Sylvia Rieß: Der Axolotlkönig

As part of the Fairy Tale Summer/Märchensommer you get my review for Der Axolotlkönig (The Axolotlking) by Sylvia Rieß.

What is it about?

4 of 5 stars

Fynn, a well liked musician, finds himself 20 centimetres tall and with strange outgrowth where his neck should be in an aquarium; with no idea how he got here.

But it seems it was quite on time, as his new room mate Leonie has not just lost the last connection she had had to her grandmother, but because of being bullied in school she also only sees one way out of this…

Can axolotified Fynn convince her that it’s a horrible idea?

The Frog King meets The Snow Queen in this Fairy Tale adaptation by the Märchenspinnerei.

The reading experience

For some reason did I wait quite a while to read it after I won it back in February. Which probably wasn’t that bad, seeing as I created the Fairy Tale Summer because of it…

Anyway, as Sylvia already posted entries into the Reading Group on Facebook (Magical Book Reading) I could right away discuss a few thoughts with her. This was a great experience and I’m really glad she/they provided the opportunity. In addition to that did I also keep track of my thoughts on Goodreads, so some things might sound familiar.

Other than that was I not prepared for the flashback to what happened with Leonie’s grandmother. It hit me pretty hard, especially as it sounded far too familiar. This thing and others like the Bullying, the depression and the flight into an online world were very well portrayed and certainly more realistic than what you’d sometimes expect from a YA novel. I also found several similarities to my own experiences in the book and talked to Sylvia about it; apparently she’s a “Realitybender” and sometimes creates characters that she later meets in Real Life, which is equally amazing and terrifying.

The story is written with a first person narrator switching between Leonie’s and Fynn’s perspective, which I usually don’t like, but I got used to it over time. Especially towards the end was it the better choice as the thought-conversations between Leonie and Lurchi-Fynn would have been even more complicated than they already were. Which by the way was an interesting twist on how the Frog communicated with the Princess. The only time she breaks from this pattern are the prologue and a passage in the middle from a third perspective. The story also has some insertions as flashback (granny, as I mentioned above), private messages from Leonie’s online friends, Facebook comments from her classmates and her diary entries. Ever since reading Dracula I enjoy well made diary-narration and this was one example for it. You knew it was made by a child/young adult, but at least not an annoying one.

The characters

Leonie is basically your typical bullied school kid, except that she’s rather skinny instead of fat. Only if you get to know her better, which you do while reading the book ;), does she become so much more. For me it was hard to read about the things she had to go through and where she started only to see where she ended up. But I don’t think I pitied her. Sure, I wanted to hug her and befriend her, because what I learned about her hobbies sounded amazing, but I was more angry with her classmates for being ignorant a-holes… I really enjoyed the journey she goes through and was proud of her towards the end. Sure she’s quite melodramatic at times and made a few stupid decisions along the way, but I guess that’s “normal” for kids her age.

At the beginning I was certain Fynn definitely deserved what he got and I guess I still am, but he too went through a realistic journey. I think his time away from his peers that he spent with self-reflection helped quite a bit in this process. His way of helping Leonie wasn’t always the smartest, but at least he tried. 😀 I also liked the way he interacted with the other characters – and other aquarium dwellers. The latter was even an Easter Egg, which I will not further explain and only say that I was the first one to find it. 😉 And it caused an incredibly original idea of how to send a SMS, one of my highlights. 😀

Smaller but not less significant roles were taken up by Leonie’s online friend Mamba/Cecille, who supports Leonie however she can and Fynn’s older brother Rob who makes a revelation that leaves his brother speechless. Those two rounded the ensemble and were great and necessary for both characters’ journey. They also had a great dynamic and I again found myself more interested in side- than main characters, even if I still wanted to hug Leonie…

And of course there is Poison…a character whose name I considered a funny “coincidence” (Poison isn’t really a nickname unfamiliar to the Goth-scene) even if my alarm bells went ringing when I read one of his first messages. Leonie’s interaction with him leads to a fascinating and frustrating turning point of the events and I’m proud of the way she handled it. 🙂
Funny side Note: When I send out a mail regarding the e-book give-away and signed it with, as I usually do, “Poison” the receiver of said message was a little irritated as she had already read this book. 😀

The characters gained more and more shape throughout the chapters and are well portrayed. Every one of the four main ones has rough edges, which I really like in characters. Leonie’s parents and classmates where a bit pale in comparison, but more focus on them wouldn’t have made it better.

General Opinion

I really like the ending, especially considering the original Fairy Tale. In addition to that are the mirror pieces a great metaphor for depression, it’s just sad that it doesn’t work like that in Real Life, so the afterword is just as important.

With Leonie’s experiences some very important light is shone on the development of the Bullying culture and on its consequences and of course depressions in general. There were a few heavy passages throughout the book, some mostly because I went through similar things. There was also some very serious stuff about online dating for minors who do not read messages carefully enough. In short: While I would consider this a YA story does it also contain mature content which needs to be discussed more often, especially with young adults.

I would also have liked a closer into the magic of the transformation, but I guess that would have went beyond the scope of the story. There are also two scenes that I would have liked to see: Cecille and Rob at the police station and Leonie’s day at school towards the end. But I understand why Sylvia chose not to add them.

All in all is it a round and great story about a young girl that learns to ask for help and manages to get out of a very deep hole. It was fun to follow the story and discuss it in the group.

Stuff I’d like to add

As a reminder: As part of the challenge you can collect points by reviewing Fairy Tales yourself. 😉

In a couple of days you’ll get an interview with Sylvia about the book and some other Fairy Tale related stuff. So stay tuned!

Poison

© For the cover belongs to its rightful owner.

P.S. PoiSonPaiNter 😉

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