Best Book Ever Week 6: Fairy Tale Retellings

Welcome to Best Book Ever!  Each week, bloggers, authors, and book lovers get together to talk about what their favorite books are in a specific theme.  Each week the theme changes as do the participants.  We have covered the paranormal area pretty well so far- so this week we are changing gears:
Cinderella's Castle by Thomas Kinkade

Week 6:  Fairy Tale Retellings

I struggled with what to pick for my favorite fairy tale retelling.  I feel like a traitor not picking both equally!  I love Beauty by Robin McKinley and Wildwood Dancing my Juliet Marrillier - they are my go-to books.  I have read them so much that the pages are warped and well loved with time.  WILDWOOD DANCING is an epic story.  It includes EVERYTHING:  fae, witches, vampires, historical fiction, the story of the 12 dancing princesses, AND the story of the frog prince. You would think all of these different genres would be at war with each other- but they all fit together seamlessly like a puzzle and the result is something that is simply beautiful.  If you haven't read Wildwood Dancing, you are missing out on something big and something very very special.
- Coranne

   I was psyched when I found out this week's Best Book Ever theme was fairy tale retellings. When I was little I was kind of obsessed with fairy tales. There was one though that I was particularly fascinated by; Cinderella. I had every movie & storybook version imaginable. I still love a good Cinderella retelling & my favorite recently was Cinder & Ella by Melissa Lemon. This book was just so different from all the other Cinderella stories I've read & I loved it! There's still a prince & a villain, but there were also a lot of twists. I think this is the only version I've read where Cinderella isn't 1 person, but 2 people(sisters). I also enjoyed the legends & folklore woven into the story. Melissa did an amazing job keeping Cinder & Ella familiar, but new & unique all at the same time, so my pick for best fairy tale retelling has to go to Cinder & Ella.

I've always enjoyed reading short stories, but when I came across Angela Carter's "A Company of Wolves" in freshman year at uni, I fell in love with the genre. ACOM is a terrifying retelling of Red Riding Hood, and it remains my favourite retelling to date. Angela Carter is known for her fairy tale stories, which can be found in the collection The Bloody Chamber. You think Grimm's fairy tales are tough to read? Carter will twist your favourite fairy tales into creepy, shocking satires. My favourite stories from the collection are "The Bloody Chamber," "Snow Child," "Puss in Boots," and "The Tiger's Wife," all of which will make you rethink the way you see the original stories. Carter's writing style pierces right to the heart of the story and her haunting words will change you forever.
Shannon Hale’s The Goose Girl is one of the best fairytale retellings EVER. Seriously. I may be a little biased since The Goose Girl is one of my favorite fairytales, but her version is five stars all the way. The setting is nothing short of magical—a place where people, animals, and nature all talk. How awesome is it to get a message whispered by the wind?! If you’re familiar with the original tale, then you know that the heroine has a tragic life. What is highly original in Shannon Hale’s version is the despicable villains. My heart pounded and my blood boiled at times! They were so diabolical that I found myself wanting to jump in the story and rescue the MC myself, but that wasn’t needed. The heroine in the story is a pretty crafty thing that can take care of herself. You can’t help but be engulfed in this fantastic story.
-Alanna @ The Flashlight Reader

I’ve always been a bit leery of fairy tale retellings, perhaps because they’re done so often and are easy to mess up, especially if Disney has already had a chance to mangle the source material. There’s been a resurgence in these reimagined stories in YA and MG literature, but if recent efforts are any indication, this is a good thing. One of my favorite reads a couple of years ago was Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce. If you think you know the story “Little Red Riding Hood,” you need to check out her take on the familiar tale. Pearce fleshes out the original, simpler parable with wonderful, complex characterization; gives it a sharp, sexy, modern edge; and doubles the fun by adding a sister. Best of all, she plays with the idea of Little Red Riding Hood as a hapless victim, by turning Scarlett and Rosie March into kick-ass wolf hunters who save other people. The book also has plenty of action, of both the wolf-fighting and romantic varieties. I was pleasantly surprised that the “Fenris” mythology she introduces in this book is explored further in her second fairytale retelling, Sweetly, one of my favorites from last year.
-E.C. Myers, debut author of Fair Coin (2012 Prometheus Books)

I have a deep, deep love for fairy tale retellings. I cannot pick a favorite. (I'm bad at favorites, anyway.) But a fairy tale retelling I especially enjoyed was SPINDLE'S END by Robin McKinley. (Yep, I'm back to her again!) SPINDLE'S END is a retelling of Sleeping Beauty, but instead of Our Heroine lacking agency and the prince saving her . . . Rosie is strong, determined, and knows how to save herself.
- Jodi Meadows, debut author of Incarnate (2012, Harper Collins Children's)

