Over the last few years, there have been a wealth of novels based on traditional fairytales published. Given that I have always loved fairytales, I have found this books interesting and frustrating at turns depending on how they go. These are some of the best fairytale adaptations that I have stumbled across over the the years.
The World Above by Cameron Dokey. Gen is the practical one in her family. Her brother Jack is the one who goes on adventures. However, when Jack disappears after climbing a beanstalk, it’s up to Gen to save her twin brother and reclaim the twins’ birthright. This retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk is very fresh and original. The story is inventive and interesting and yet keeps the same basic spirit of the original fairytale. Gen is a great narrator and gives the book a great sense of humor. This is a great read.
Scarlet Moon by Debbie Viguie. Ruth has always been strong. She survived a wolf attack as a child, and since her brother left for the Crusades, she’s become her father’s, the town blacksmith, apprentice. However, two things bring a change to her life. Her cousin Peter returns from the Crusades with news of her brother’s death, and Ruth meets Lord William, the local nobleman. But William has a dark secret that may threaten his newfound relationship with Ruth unless she finds the strength to save him. I’ve read other retelling of Little Red Riding Hood before, but this has to be my favorite. The setting is wonderful and believable, and I love the characters. This is a quick read but a wonderful one.
Water Song by Suzanne Weyn. Emma and her mother have escaped much of World War I on her mother’s family estate in Belgium. But with her mother’s death, Emma finds herself alone save for the Flemish servants and rather afraid. When the young British woman finds an American, Jack, in the estate’s well suffering from poison gas, she rescues him. But soon Emma is forced to claim he is her husband when German soldiers take over the estate. Jack and Emma will have to work together if they want to survive their captivity and escape, but that might be easier said than done. This is a great setting for the story, and I really liked Weyn’s take on it. This is a wonderful story about finding love when you least expect it.
Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier. Jena and her sisters have spent years slipping into the forest of the night of the full moon to dance with those gathered in the Other World. However, this year things change. Jena’s father cannot survive another winter in their home, so the five girls will be left alone with their cousin, Cezar to watch over them. Furthermore, Tati, Jena’s oldest sister has fallen in love with a man of the Night People. Jena will have to be the one to sort everything out with the help of her pet frog, Gogu. However, Gogu may also be caught up in this mess in a way that Jena doesn’t understand, and whether she wants it to or not, everything may change. This is an incredibly interesting take on the Twelve Dancing Princesses. It is a unique adaptation, and one filled with fascinating plot twists that leave you guessing to the end.
Ice by Sarah Beth Durst. Cassie has grown up in a remote research station in the arctic. Her grandmother used to tell her stories about the daughter of the West Wind and the Polar Bear King. Cassie’s grandmother may have claimed that the stories are about her mother, but Cassie has always believed it is simply an explanation of her mother’s death. But shortly after her eighteenth birthday, Cassie meets a polar bear who offers to return her mother from her captivity in exchange for Cassie agreeing to be his bride. But when Cassie accepts the bargain, she will find more than she ever expected. Durst’s adaptation of East of the Sun and West of the Moon is a great modern take on the tale. She’s done a great job of blending magic and the modern world in it, and the characters are very compelling, drawing the reader right in to the story.
Wild Orchid by Cameron Dokey. Mulan has been raised with an absent father and without ever hearing her mother name. Her father forbid anyone to speak it on the day Mulan was born and her mother died. However, when her father finally returns home, they begin to form a tentative relationship. Two things change that. Her father falls in love a second time, and the Huns threaten to invade. Mulan will not risk her father’s life now that she knows him and so sets off to take his place in the army. I had not really expected to find the Ballad of Mulan turned a novel, but I really like what the author has done with it. This is a wonderful version of this story and definitely worth reading.
Thornspell by Helen Lowe. Prince Sigismund has always dreamed of a as a knight-errant rather than being mewed up in a castle as the crown prince. But lately his dreams have become more real and dangerous. With a new master of arms arriving to train Sigismund and a mysterious wood that no is allowed to go into, Sigismud may start unraveling his destiny in a way that may lead him into even more danger. This retelling of Sleeping Beauty from the prince’s point of view is wonderful. There are some really fascinating plot twists throughout the story, and it is one of the best retellings that I have come across.
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine. Ella of Frell was given a gift by the fairy Lucinda when she was born, the gift of obedience. Ella must obey every single order she is given, and not even her fairy godmother can help. It’s more of a curse than a gift, but she struggles to make the best of it, and maybe one day, she might be able to break the spell. When her beloved mother dies, Ella struggles with the changes in her life. Though her new friendship with Prince Charmont helps a little. But when Ella finds herself sipped off to finishing school with a girl who has uncovered her secret, she will have to use every ounce of her courage and cunning to save more than just herself. This remains one of the very best fairytale adaptations I have ever come across. It is a wonderful retelling of Cinderella where Cinderella is not a doormat and has real problems to overcome. It is still one of my favorites to reread.
