Monday, May 9, 2011

Modern YA Fairy Tales

Photo Credit: aperturefirst
  Here's something a little different for a Monday.  I wrote this post for the Fairy Tale Fortnight event over at the Book Rat, but it ended up not making an appearance.  So, it's premiering on my little blog instead: my take on fairy tales and a favorites list of YA re-tellings.

~~There's nothing quite like opening up a musty old book of fairy tales.  After being raised on a steady diet of Disney princesses and friendly dragons, many of us are surprised to find that in these ancient bedtime stories, sinister creatures and gory endings intertwine liberally with happily-ever-afters and pretty golden hair.  Today fairy tales continue to enthrall humanity in the form of movies like the recent Red Riding Hood and the cult classic Snow White: A Tale of Terror.  But it's still the written word that reigns supreme as far as modern fairy tales go.  As a YA enthusiast, I've sought out dozens of books both old and new whose authors have re-told and re-imagined the classic tales of Grimm, Anderson, and Perrault, taking the timeless stories to new boundaries and new horizons-- often to the false rationality of our very own modern cities. 

 Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce 
Scarlett and Rosie March are a far cry from naive Little Red Riding Hood.  The two sisters relentlessly hunt the Fenris-- evil werewolves who killed their grandmother before taking Scarlett's eye.  Their bond of sisterhood is unbreakable, but Rosie sometimes finds herself craving the comfort and security of the normal life she and Scarlett never had.  When the handsome young woodsman they knew as children reappears to help the sisters hunt in the big city, Rosie is terrified to love him for fear of betraying Scarlett, whose fierce desire to rid the world of Fenris threatens to eclipse everything else in their lives.  A dark modern fairy tale with a unique take on Red Riding Hood, Sisters Red is as sweet and stirring as it it suspenseful.  Jackson Pearce's second fairy tale retelling, Sweetly, will be released in August, and is a twist on Hansel and Gretel.

 Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier

Juliet Mariller has penned many fantastic retellings of fairy tales for both teens and adults, and Wildwood Dancing is definitely one of her best.  This gorgeous fantasy retelling offers a fresh explanation for where those dancing princesses wandered off to every night.  Set in a Transylvanian castle, Wildwood Dancing is endlessly magical, lush, and romantic.

The Rumpelstiltskin Problem by Vivian Vande Velde 

Over the course of six hilarious short stories, Vivian Vande Velde attempts to rationalize the peculiar and somewhat ridiculous tale of Rumpelstiltskin.  Why would a miller brag about his daughter being able to spin straw into gold?  Why would the king believe him, and why would on earth would the stupid girl agree to hand over her firstborn child?  If you've ever wondered, you're in good company.  The author's notes are every bit as amusing as the bizarre scenarios themselves.  This is a fun little book which is guaranteed to make you smile whenever you think of it.  

   Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

We couldn't possibly have a list of retold fairy tales without including the holy grail of re-imagined stories!  Ella Enchanted was made into a popular and fantasy-filled movie, but as in most cases, the book is decidedly better.  Poor Ella of Frell had a fairly wicked fairy godmother: well-meaning but bumbling Lucinda bestowed upon her the gift of unconditional obedience.  Throw in a Prince Charming, a horde of friendly giants, wicked stepsisters, and an elf who dreams of becoming a lawyer (not a dentist ;), and you have your Cinderella... only better!

A Wolf at the Door and Other Retold Fairy Tales, edited by Ellen Datlow and Teri Windling
Thirteen acclaimed and beloved fantasy writers-- including Jane Yolen, Garth Nix, and Gregory MacGuire-- contribute stories to this funny and occasionally eerie collection.  Neil Gaiman's beautiful poem about what to do and what not to do if you should find yourself trapped in a fairy tale, "Instructions", is without question my favorite piece.  

The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

The Goose Girl is something of a modern YA classic, a heroic and fascinating mix of adventure and folklore loosely based on the lesser-known Grimm tale of the same name.  There are sad parts and parts that made me smile and magic that stretches the boundaries of our willingness to blindly believe-- necessary components for most any fairy tale.  But it all ends happily enough, and our princess heroine Ani is very good at saving herself from her own tower and dragon.  

