Friday, June 08, 2007

Fairy Tales

Y'all know how much I love a good fairy tale retelling, so here's a slew of them that I can't believe I haven't blogged about yet. Plus, I'm just getting in the blogging groove for this weekend. That, and I've fallen behind on my New Year's Resolution to review 5 books a week or enough to keep up with current reading, whichever is less. After this post, I'll only be 9 books behind! Woo-hoo!

The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor

Wonderland has just survived a bloody civil war and an uneasy peace reigns, but on Alyss Heart's seventh birthday, her Aunt Redd storms the palace with a rebel army. Alyss's parents are killed before her eyes and the young princess flees through a lake to Victorian London where her stories of Wonderland brand her as odd. Eventually, Alice (her new family forces her to change the spelling of her name) thinks she finds a friend who believes her stories. But when Lewis Carroll publishes Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, the details are all wrong. Alice knows she has been betrayed. Will she give up on Wonderland altogether? And what about the ragtag band of rebels, who call themselves Alyssians, who are fighting Redd's horror-filled regime?

Bador's action-packed adventure takes readers from Wonderland to England and back again, and shows us a different side of well-loved characters and places. An interesting (and bloody) twist on a classic story, this is the first in a trilogy-- I'm looking forward to the next ones.

This was also interesting because in Germany (where it was originally published) it was an adult book. My library has it in juvenile! It's also a great "boy book." Who would have thought to turn Alice into a bloody book about war and revenge?

Also, I won a Looking Glass Wars t-shirt that says "Wonderland Exists" on the back. It's awesome and really soft. I sleep in it all the time.

Fairest by Gail Carson Levine

Did you like Ella Enchanted? Good. You'll like this one. Like Ella, this is a very loose retelling of a classic fairy tale; in this case it's Snow White.

Aza is not pretty. All of her life, people at her inn have made fun of her because her cheeks are too chubby, she is too wide, her hair is dull black, and her lips are too red. Although she is not pretty, Aza has a beautiful voice and in a country of singers, it sets her apart. Not only does she have one of the best voices in the country, but she can illusing--make her voice sound like it's coming from other objects and people. But when the new queen wants Aza to sing for her and deceive the entire kingdom, can Aza refuse? What will happen whens he gets caught?

Not only is this a creative and wonderful re-imagining of Snow White, but it is also an inspiring tale of self-confidence and inner beauty. I especially liked how Levine works in the dwarves.

Bella at Midnight by Diane Stanley

This is a fantastic treatment of Cinderella that has drawn a lot of comparisons to the work of Gail Carson Levine. Bella's mother dies during her birth and the infant is sent away to be raised by peasants. Her best friend is a prince, a lowly 4th son. The class differences lead to an awful snub, and then Prince Julian is sent away as a hostage for peace. Bella is called back by her father and, for the first time, learns her peasant family is not her family. And here we get some evil steps.

The great thing about this story is that Bella has some real agency and there isn't any magic. I'll tell you know that the fairy godmother does not make an appearance in this book-- Bella does what has to be done for herself. It's lovely, really.

Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast by Robin McKinley

I first got this book on book order in late elementary school. (Man, I miss book orders. Do they still have those? Am I going to totally embarrass my kid by ordering all the $2 books for myself?) I never read the book. I eventually weeded it or gave it away or something.

Two summers ago, my friend Elizabeth and I were talking in the post Half-Blood Prince funk. I was filling it by rereading the The Enchanted Forest Chronicles. She was rereading Beauty.

I still didn't get to it until September. Because I'm a freak (plus, dude, I read it in September and am blogging about it NOW?!)

Anyway, it's great and you should read it and I wish I had read it the first time around because I would be rereading it all the time now.

Beauty is not as pretty as her older sisters-- the name is ironic. She is gangly and awkward, but smart and quick-witted. Her father becomes financially ruined and the family must relocate to a small cottage in the northern countryside. There, in the forest abutting their lands is the Beast's castle. Beauty trades herself for her father because really, she doesn't have that much else to do. You know the story. McKinley writes beautifully and adds several layers of complexity and makes it much more real.

Beauty Sleep: A Retelling of "Sleeping Beauty" by Cameron Dokey

I had to read this for work. While not as good as Beauty, this is still a great one. Dokey has written several retellings, and they're all my to-read list.

We know the set up-- Aurora's parents invite fairies to her christening. The bad fairy isn't invited but shows up anyway and curses Aurora out of spite. Her parents coddle her and keep her away from sharp things but she pricks her finger anyway...

But in this story she doesn't prick her finger. She doesn't fall asleep and weird things start happening. Aurora knows she has to cut herself to save her kingdom, but how? Enter the magical forest...

I'm most looking forward to Dokey's The Storyteller's Daughter which retells Scherezade's story from Arabian Nights.

The Witch's Boy by Michael Gruber

I didn't like this one as much. I didn't like any of the characters. In the end, I think Gruber just tried to work too much in, which just didn't work, because they felt crammed in, like when I put a tiny sliver of a Kraft single into the lasagna just so I can claim it has one more cheese in it... Also, the ending felt really rushed.

What it does have going to for it is the fact that it's a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin, and how often do you see that? And, it's more of a "boy book" than most fairy tales re-tellings are. If he had stuck just to Rumpelstiltskin and didn't try to work in every other fairy tale in the Western cannon, I think the book would have been a lot tighter and then the ending wouldn't have to rush so much. Gruber adds a lot of very interesting detail to Rumpelstiltskin's story-- to the point where I didn't realize it was actually a fairy tale retelling and that's where it was going until really deep into the book.

Also, the fact that I didn't like the characters is not the fault of faulty writing-- I wasn't supposed to. On the other hand, if you have a cast of unlikeable people, there has to be something else going on to make me want to finish your book. Lolita has great prose that kept me going, this one... I don't know. The cover's pretty cool though.

I was also going to talk about Jack of Fables: The (Nearly) Great Escape, but the new Fables, Sons of Empire, should be on my doorstep on Wednesday, so I think I'll review the two together then...

1 comment:

tinylittlelibrarian said...

Bella at Midnight and Fairest are both on my TBR list!

I don't think I've read any of Cameron Dokey's entries in the Once Upon a Time series, but I did read Water Song (Frog Prince) by Suzanne Weyn last year.