Saturday, March 12, 2016

Favorite Fairy Tale Retellings (Laurie)

Fairy tale retellings are some of my favorite books. I also happen to write fairy tale fantasy, at least kind of - my stories aren't based on particular fairy tales, but they contain fairy tale elements and have a fairy tale feel to them, including happily ever afters :) In addition to the happily ever after endings, I love that fairy tale retellings manage to make the same stories new over and over again. It's so fun to pick up a new version of Cinderella or Beauty and the Beast and find familiar plot points in the midst of creative characters or elements that highlight new aspects of the story.

So, without further ado, here are my top 3 fairy tale retellings:

3. Wildwood Dancing, by Juliet Marillier

Wildwood Dancing CoverReading this book felt like walking into a different world. It's loosely based on The Twelve Dancing Princesses fairy tale, but Marillier takes the story in such an imaginative direction. I felt really drawn to the main character, Jena, who is trying to take responsibility for her sisters and figure out who she can trust. I enjoyed each sister's unique personality and the way they related to each other. Most of all, I loved the way the elements of the story tied together - how a childhood game impacted several of the characters' lives for years, and the way everything resolved at the end.
(As an honorable mention, I also loved Princess of the Midnight Ball, Jessica Day George's retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses).

2. The Goose Girl, by Shannon Hale

This was the first book by Shannon Hale I ever read, and I absolutely fell in love with her writing style. She has a flowing, beautiful prose that draws the reader into her story right from the start. Her world doesn't contain any of the more expected fantasy elements, but instead her characters possess the talents of people-speaking, animal-speaking, or nature-speaking, which work into the story in fascinating ways. I enjoyed the romantic sub-plot, but the main focal point is Princess Ani's personal journey. She begins shy and socially awkward, struggling to find her place within her family and kingdom, but over the course of the book learns a lot about herself as she makes friends and grows in confidence. I could hardly put this book down, and have gone on to read the vast majority of Shannon Hale's other works :)

1. Ella Enchanted, by Gail Carson Levine

Ella Enchanted Original CoverThis is probably my most-read book of all time. It was initially bought for my sister - she read it and enjoyed it, I read it and basically stole it from her :)  (Sorry, Jules!) I adore this book for so many reasons. Ella is a fun, relatable character, who illustrates her intelligence and sense of humor in the way she handles the curse put on her by a clueless, well-intentioned fairy. Char is completely charming, yet down-to-earth and just flawed enough to be realistic. Their friendship-turned-romance still keeps me turning the pages, no matter how many times I've read the book. I also enjoy the fantasy elements of this story. Creatures such as unicorns and ogres are worked in so naturally - they make the kingdom of Frell fun to explore, yet it doesn't feel too foreign. I don't think any future Cinderella retellings could possibly capture my heart the way this one has.

My other honorable mention (I seem to always have a few!) goes to Melanie Dickerson's fairy tale retellings in historical settings. I love the way she manages to work in fairy tale elements despite setting her stories in the real world, and her romances are always so sweet.

Would any of these books make your list? What are your favorite fairy tales, and which retellings do you enjoy the most? Are there any fairy tales you'd like to see retold more often, or in a particular way?

Thanks for reading,

Wildwood Dancing:
The Goose Girl: 
Ella Enchanted


  1. Spruce Holly NogardMarch 12, 2016 at 11:28 AM

    Great post!

    I haven't read Wildwood Dancing, but it has been recommended to me, and is on my to-read list. :)

    I also love Princess of the Midnight Ball. :)

    The last time I read Ella Enchanted was a long time ago, but I absolutely loved it. I thought it was such a wonderful book. I should re-read it sometime.

    I really love fairy-tale retellings in general. One of my favorites (actually, it's a series), is A Tale Dark and Grimm. It's for a little younger audience, but it's amazing. However, I would not recommend it to everyone, because it is based on the original Grimm fairy-tales, some of which were extremely bloody and gory. For example, in the Grimm version, Cinderella's stepsisters cut parts of their feet off so their feet could fit in the shoe. The book goes through multiple fairy-tales, and has really good lessons. Also, the author jumps in and talks to you, which is fun. :)

    1. Thanks for your comment, Spruce! It sounds like we have very similar taste in books :) I'll have to check out A Tale Dark and Grimm sometime, it sounds intriguing!

  2. Ella Enchanted was a favorite of mine as a young girl and I admit I didn't make the direct times to Cinderella until just now! I look forward to reading more of your writing, Laurie, and finding hidden elements of fairy tales :)

    1. Aww, thanks Charity! And that's one of the great things about Ella Enchanted - the ties to Cinderella are there if you're looking for them (evil stepmother and sisters, fairy godmother, running away from the prince at the ball...) but it's done so creatively that it's totally it's own story as well. Thanks for commenting!

  3. What a great topic, Laurie! I love fairy tales, especially Cinderella, and I always thought the Twelve Dancing Princesses was so mysterious and exciting. I’m going to check out these books. I also want to read a Shannon Hale book, and The Goose Girl sounds like a great one to start with.

    1. Thanks Laura! I think you would love The Goose Girl :) It's part of a series of companion books - they were all good, but The Goose Girl was definitely my favorite. My other favorite book by Shannon Hale is Book of a Thousand Days. It has a very different feel from The Goose Girl, but is equally captivating.

  4. I love Ella Enchanted as well! Fairest, also by Gail Carson Levine, is roughly based off of Snow White, and I like it a lot. The Thirteenth Princess is a great spin on the twelve dancing princesses story.

    Those two twelve dancing princesses books sound really good. I always loved reading Grimm's fairy tales, so I am familiar with some of the more obscure ones. The Goose Girl was always one I enjoyed a lot, so maybe I will check out this version of it. :)

    1. Thanks for your comment, Hannah! I read Fairest as well and enjoyed it, but for whatever reason it didn't engage me nearly as much as Ella Enchanted. I haven't read The Thirteenth Princess, I'll have to check that one out! If you liked The Goose Girl I really think you'll enjoy Shannon Hale's retelling - she stays true to the original while adding a lot of her own nuances and character development as well.


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