Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth


‘Wild by name and wild by nature,’ Dortchen’s father used to say of her. He did not mean it as a compliment. He thought her headstrong, and so he set himself to tame her.

Wild Girl is the story of Dortchen Wild, a young girl growing up in the small German kingdom of Hessen-Cassel in the early 19th century. She so happens to live next door to Wilhelm Grimm, scholar and collector of tales. Yes, he is indeed one of the Grimm brothers of fairy tale fame.

She pretty much falls for him the first time she meets him – she aged twelve, he aged nineteen, home from university. But theirs is an impossible relationship, his family is too poor, her father too strict (she is one of six daughters) and Wilhelm at first seems more interested in her older sister. But he is collecting old stories and she has some to tell so they keep in contact although her father disapproves of the Grimm family.

I was expecting more fantasy and fairy tale, a bit more like Patricia A Mckillip’s books like Winter Rose. But Forsyth has written something more like historical fiction than fairytale. Here it is not so much about the tales but about who it was who did the the telling.

She already tells us in her forward that our impression of the Brothers Grimm  isn’t accurate.

Most people imagine the brothers as elderly men in medieval costume, travelling around the countryside asking for tales from old women bent over their spinning wheels, or wizened shepherds tending their flocks. The truth is that they were young men in their twenties, living at the same time as Jane Austen and Lord Byron.

And indeed I have been guilty of thinking just that. So this was some eye opener for me!

Forsyth sets the scene well. She brings in a lot of historical background – the kingdom is taken over by the French, Napoléon Bonaparte is trying to take over the world, the fighting, the poverty, the struggles. History is very much alive in this book.

I also like how Forsyth brings in not just old folk tales but also folk medicine. The use of herbs, plants, flowers in medicine (Dortchen’s father is an apothecary and she helps him collect raw materials for his medicines) and also in charms and spells. Their servant, Old Marie, was full of what Dortchen’s father called “pagan nonsense”, such as the gathering of oak moss on Midsummer’s morning for luck and good fortune.

The dried yellow petals of St John’s wort, which Old Marie called ‘chase-devil’ for the way it could drive the megrims away. Gaudy calendula, bright as the sun. Sweet-smelling lemon balm, guaranteed to lift the spirits with its aroma alone.

Wild Girl has bittersweet notes in it. Dortchen’s life is not an easy one. Her father is difficult and cruel, yet Dortchen remains a dutiful daughter. Her life is filled with such longing that you cannot help but hope for a happy ending.

‘Stories are important too,’ Dortchen said. ‘Stories help make sense of things. They make you believe you can do things.’ Once again she felt a sense of frustration at not knowing the right words to express what she meant. ‘They help you imagine that things may be different, that if you just have enough courage … or enough faith … or goodness … you can change things for the better.’

Kate Forsyth is an Australian author. And apparently she has written plenty of books, especially for children (I only first heard of her via a link on the Once Upon a Time sign-up post, Earl Grey Editing had put Wild Girl on her OUAT tbr list).

The Witches of Eileanan series
Dragonclaw (1997) – released as The Witches of Eileanan in the US.
The Pool of Two Moons (1998)
The Cursed Towers (1999)
The Forbidden Land (2000)
The Skull of the World (2001)
The Fathomless Caves (2002)

Rhiannon’s Ride series
The Tower of Ravens (2004)
The Shining City (2005)
The Heart of Stars (2006)

The Chain of Charms series (for 9-18 year olds)
The Gypsy Crown (2006)
The Silver Horse (2006)
The Herb of Grace (2007)
The Cat’s Eye Shell (2007)
The Lightning Bolt (2007)
The Butterfly in Amber (2007)

Ben and Tim’s Magical Misadventures (for young readers)
Dragon Gold (2005)
Wishing For Trouble (2006)
Sea Magic (2008)
The Impossible Quest series
Escape from Wolfhaven Castle (2014)
The Wolves of the Witchwood (2015)

Children’s novels
The Starthorn Tree- young adult (2002)
The Puzzle Ring (2009)
The Wildkin’s Curse (2010)
The Starkin Crown (May 2011)

Contemporary fiction
Full Fathom Five – as Kate Humphrey (2003)

Historical Fiction
Bitter Greens (2012)
The Wild Girl (March 2013)

I read this book for the Once Upon a Time X challenge, 

hosted by Carl of Stainless Steel Droppings.

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh



It must take some daring, writing a novel inspired by One Thousand and One Nights, which has seen so many versions and interpretations that it seems impossible to write something fresh and different based on it.

(One of my favourites is Sharaz-De, the visually sumptuous graphic novel version by Italian Sergio Toppi).

But somehow Renee Ahdieh has done it. She’s written a story that is more than just the One Thousand and One Nights of stories, it is a story about a brave and strong young woman, who is fearless and also vulnerable, and a conflicted king with the reputation of a monster, one who marries and murders each new wife before dawn. It is an adventure with sword fighting and archery and a hint of dark magic.

“We women are a sad lot, aren’t we?”
“What do you mean?”
“Strong enough to take on the world with our bare hands, yet we permit ridiculous boys to make fools of us.”

Part of me was a bit hesitant when I went into this book. But then I got sucked into it, and this reader-of-several-books-at-a-time sank and submerged into this one book and only came up for air when I was done. It just propelled me along, wanting to know the reason for the caliph’s evil deeds, whether Shazi would seek revenge for her best friend’s death, and what was going on with her father??

Ahdieh is adept at making the reader reconsider the characters in the story, that the ‘good guys’ might not necessarily be the heroes, that there may be something else behind the ‘bad guys’.

As she said in an interview with Hypable:

“There are no heroes or villains,” she told us, “There are only people who want different things.”

Silly me, I hadn’t quite realized this was the first book in a series when I started reading it, but too late, I was already enthralled and will just have to wait until the next one emerges soon – later this month!


I read this book for the Once Upon a Time X challenge,

hosted by Carl of Stainless Steel Droppings.

Once Upon a Time X



Wow! It is Once Upon a Time X! Carl of Stainless Steel Droppings has been hosting this springtime challenge for ten years! Thanks so much Carl!

If you’re new to this, here’s what it’s about

This is a reading and viewing and gaming event that encompasses four broad categories: Fairy Tale, Folklore, Fantasy and Mythology, including the seemingly countless sub-genres and blending of genres that fall within this spectrum. The challenge continues through June 21st and allows for very minor (1 book only) participation as well as more immersion depending on your reading/viewing/gaming whims.




I’m going to go with Quest the First,

Read at least 5 books that fit somewhere within the Once Upon a Time categories. They might all be fantasy, or folklore, or fairy tales, or mythology…or your five books might be a combination from the four genres.

And here are some books I hope to read:

The Snow Child – Eowyn Ivey (maybe this is the year I finally will read this book! I first listed it on my 2013 OUaT pool)

Diving Belles – Lucy Wood (cornish folklore)

The Girl with Glass Feet – Ali Shaw

Throne of the Crescent Moon – Saladin Ahmed

Monstrous Affections – edited by Kelly Link and Gavin J Grant (after I saw it on The Writerly Reader)

Wild Girl – Kate Forsyth (after seeing it on Earl Grey Editing)

Lagoon – Nnedi Okorafor

Fudoki – Kij Johnson



Books I read and reviewed:

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth


What are your recommendations for Fairy Tale, Folklore, Mythology books? Are you taking part in Once Upon a Time this year?