Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Favourite fairy tale books and retellings

I'm really sorry, but this is quite the long post! It wasn't my intention to write loads about my favourite fairy tales, but I guess I've read and enjoyed more fairy tale books than I'd imagined. This list of favourites are obviously aside from the reviews that will be posted throughout the week, all of which I've greatly enjoyed.

I've organised this post into three parts, fairy tale books that have elements of the fairy tale about them but are original stories; fairy tale retellings, which are modern takes on an old story; and the third part is a collection of books from the other two categories but which I've not read myself. Please do feel free to share with us in comments some of your own favourite fairy tale books!

Fairy tale books

The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly - I read this book before I started properly book blogging, but it is the blogging community that alerted me to its presence. I really loved the story and one boy's journey through a world populated by fairy tale creatures, some quite disturbing. While it did drag slightly towards the end, it was a book that I stayed up way past my bedtime reading in order to finish.

The Princess Bride by William Goldman - This is one of my all-time favourite books. I will be talking a bit more in detail about the film adaptation tomorrow though. In a nutshell, I love everything about this story. I love the romance between Buttercup and Westley, I love the elements of magic, I love the wonderful characters and especially the dialogue. There really is something for everyone in this story and I really cannot recommend it enough.

Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones - I ADORE Howl's Moving Castle, I really do. I came quite late to the party with this one, and only read it after I'd seen the film adaptation. I preferred the book, though thought the movie quite good as well. I love Sophie's character and after reading the brilliance of this book, I am determined to read more of Diana Wynne Jones, of whom I'm ashamed to admit that I've read very little. This book contains everything I want in a fairy tale story, evil enchantments, a magical castle, brilliant world-building and even better characters.

Stardust by Neil Gaiman - I don't think it's any surprise really, that I'm a massive Neil Gaiman fan. And I do so much love Stardust. I love the journey that Tristran takes, his slow and steady feelings for Yvaine. I love the witches and the princes and how they all collide in the very non-dramatic ending. I talk a bit more about the film adaptation tomorrow, but this story is fantastic, one of my favourites.

Fairy tale retellings

Oops. I seem to have chosen two retellings of Beauty and the Beast and two retellings of Cinderella. I'm obviously not very widely read in the fairy tale retellings department! Or perhaps I'm just not aware of those stories that are adaptations of (to me, anyway!) less known fairy tales. Perhaps you could educate me in the comments section? Much appreciated :)

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine - I read Ella Enchanted well before I started this blog. In fact, I was still working in a bookshop when I read this book and I submitted a small review of it to head office who promptly printed out a little card and shipped my review to every bookstore in the chain. So for that reason alone, I have fond memories of this book. But it's also really cute and fun. I remember the fun world that Ella lives in a lot more than I remember her character or the story, to be honest. It is aimed at a younger audience, and I think I would have *loved* this book if I'd read it when I was younger.

Beauty by Robin McKinley - I read Beauty a very long time ago. A lot of the details have escaped me, but I do remember the feeling that I had whilst reading it. I was absolutely swept away into the story and the characters. I think there's something sort of comforting about reading a story that you already know like you do with a fairy tale retelling. Especially of a fairy tale so widely known as Beauty and the Beast. I've also read somewhere, that fairy tale retellings are so satisfying because they usually provide a background and more meat to the stories, whereas the original tales are pretty sparse on the word counts.

Beastly by Alex Flinn - I remember thinking that the beginning of Beastly by Alex Flinn was a bit silly. I didn't really get on with the fairy-tale chatroom thing at all, but I stuck with the story and found this retelling of Beauty and the Beast from the perspective of the Beast to be fun and entertaining. I liked that the setting is very contemporary, in a modern day New York. There's been a recent film adaptation released, I haven't seen it!

Ash by Malina Lo - Ash by Malinda Lo was a book I mostly picked up because of the gorgeous cover. I did know that it is a retelling of Cinderella, but I wasn't aware that the major twist for the retelling is that our main character has no real interest in Prince Charming. In fact, she fell in love with Kaisa, the huntress. I think there really needs to be more well-written and gay love stories in YA. I think that'd be fantastic.

Zelah Green by Vanessa Curtis - I've recently read Zelah Green by Vanessa Curtis and really loved it. This book is a retelling of Snow White told in a contemporary setting with our main character suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder and instead of being sent off to the woods to be killed and being rescused by dwarves, in this, Zelah is sent off to a youth home for those suffering from mental illnesses. I've not seen a great deal of YA books that deal with OCD so for that reason alone I'd have picked it up. Knowing that it is also a fairy-tale retelling was just icing on the cake. I look forward to reading the sequel and any other books by Vanessa Curtis...

