Saturday, May 21, 2011
~~ Fairy tales have clearly been making a comeback in YA fiction, though fairy tales are and always have been a well-ingrained tradition in every culture worldwide. The familiarity of such stories-- cleverly twisted with modern, macabre, or even hilarious new elements-- gives retold fairy tales a wide appeal. Many of the authors whose books I'm featuring in this second post of the series favored a subtler and looser interpretation of original tales-- the effect is that we are presented with an entirely new story and characters, but there's still that ring of nostalgia that always accompanies stories where fairy tale elements are woven in.
While Snow White and Rose Red is doubtless one of the lesser-known Grimms tales, Margo Lanagan's Tender Morsels is a novel which deserves to be read by many. It is the dark and often brutal story of Liga, a girl who suffered unspeakable horrors in her youth, and her two daughters: Branza and Urdda. Liga is granted her personal haven in which to raise her daughters, who couldn't be more different, in the safety she never had. But when the borders of their magical paradise are torn down at last, this fragile family must face the cruelty of the real world with all its all too human evil. Set in a vaguely medieval village, Tender Morsels is as enthralling as it is acutely disturbing and vividly memorable.
In this book, the first in a trilogy, master author Nancy Farmer has penned a very loose interpretation of one of our most popular nursery rhymes. We are so caught up in the suspenseful, intriguing Norse fantasy world where trolls take bossy little sisters captive and said bossy little sisters turn out to be elf-children exchanged for humans at birth, that it's only a very clever reader who realizes this trilogy is in fact based on the old rhyme "Jack and Jill". There are also numerous Norse stories woven into the mix, of course, and you can't go wrong with Vikings. I seriously love this one.
Enchantingly beautiful the cover of this vivid fantasy from Inkheart and Thief Lord author Cornelia Funke is not, but the story within its pages is definitely worth a read. Reckless is a fantastical retelling of the Brothers Grimm, part Alice Through The Looking Glass and part every other fairy tale ever told. Jacob Reckless prefers the Mirror-world where fairy tales roam free and often turn deadly to his modern existence, but when his brother Will is changed into a mythical creature of unspeakable horror, Jacob is forced to journey through the Mirror-World and face all its various terrors and delights on an epic quest to save Will. Dozens of fairy tales make cameo appearances. My favorite character has to be Fox, a girl who long ago put on a fox's skin and came to prefer her vulpine form to her human one.
The Goddess Test is a modern retelling not of a Grimms or Perrault story, but of an even more ancient Greek myth-- that of the underworld god Hades and his love for Persephone, the goddess of spring who was doomed to spend half of every year in the cold darkness of the underworld. Kate is our modern Persephone, a girl who moves back to her mother's hometown even as her mother is slowly dying of a terminal disease. Coping with that and starting in an unfamiliar school is hard enough, but Kate soon has to contend with Henry, a strangely melancholy and chivalrous stranger who none the less tricks her into bargaining her freedom away and staying in his mansion for six months every year, in exchange for her mother's life and that of a new friend Kate thought she'd lost. A series of mysterious-- and perhaps impossible-- tests ensue, as Kate tries to do what all the girls before her have failed to achieve and become Henry's Persephone.
Yes, Holly Black's White Cat is in fact based (albeit loosely) on a fairy tale: the French story "The White Cat". As in the original story, our hero Cassel Sharpe is the youngest of three brothers in a family whose relationships are dysfunctional to say the least. Cassel's entire family are workers-- in his world, people blessed (or cursed) with various magical abilities which can be transferred via a single touch of the hands. The fantasy world is completely original and breathtakingly unique, despite the fairy tale inspiration. The next book in the Curse Workers series, Red Glove, was released only last month, and is just as brilliant.
A lyrical retelling of "East of the Sun, West of the Moon", a Norwegian fairy tale. Teenage Rose leaves her family and her home after a mysterious white bear appears to her family, offering them all her good health and happiness if only they will give up their daughter, who has always felt drawn to faraway adventures. Although adventurous Rose journeys to a snowbound castle atop the back of a white bear who is certainly more than he appears, certain elements of this novel and amazing characters give it a solid dose of reality which blends perfectly with the more fantastical happenings. Ultimately, the story strongly recalls "Beauty and the Beast".
Here Vivian Vande Velde does for "Little Red Riding Hood" what she did for that equally ridiculous fairy tale "Rumpelstiltskin" in The Rumpelstiltskin Problem. Eight short and sweet stories propose alternative endings and happenings, as well as a host of different perspectives and many, many laughs. So begins the quirky introduction: "Everyone knows the story of Little Red Riding Hood, the girl with the unfortunate name and the inability to tell the difference between her grandmother and a member of a different species."
Alice in Wonderland's status as a fairy tale is definitely still up for debate, considering it is relatively recent in comparison. But most will agree it definitely has the right 'feel' for a fairy tale-- a touch magical, a touch bizarre, a touch too lighthearted for its subject matter. Of all the TV movies and series which rehash the story of Alice and her mad adventures after that unfortunate tumble down a rabbit hole, The Looking Glass Wars is without a doubt the most unique. In this version the story begins in Wonderland, and Lewis Carroll a blubbering mis-interpreter of the story the real Alice presents to him. Alice is the Princess of Hearts and Queen Redd her twisted aunt who is determined to send the little princess and her infamously powerful imagination packing. Alice is lost to the brutally ordinary mortal realm where she's seen as odd to say the least; meanwhile her card deck armies and trusted bodyguard, Hatter Madigan, plot rebellion against the mad queen Redd.