Radiant Darkness by Emily Whitman. Persephone feels trapped by life with her mother. While Demeter goes out an attends to her business as a goddess, her daughter is left behind confined to a small valley. Demeter seems unwilling to accept that her daughter has grown up, but when Persephone meets Hades, she finds both love and an escape. However, choices have consequences, and Persephone needs to find the power to face those caused by hers. I really liked this take on the myth. It’s one of those stories that I have always wanted to see an expansion of, and Whitman has done a good job with elaborating this myth. I especially liked the more sympathetic portrayal of Hades in the book.
Entwined by Heather Dixon. Princess Azalea’s first ball ends with the news that her mother has died. The royal family enters mourning, and for Azalea and her eleven sisters, it seems unbearable. Their father has left for the war, and in mourning they are confined inside the palace with no visitors, no entertainment, and worst of all no dancing. Then the girls discover a secret passage that leads to an enchanted world where the Keeper lives. He invites them to come dance in his pavilion, and the girls are delighted. But Azalea can’t help but notice that the Keeper likes to keep things, and their dancing might have a high price to pay in the end. This take on the Twelve Dancing Princesses is wonderful. While I have read several other versions of this story, this one still manages to be new and surprising. There are a number of plot twists, and it proved to be an enjoyable read all the way to the end.
Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George. The youngest of nine children, she has no name, so everyone calls her Pika which means girl. Pika might be the youngest child of a poor woodcutter, but she is happy. She adores her older brother Hans Peter who once sailed North on a ship, and she understands the speech of animals. When a large white bear insists she come and live with him, Pika agrees in exchange for good fortune for her family. But what she finds in the bear’s palace of ice spurs her curiosity, and Pika becomes determined to unravel the enchantment that binds the bear if she can. This is another take on East of the Sun and West of the Moon that I really enjoyed. While it follows the original tale very closely, it also expands and elaborates it in interesting ways. It’s a good quick read.
Violet Eyes by Debbie Viguie. When a storm brings an injured prince to her farm, Violet quickly falls in love. But Prince Richard’s parents have set up a contest to find his bride and only a princess may enter. But then her parents reveal that Violet was adopted and that she may be the true heir to the country. But if Violet wants to marry Richard, she’ll have to win a competition to prove she is the most sensitive princess. Not an easy task for a farm girl and her competition is fierce, but Violet loves Richard enough to risk everything to be with him. This retelling of the Princess and the Pea is absolutely wonderful. All of the characters are great, and it has some unexpected twists that make for a delightful; story. It is well worth finding.
The Swan Kingdom by Zoë Marriott. Alexandra had a happy life with her mother and her three brothers. Her father, the king, didn’t seem to much care for her, but still she is happy. Her mother is a great wise woman, and Alexandra learns from her the secrets of healing and good harvests. But just after Alexandra’s fifteenth birthday her mother is killed by a mysterious creature. It is not long before her father remarries. But Alexandra cannot trust her stepmother, and it isn’t long before her brothers are enchanted and Alexandra is sent away. She may be the only one who can save her family and her kingdom, but she doesn’t know if she had the strength and skill to do so. This is a really interesting take on the Wild Swans, and the story immediately drew me in. The characters are interesting, and Alexandra makes for a very good main character and storyteller throughout the novel.
Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George. Galen has just returned from a war that has lasted most of his life. He doesn’t know much besides the battlefield. He and his mother followed his father to war when he was a child, and he quickly learned the skills of a soldier. Now he’s not certain what to do. He is a soldier who can knit, but that’s about it. However, his mother’s family takes him in, and Galen soon finds himself working in the Royal Gardens under his uncle, the master gardener’s watch. Galen soon comes across a mystery. Princess Rose and her eleven sisters disappear every night and in the morning their dancing slippers are worn to shreds. All of the princes who have tried to unravel the mystery are dead, but Galen can’t help but feel for Rose’s plight and is determined to do what he can to save her. This version of the Twelve Dancing Princesses is absolutely lovely. Galen is a great main character, and his knitting abilities make for an interesting addition to the tale. I also liked that the story also includes Rose’s point of view of the story. Together the two sides of the tale make for a fascinating whole that is a really wonderful read.
Princess of Glass by Jessica Day George. Princess Poppy doesn’t dance. Not any more at least. It does make things awkward at parties though, especially now that she visiting the kingdom of Breton. Poppy is enjoying her stay in Breton though, especially her friendship with Prince Christian of Danelaw. But a servant girl named Eleanora appears to be caught up in some sort of evil magic, and Poppy seems to be the only one who is able to see through the spells around the girl. However, Poppy’s not sure she has the strength to confront an evil magician a second time. Based on Cinderella, this is a sequel to Princess of the Midnight Ball, though it can be read alone. It is a great continuation of the first book focusing on one of the minor characters. Poppy is a great character as is Christian. Between their two points of view, the familiar story comes together and a new and interesting way that makes for a great take on an old story.