Monday, December 8, 2008

Retelling of: Hansel and Gretel

The True Story of Hansel and Gretel by Louise Murphy

This is a haunting new adaptation of a grim fairy tale. Young Jewish children, Hansel and Gretel, whose names have been changed to protect their heritage, flee into the woods of Poland with their family. In an effort to keep the children safe, their father and stepmother send them further into the woods, leaving the couple alone to draw the Nazi searchers away from the youths. Hansel and Gretel walk alone until they find a cottage in the woods, inside is an outcast Gypsy woman who harbors them and tries to keep them safe. But how long can the feeling of safety last in a world torn apart by hunters who want to find the concealed children? This novel recounts both a fairy tale and a dark portion of German history, illuminating the sacrifices, vices and perseverance of the human soul.

Check out a reading guide to The True Story of Hansel and Gretel and an interview with the author!

Get Answers to all your questions about Louise Murphy

Read an author interview!

Retelling of: Beauty and the Beast

Beastly by Alex Flinn

Kyle Kingsbury wants to be crowned king of Tuttle Prep, the school he attends. He is beautiful and gets all he could want with his newscaster father's money, but he especially wants to become king, and who wouldn't vote for him? There is a goth girl in his English class who doesn't seem to keen on Kyle's fun for king though; as she crumples up his flyer, complaining that pretty people get everything. To get back at the goth girl, who is seeming more and more like a witch to Kyle, he asks her to the school dance, a dance which he already has a hot date for. Humiliated and embarrassed, the girl calls Kyle what he really is, beastly. Thus, a curse is placed up Kyle and he is transformed from boy to beast; forced to hide by day and prowl the city at night. Can he break the curse and become human again?

Retelling of: East of the Sun, West of the Moon

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George

The lass is the last born daughter to a poor woodcutter and his wife. Her parents are so dismayed at the thought of another female mouth to feed, that they refer to the girl only as the pika. In such wilderness of the North it is dangerous to not have a name, as trolls would love to seize the opportunity to snatch up such a vulnerable child. But one day the lass changes her fate when she frees a white reindeer. In thanks the beast gives her two gifts, a name and the ability to understand the speech of animals. However, the second gift seems to turn against the lass when a great white polar bear comes to her home, demanding that she come with him to his palace farther north. The conditions are that she must remain with him for one year, then her family will be rich and she can go home. Can the lass keep her promise or will she destroy everyone's chances of a new life when she uncovers a mysterious secret?

Retelling of: The Wild Swans

The Swan Kingdom by Zoe Marriott

This is the story of Alexandra, a plain and unobtrusive girl. Her father and mother are fair, compassionate rulers, and her mother possesses powerful healing abilities. Her three older brothers are kind, handsome and brilliant. But Alexandra, possesses a gift unlike any of her other family members, she has a connection with the very land and earth upon which she stands. Tragedy strikes the family when her mother is killed by a beast with chestnut fur. While questing for the beast so that he may exact his revenge, Alexandra's father becomes ensnared by the charms of a chestnut haired woman and unexpectedly remarries, much to the dismay of the four children. Sinister events are put into motion with the pronouncement of their father's marriage vows and sister and brothers are separated. Can Alexandra solve the mystery to her brothers' disappearance and save their lives? Will she be able to come out of the shadows that have seemed so comfortable until now?

Retelling of: Twelve Dancing Princesses

Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier

This story takes place in Romania and tells of five sisters who travel through a portal every full moon to dance in the Realm of the Faerie. Jena, is the second oldest of her father's daughters, Tatiana, Iulia, Paula and Stela. The two eldest sisters, Tatiana and Jena, take it upon themselves to maintain their father's household while he is away for the winter due to illness. This does not prove easy as their cousin, Cezar, seeks to intensify his grip over the household and the girls. Jena's problems become even larger when her elder sister, Tatiana, falls in love with a creature of the faerie realms, one of the Night People, a vampire. With the help of her sisters and her best friend, a frog, can Jena prevail over Cezar and sinister forces within the Faerie Realm?

Also by Juliet Marillier:

Cybele's Secret is a companion novel to Wildwood Dancing, taking place six years later. The story follows the youngest sister, Paula, as she travels with her father to Istanbul in search of the Cybele's Gift, a pagan artifact which threatens the Muslim political powers with its very existence. Pick up this novel if you liked Wildwood Dancing, it will not disappoint!

