustrations for each chapter are lovely, and they reminded me of classic fairytale books. I also took the time to study the map, just because I am so crazy about maps. Oh, and the story… You might think that it is predictable because it’s written like a fairytale, and we all know how fairytales are constructed. Usually, they follow a certain pattern, and if you’ve read enough fairytales and fairytale retellings, then you’re able to guess what the characters are up to and how the whole thing will end. Well, I was surprised to see that The Shoemaker took a completely different turn than I was expecting, and even hoping for. It wasn’t a wrong turn, though.
I loved the characters the second I met them. Anastasia is such a sweet and innocent girl, but she has a strong personality, and I hoped until the last moment that her good heart would win Edward over and determine him to change. I even liked Edward, and I could see the good in him. The author was incredible with developing these characters. Yes, this is a fairytale-like story, and there is magic in it, but the characters are all very realistic and believable. I could understand Edward, and I could relate to his frustrations. I could understand that feeling he was going through every morning, when he woke up and couldn’t bring himself to go into his workshop and start making shoes even though the night before he had promised himself he would make an effort. He hated his job and that sucked every bit of motivation out of him. However, I was hoping that he would eventually overcome this period of depression and confusion, especially because he had Anastasia to support him. It didn’t happen. And even though I was a bit disappointed that my vision of Anastasia helping Edward out of his misery was shattered to pieces, I could see where the author was coming from with her turn of events. Some people just don’t rise up. They sink lower.
This is NOT a fairytale for children. Don’t let yourself tricked by the pretty cover. This is a fairytale for adults. It has romance, lots of erotic scenes and references, and even violence. Oh, and about the cover… Yes, the cover was one of the reasons I didn’t read the book sooner. I said that it is pretty. It is too pretty, actually, and it doesn’t hint at all to the well-crafted story and the solid writing hidden underneath it. It is too simple. It gives the impression of a cute, fluffy, light-hearted fairytale, which couldn’t be farther from the truth. The Shoemaker is a serious story, with well-fleshed out characters, and some very serious ideas. It’s a story about shattered dreams, corruption, avarice, about people who blame others for their misfortune, and about trying to find the easy way out only to fall into a trap. I’m sorry, but the cover doesn’t do this book justice. It doesn’t make it stand out, and it doesn’t recommend the story for what it truly is. And the description is not much either… Why isn’t Anastasia mentioned? She’s such an important character. The description makes it sound like the book is all about Edward and his wish to become the most famous man in the kingdom. “Edward must choose between his carnal desires and saving his soul”? That’s all? Classic… cliché… not strong enough to hint at his inner struggle, at his impossibility to see straight, and at his slow descent into insanity (which was marvelously carried out, by the way).
Kathryn Cottam is a good author, believe me. She has a way with words. She knows how to tell a story. I can’t believe this is her debut novel. It is so neatly written, and the plot is so carefully built. I’m glad I got the chance to read this book, and I hope she won’t stop here and she’ll write more.