I really struggled with picking my fairytale retelling this week, because I actually don't like a lot of them. (I know! The Shame!) I think maybe I haven't read enough good ones. Then I remembered, there's a book on my shelf--a favorite--that is a fairytale retelling. I always forget because it's not a fairytale that I was overly familiar with. DAUGHTER OF THE FOREST by Juliet Marillier is simply brilliant. It's a fantasy/fairy tale about Sorcha, the seventh child and only daughter of the Lord of Sevenwaters, and when her father is bewitched by his new wife, it's up to Sorcha to save her family. (It's a retelling of the Celtic "Swans" myth). The characters are brilliant and Sorcha is one of my favorite characters--she's strong and brave and resourceful. I've read and reread this novel and it always manages to make me tear up.
-Elizabeth Norris, author of Unraveling (2012, Baltzer and Bray)

I am a HUGE fan of fairy tale retellings! And happily, there are a lot of really great retellings out there right now. Unhappily, that made picking just one really, really hard. After much deliberation I picked two. BUT, they're the same story, just different approaches, so it's not really cheating. Both BEAUTY and ROSE DAUGHTER by Robin McKinley explore the beloved story of 'Beauty and the Beast' - in two very different ways. Beauty is a simpler, sweeter version that captures all the gorgeousness of the story and presents it in a winning way that made a McKinley fan out of me. Rose Daughter, written 20ish years later, is much more detailed - it's got a wilder, darker beauty to it, and invaded my dreams at night. There's a twist at the end that I absolutely loved, and the whole tale is just...wonderful. So one fairy tale, one author, two different retellings. Marvelous!
-Rebecca @ A Word's Worth

Okay, so everyone is probably going to pick this because YES it's that great, but my pick is CINDER by Marissa Meyer. A ridiculously unique retelling of Cinderella, this book had me at the first few pages where Cinder (our Cinderella) is struggling to detach her foot. Yes, that's right, she's trying to pull her friggin foot off! Bet you want to read it now, huh? The way Marissa weaves in the recognizable touches of Cinderella, and the way she cements her own futuristic take on it, is nothing but undiluted brilliance. She even incorporates the "pumpkin"! If you love Cinderella, you'll lurve CINDER!  
-Anna Banks, author of Of Poseidon (2012 by Feiwel & Friends)

Not only is The Goose Girl my favorite fairy tale retelling, it was also the first book by Shannon Hale that I read. I've since gobbled up the rest, of course, but this book and the rest of the Books of Bayern series hold such a special place in my heart.

Hale's writing is gorgeous. So exquisitely crafted that I often paused to read descriptions aloud. The world-building of Bayern is rich and complex, and the kingdom is populated with people that are equally complicated. Hale does such a great job of stealing your breath and breaking your heart with situations that seem impossibly broken, and then, like all good fairy tales, finding ways to surmount all the obstacles to provide a truly satisfying Happily Ever After. 
-Tiffany Schmidt, debut author of Send Me a Sign (2012 by Walker- Bloomsbury)

Unlike Coranne, I didn't struggle with this! ELLA ENCHANTED by Gail Carson Levine (1997, middle grade), is an early leader in feminist re-imaginings of traditional patriarchal tales. That said, it doesn't hit you over the head with the message, but wraps it in a page-turner that includes fairies, elves, pony-eating ogres, and a prince who is not only genuinely charming (tween swoon!), but treats Ella as his equal. At birth, Ella is gifted/cursed with obedience by a misguided fairy. As a result, she must follow all commands (but not requests), even if they harm her or others. Her journey is the effort to undo the curse. The iconic Cinderella elements (slipper, balls, pumpkin) come mostly in the last quarter of the book, culminating in a satisfying ending that blends fairy-tale romance with a commentary on free will.
-Elizabeth Fama, author of Monstrous Beauty ( 2012 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR))

There is no doubt in my mind that Cinder by Marissa Meyer is my favorite fairytale retelling. The pacing is non-stop action, there isn't a single dull moment in this book. The way Marissa write's is atmospheric and crisp. Cinderella cyborg? Lunar people who can manipulate humans? A dystopian society? It's all in this amazing read. The character are all unique and well fleshed out, and the way they contribute to the plot is well done and purposeful. Blending the future with the past, the romantic with the action-packed, Cinder will capture both boy and girl readers.

So do you agree?  Disagree?  We would love to hear what you think in the comments below!  
Coming next week:

Science Fiction!


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