Retelling of: Sleeping Beauty

Spindle's End by Robin McKinley

The heroine of this tale is Rosie, the infant princess who is cursed to die on her 21st birthday by spindle prick. The baby Rosie is spirited away to live with a peasant fairy, Katriona, in a rural village in the hopes that she may be kept safe from the curse. Rosie grows into a headstrong, willful young lady and possess an uncanny ability to communicate with animals. Preferring breeches to ball gowns, Rosie despises her golden hair and loves the life that she grew up having. This novel illustrates the theory of nurture over nature in the development of an individual's personality traits, rather than being defined by her birthright Rosie is defined by her actions and upbringing. This retelling introduces new characters to a familiar tale in Peony, Rosie's best friend, Narl the blacksmith and an assortment of incredible animal friends. McKinley illustrates a strong, independent heroine who can take care of herself and is far from the archetypal meek princess. A must read for all who wished they could talk to animals, here's your chance to experience the inner thoughts of hedgehogs and horses!

Other fairy tale novels by Robin McKinley include:

Beauty was McKinley's debut novel published more than twenty years ago, but still remains one of her most popular books. This is the story of a widower and his three daughters, Grace, Hope and Honour. The youngest sister, Honour, decides that her name is boring and would rather be beautiful than honorable. Thus, the nickname sticks and she is from then on known as Beauty. However, despite her name change, Beauty grows into a gawky and plain young woman but cares little for her lack of beauty instead taking pride in her ability with horses. When the family's business goes bankrupt they must uproot themselves and more to a cottage in the country. Remarkably, the family adjusts to their new lifestyle and thrives. That is until one day when their father makes an unexpected stop at a curious manor where he is received by a mysterious host...

Rose Daughter is another adaptation of the Beauty and the Beast tale. Jeweltongue, Lionheart and Beauty are three sisters living in a cottage with their father. Beauty possesses an affinity for gardening flowers, particularly roses, as they remind the girl and the family fondly of their deceased mother. This is a talent that serves Beauty very well as she nurtures the Beast's dying rose garden within his manor. Now, you might be thinking that two novels of such similar concepts from the same author might be a little redundant, but McKinley shows her literary prowess and the reader will not be disappointed.

The Door in the Hedge is a collection of four short stories, two original fairy tales and two re-imaginings. "The Stolen Princess" and "The Hunting of the Hind" are McKinley's own creations, while "The Princess and the Frog" and "The Twelve Dancing Princesses" show McKinley's skill in refashioning an old tale.

Deerskin is a retelling of a little known Charles Perrault fairy tale, Donkeyskin. Princess Lissar is the heir to her mother's great beauty and becomes the victim to her father's desire when his grief plunges him into uncontrollable madness. Lissar flees her father's house with her devoted dog, Ash, to seek solace in the great forest. A goddess of the forest, called only "the Lady", heals Lissar and transforms her hair from its deep black to a stark white. Lissar then travels to a nearby kingdom and falls for a handsome, dog loving prince. But will her horrific past destroy Lissar's chances to make a future?

Get updates on Robin McKinley on her website!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Retelling of: Snow Queen

Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

This debut novel is a modern day fairy tale set in Huntsdale, Pittsburgh. High school junior, Aislinn and her grandmother both have the ability to see fairies, but hide their secret from other mortals and fairies alike, attempting to ward off unwanted attentions. The city, abundant with steel and iron, provides a perfect refuge for Aislinn because only the strongest of fairies can withstand the effects of iron. Yet, two fairies are stalking Aislinn in the city and are not deterred from the iron, because the Fairy King has set his sights on Aislinn and plans to make her his wife. The last unlucky girl to receive his attentions failed to pass the test and was sentenced to forever serve his mother, the evil Winter Queen. Will Aislinn be able to thwart the Winter Queen? More importantly, will she be able to choose between two guys, the mysterious tattooed outsider or the beautiful, ethereal fairy? You'll have to read the book to find out..

Other books by Melissa Marr include:

Ink Exchange is a companion novel to Wicked Lovely and focuses on Aislinn's friend, Leslie's, story. Leslie' world is being torn apart because of the decisions being made by her drug-dealer brother and drunken father, and so Leslie seeks to take charge of herself by getting a tattoo. She is drawn to the image of wings and a pair of eyes, but that symbol is more than it seems. By placing the mark upon her skin, Leslie unknowingly creates a connection between herself and the Dark Court of the fairy realm.