     Ash by Malinda Lo 
 My personal favorite.  Ash is desolate and at the mercy of her cruel stepmother and sisters after her father's death.  Forced to live as their ill-treated and unpaid maid, she often dreams of the faeries her mother told her about as a child, wishing they would come and steal her away from her harsh existence.  When at last she encounters Sidhean, a beautiful and enigmatic faerie cursed to love her from the time of her birth, he seems all too willing to oblige.  But that is before Ash meets Kaisa, the King's Huntress.  Slowly, Kaisa and Ash become friends, then more than friends, and grieving Ash must choose between the Huntress who makes her want to live again and the faerie who promises an escape from it all.  This book is lyrical and beautiful-- a truly unique story.     

Beastly by Alex Flinn 
This book hardly needs an introduction, what with the recent movie adaptation starring Alex Pettyfer and Vanessa Hudgens.  Kyle is the golden boy of his high school, until he disses the resident goth girl-- who, unfortunately for Kyle, turns out to be a witch-- and is transformed into a not-quite human creature in the tradition of Beauty and the Beast.  Now he must find someone to love him as he is, or be stuck as a beast forever.  Alex Flinn has also written several other YA retellings: A Kiss in Time and Cloaked.


Alison said...

Great list. I loved Sisters Red. Wildwood Dancing sound quite interesting. And I've wanted to read Ash for a long time. Entwined by Heather Dixon is another fairy tale that comes to mine.

We Heart YA said...

Oh yes, we LOVE Entwined by Heather Dixon. Highly recommend!!

And we hear such wonderful things about Juliet Marillier's writing, so she's definitely on our list. As is Ash by Malinda Lo.

Also, pretty much everything Robin McKinley writes is fantastic (have you read Pegasus? No? GO READ IT NOW!) and we know she has a couple retellings, so we bet those are good too.

Great round-up! We did a slightly different take on re-tellings:

We would love to see your thoughts!

Booklady said...

I love fairy tale retellings. This is a great list and gave me a couple of new titles to add to my to read list.

Maya said...

Robin McKinley has also written some awesome fairy tale retellings. :) I love anything by Vivian Vande Velde.

Great list and post! :)

Maria Behar said...

I'm just quickly browsing on the sly at work...hee, hee!! I just saw this post, and will come back later to comment in detail. From my brief overview, though, let me say that I LOVE it!! Looks like you've got a great array of fairy tales retold here!
Further positive comments coming up! Later, girl!! : )

Mad Scientist said...

Sister's Red is headed to my doorstep. Lovely post. Too bad it didn't make it in the line up. Next time ;)

Fairy Tales are something I guess we never grow too old of.

Zombies are for May!  Morbid Romantica Challenge links are up for Zombies along with a few book ideas.  Some I myself will be trying out! Stop by and let me know which Zombie book I should be reading!

Mad Scientist
Steampunkery & Book Reviews
For The L♥ve of Reading

Kat said...

@MadScientist-- I actually just submitted my post really late-- I think it got passed over because the schedule was already drawn out. No biggie, though-- I didn't mean that opening comment to across as 'huffy', or anything. I loved the Fortnight-- it was a truly epic event.

BTW, I'll definitely be along to recommend some ZOMBIE books for you-- I'm thinking Forest of Hands and Teeth! :D

Kat said...

@Alison+ We Heart YA-- I'm really going to have to make a Part 2 to this list sometime! There are dozens more I left out, mostly for economy's sake. I didn't want to have a very LONG list, but there's much more to be said for retold fairy tales! Definitely recommend Ash, Alison, and I'll give Entwined a go very soon!

Maria Behar said...

Okay, I'm back. I'm at home now, although I'll be turning in soon, to go to work tomorrow... Rats!

You've got a FABULOUS selection of re-told fairy tales here! And I really like your brief synopsis of each one, too! My faves are "Wildwood Dancing", which has an absolutely gorgeous cover, as well as being "a gorgeous retelling", in your words, "Ella Enchanted", and "Beastly", with its "Beauty and the Beast" theme, which I adore, since it's also dealt with in "Phantom", by Susan Kay. (This is an expanded version of "The Phantom of the Opera", by Gaston Leroux, and let me tell you, it's FAR better than the original!)

I hope you have more such posts in the future. I really enjoyed this one! : )

Maggie Desmond-O'Brien said...

My love for Ash seriously knows no bounds. Ditto Ella Enchanted, though I didn't like Sisters Red so much, unfortunately. Awesome list!

Jenny said...

I so love fairy tale retellings! I really enjoyed Sisters Red, and I've heard good things about Beastly:) I read A Kiss in Time by Alex Flinn and thought it was great, so I'm going to get to this one eventually!

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