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~~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.