I love reimagined fairy tales. I don’t know why, I just do. It might have something to do with the thrill of the almost-familiar going in a new direction, one that’s usually more exciting for our sensibilities in this day and age. After all, what modern day Cinderella is contented with just Prince Charming? Most of us want dream careers, dream lives and yeah, the dream significant other. Or maybe it’s because they conform to the archetypal story: the hero or heroine’s quest, which somehow resonates with our need for stories at our deepest levels. Whatever the reason, here’s what I’ve been reading lately.
Everything I can get my hands on by Shannon Hale this year, as she was a new discovery. My first introduction was The Book of a Thousand Days based on Maid Maleen, which I wasn’t familiar with. From her website:
When Dashti, a maid, and Lady Saren, her mistress, are shut in a tower for seven years because of Saren’s refusal to marry a man she despises, the two prepare for a very long and dark imprisonment. With Shannon Hale’s lyrical language, this little-known classic fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm is reimagined and reset in a land inspired by the Asian steppes; it is a completely unique retelling filled with adventure and romance, drama and disguise.
After that I wanted more. I read River Secrets, which is not actually a retelling of fairy tale, but the third book after The Goose Girl, which is. I enjoyed The Goose Girl, and the main character starting out kind of wimpy and clueless and eventually becoming the author of her own fate, but River Secrets is my favorite of the three (the second book is Enna Burning). I loved the main character, Razo. He was such fun, always getting into trouble and out again. The Princess Academy, also a new story, had strong female friendships and an interesting antagonist who isn’t all that she seems. Also a good twist at the end.
Who could resist Golden, A Retelling of Rapunzel by Cameron Dokey? Rapunzel is bald in her version! I also read and enjoyed Before Midnight (Cinderella) and Beauty Sleep (Sleeping Beauty) although I admit I remember Rapunzel the most.
I also re-read Deerskin by Robin McKinley. I love everything by her and have ever since I first discovered her in the 8th grade, but I was surprised because I didn’t remember how dark this story starts out. It’s based on Donkeyskin. I guess I’m a lot more sensitive to violence now than I was as a child.
In a desperate moment I read The Snow Queen by Mercedes Lackey. At one point (oh say, when the Vanyel series, Magician’s Pawn, etc. came out) I would have read anything by her, but those times are past. Her books still have heart, as in this book with the snow queen playing the part of the evil witch to keep self-centered smarty-pants from going really bad. And the central idea, that there is a magical force, called The Tradition, that forces people into recreating fairy tales is fascinating. I’m not actually recommending the book though.
Sarah Beth Durst plays with a similar concept in her books Into the Wild and Out of the Wild. All the fairy tale characters defeated the inimical Wild, which forced them to endlessly replay their stories, eyes plucked out by ravens and all. They escaped to reality and now the Wild is living under Rapunzel’s daughter’s bed. It’s a really fun whirly tour through a bunch of different fairy tales. And just now when I looked for her website I saw she’s coming out with a new book in October. Yay!