For many of us, fairy tales supply our first taste of the fun of fantasy. At a young age we are introduced to magical adventures in which the good guy always wins, and we explore wondrous worlds with just enough danger to add a sense of urgency while assuring us that, as long as we keep our wits about us, we can overcome any threat.
As we grow older, many of us think back on those stories with fondness. We love to revisit them, but the sense of wonder is gone, replaced with the comfort of something so familiar that we have it memorized. We long to return to the original stories, but we wish they weren’t so well worn. It is this desire that makes fairy tale retellings so popular.
I have yet to write a fairy tale retelling. I worry that I will not do the original story justice, or that my version will come off as hackneyed and flat. However, every once in a while I come across a retelling that I am drawn to read, and I am happy to share my top three most recent discoveries with you.
Masque by W. R. Gingell
This is a delightful retelling of "Beauty and the Beast" that takes the story in a way readers would never expect it to go. Think Disney’s Beauty and the Beast meets Sam Spade, private detective, set in Regency England. In this version, Isabella Farrah, the daughter of an ambassador, is more interested in getting her man than she is in being rescued. The only problem is Lord Pecus, Commander of the city’s Watch, keeps getting in the way. Well, Isabella actually keeps getting in his way, but if Pecus would just let Isabella have her way, she’s certain she could nab the murderer of one of her oldest friends. A feisty heroine whose nobody’s fool and witty dialogue highlight this story’s unique blend of the fairy tale and murder mystery genres, making Masque a retelling must-read.
The Firethorn Crown (Firethorn Chronicles, Book 1) by Lea Doue
Before I knew this story was a retelling of "The Twelve Dancing Princesses", I fell into it in a way that I hadn’t done with any story for a long time. I was pleased with the cast of characters, with the author’s attention to detail, with the way she managed to include all twelve girls without causing confusion, and—most of all—with the love triangle. While love triangles seem to be obligatory recently, Doue handled this one in a gracefully realistic way. As I finished the book, I was already looking forward to the second book in the series.
Waking Beauty by Sarah E. Morin
This is an excellent retelling of "Sleeping Beauty". However, this version examines the story from a unique angle, asking: What happens if, every time Beauty thought she woke up, she found out that she was truly still asleep? Once Prince Charming rescued her, how could he convince her she was truly awake? This story is a cleverly thought out variation of the original with slightly allegoric overtones. The author cleverly challenges the assumptions readers naturally make when thinking of the story and does so with developed wit and poignancy.
Do you enjoy fairy tale retellings? Why or why not? If so, which ones are your favorites?