My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I received a copy of this book from the publisher, Bare Bear Media, and the author via netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Actual rating of 2.5
The Girl who became a Goddess is a collection of folktales from Singapore, Malaysia and China, this collection has been brought together by Theresa Fuller, with three of the tales being written as retellings and a couple of the others just having brief explanations about them as well as a simple telling that the author remembers hearing as a child. Fuller wanted to collate some of her favourite childhood stories, so she collected her favourites and the most memorable ones, from the first story which is about the mousedeer and his escape through the rainforest, to a boy who wants to help his father anyway that he can in hard times, to the final story which is the longest of the bunch, which is a story following Chang E who is betrothed to Hou Yi, however the day before their wedding, the land is scorched by unknown means. Chang E runs away on a quest to speak to the Gods about what is happening to their home, Hou Yi soon joins her to travel on her quest and hopefully keep her safe.
I found the stories interesting, even the ones that weren’t retold as such, the three main stories that were retold by Fuller are mentioned above, the other stories in this collection were more of an explanation of the story that Fuller had heard as a child and just the way that she remembered hearing them. I did enjoy that after the final story, there was a big explanation as to the changes that Fuller made as well as the differences between the many versions of the story itself. This was also the case for the two retold stories about the Mousedeer and The Cricket Boy. It was interesting reading about the basis of the stories included in this collection as well as the fondness that Fuller had when she wrote about them, it really came through when I was reading through the book.
I did enjoy the stories, but I also didn’t LOVE them. It’s one of those hard ones where I enjoyed it enough, but I wouldn’t re-read it. The book is very short, it comes in at around 115 pages long, so it didn’t take long for me to get through it at all. If it had’ve been any longer, I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much as I did. I’m honestly not sure why that is though. I just can’t put my finger on what bugged me. I think part of it was, while Fuller retold three of the stories, it still came across as though they had been translated from their native tongue by someone who doesn’t speak that language. In a retelling I would expect that the author would take artistic licence and write the story so that there was a lovely flow to the words. This wasn’t exactly the case here. Especially in the final story about Chang E, there were many time when I was annoyed at the words used, or the lack of flow through the story itself. Even if Fuller isn’t a native speaker of all the languages where the stories originated from (I know that her mother was from..Singapore? Please correct me if I’m wrong) I still feel that she could have injected the stories with more emotions and in turn enabled her voice to flow a lot better.
I’m a sucker for anything that is steeped in Asian or South East Asian legend, so when I saw this book on netgalley I got so excited. I was just a bit disappointed with the execution. I feel like it needed another round or two of editing to iron out the kinks and flow problems. And I also got the feeling that it was very thrown together, there didn’t seem to be any structure as such to the book which was a little disappointing.
All in all, I did enjoy the stories and reading about where they originated and such as well as the many different versions of them, I just wish that this was a bit more polished.