Others, that I haven't read but heard are good

Goose Girl by Shannon Hale - I've included this book on this list, mostly because I have it checked out from the library currently. I've heard really good things about Shannon Hale and she has written quite a few fairy tale retellings and I really wanted to review one of her books for this week. Sadly, it was not to be. I still hope to read this book though. Has anyone else read it or anything by Shannon Hale? Where's a good place to start?

The Swan Kingdom by Zoe Marriott - I will be reviewing another of Zoe's books during the course of this week, Shadows on the Moon, but as I was at the library the other day, I did spot this book. The Swan Kingdom is another fairy tale retelling, a different take on Wild Swans (of which I have not read the original)! As I loved Shadows on the Moon so much, I am very keen to read more books by Zoe Marriott. Didn't quite have the time to get to it this week, but look out for a review of this one soon.

Beast by Donna Jo Napoli - I will be reviewing another book by Donna Jo Napoli this week, Zel. But I've had Beast on my wishlist for quite some time now, so I thought I'd include it here on this list. Beast is apparently a retelling of Beauty and the Beast from the perspective of the prince as he recounts the events that led up to being transformed into a beast.

What are your favourite fairy tale books and retellings? Have you read any of the books I've listed? What did you think?


  1. I haven't read any of these books, but they all sound brilliant! When you mentioned Zelah Green, did you mean to say Snow White, not Cinderella? Because Cinderella doesn't get sent off into the woods to live with dwarves!

  2. Cliona - LOL, yes I did mean to say Snow White! Thanks for spotting my mistake, I've edited the post to correct that :)

  3. I love Shannon Hale's retelling of the Goose Girl! The first three books are all excellent. I also really liked The Book of a Thousand Days... ;)

  4. I loved everyone of your choices for the Fairy tale books section. They're some of my favorite books!

  5. Clover - Thanks for your e-mail, I read the review you linked me too. It was quite controversial, you're right! Your welcome about the mistake, it wasn't that big of a deal, don't worry ;)

  6. Interestingly I've read all of your choices for fairy tale books (and loved them) though I wouldn't necessarily have thought of all of them as fairy tale books straight off. I haven't read any of the other books you mention, there's a few I'll certainly be looking out for now.

  7. mariel - I really do intend on reading any book by Shannon Hale soon, she always comes highly recommended!

    Melissa - They're definitely some of mine as well :)

    Cliona - Thank you again anyway :)

    Jenni - It took awhile for me to work it out as well. Before this week, I probably would have classed them as fantasy and thought nothing more of it..

  8. I really love Neil Gaiman's work too and Stardust is one of my favourites (can't wait to see what you thought of the film). I had The Book Of Lost Things on my shelf for years until I finally picked it up and really enjoyed it and wondered why it took me so long to read it! Also, The Princess Bride is brilliant but I think that goes without saying! I haven't seen the film yet though :(

  9. TLO - It definitely does go without saying that The Princess Bride is brilliant!! I think the film adaptation is just as wonderful as the book and I don't say that often about book to film adaptations!

  10. Oh no, more great sounding books to add to my list! I do have some of these on my wishlist already and Ive seen some of the movies of these and LOVED them, especially Howls Moving Castle and The Princess Bride! :D

  11. Raimy - I really adore both of those films too! :)

  12. I have The Princess Bride and Ash on my TBR, and I've read Beauty, which I got really swept away into, like you, but ultimately didn't like so much. It's annoying but since realising that Beauty and the Beast is basically a story about Stockholm Syndrome I've stopped being able to see it as being truly romantic.

    However, I did really enjoy Spindle's End, also by Robin McKinley, which is a less-straightforward retelling of Sleeping Beauty. If you want to read more Diana Wynne Jones, definitely pick up the only book of hers that I've read so far (really, really need to read more!), Fire and Hemlock, which is a kind of fairy tale retelling based on two Scottish ballads, if you haven't read it already. I wrote an essay for my MA comparing Spindle's End and Fire and Hemlock as fairy tale retellings. That was a fun essay.

  13. Julianne - Stockholm Syndrome! That really kills the romantic angle of the story :) I do have Spindle's End on my shelves to read soon and I shall look out for Fire and Helmock, thanks for the suggestion :)


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