Fragile Eternity is the sequel to Wicked Lovely set to be released on April 19, 2009. Mark your calenders!

Check out Melissa's website!

Visit Melissa's LiveJournal

Listen to the Barnes & Noble Meet the Writers interview with Melissa Marr!

Check out a chat with the author about her books and writing

Friday, November 28, 2008

Retelling of: Rumpelstiltskin

A Curse as Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce

This novel takes place in England at the start of the Industrial Revolution, a very clever choice on the author's part as it gives new context for the old tale. By setting the novel in such an unstable time for craftspeople, Bunce alters the way that the reader views the spindle as a machine and enhances the problems that a miller would face in the age of advancing technologies. Charlotte Miller is the young heroine who must try and keep her family's mill afloat in a new era of English history. Yet the odds are against young Charlotte, as it seems there is a curse upon both her mill and her family, but all that changes when a mysterious man named Mr. Spinner offers Charlotte his services. Can Charlotte maintain the source of her family's livelihood or will they be forever cursed? And just what is the price that Mr. Spinner demands for his services and is it something Charlotte is willing to pay?

Check out Elizabeth Bunce's official website!

View Elizabeth's LiveJournal

Read an interview with the author!

Retelling of: Snow White

The Serpent's Shadow by Mercedes Lackey

Mercedes Lackey's heroine is Maya Witherspoon, the daughter of an English surgeon and a high-caste Hindu woman, who has inherited both her father's doctoring talents and her mother's magical abilities. Maya flees to London in the early 20th century because her mother's evil sister, Shivani, has murdered both her parents. Maya creates a new home for herself in the strange city with the help of her loyal household servant, Gupta, and her seven pets she inherited from her mother, which are more than what they seem. Alas, Shivani pursues Maya to London, but our heroine has many loyal friends to will come to her aid, including the handsome Peter Cook, a British elemental Water Master.

This novel is so well crafted that I didn't even know that I was reading a retelling of a fairytale until the second reading! Lackey gives the novel a whimsical quality by enhancing the London world with magic, elemental masters, and supernatural pets. Moreover, the author also discusses serious topics such as mixed parentage and racial and gender prejudices, as well as the mistrust of foreigners, women's sufferage and Hinduism. I know that sounds like a lot packed into a couple hundred pages, but it all fits and flows really nicely together.

Other retellings of fairy tales in the Elemental Masters series include:

The Gates of Sleep is the story of Marina Rosewood, a woman who was cursed in her infancy and raised in the countryside by three of her parent's closest friends. However, when tragedy strikes, Marina is forced to go live with the same aunt who placed the curse on her as an infant. Can Marina escape her aunt's clutches and break the curse?

Phoenix and Ashes is a tale of the repercussions and pain of war, as well as the story of a young woman forced into servitude by her wicked stepmother, a dark Earth-mage. Our heroine, Eleanor Robinson, a budding Fire-mage, is magically bound to the household hearth, after her father dies in the trenches in WWI. Yet this doesn't stop Eleanor from falling for a neighboring baron, an Air Master and war hero. If only she can make it to the costume ball, then perhaps her lot in life will change.

The Wizard of London follows the adventures of two young girls boarded at the Harton School for Boys and Girls, a school dedicated to teaching children with magic that does not pertain to the four natural elements. Sarah Jane is the daughter of missionary parents away in Africa and Nan is a smart ex-street urchin, both attending the Harton school. Together the two friends develop their own unique abilities and face a dark, insidious woman in this retelling of the Snow Queen and Grey's Ghost.

Resevered for the Cat is the tale of young ballet dancer, Ninette Dupond, who strives to become a famous dancer. Following the advise of her feline friend Thomas, who is actually an Elemental Master, Ninette impersonates a famed Russian ballet dancer. Yet the recognition that Ninette receives arouses the attention of another more sinister nature, a dangerous elemental spirit, one that seeks to use Ninette for its own purposes.

The Fire Rose artfully weaves the real world event of the 1905 San Fransisco earthquake with the tale of Beauty and the Beast. Rosalind Hawkins leaves her home in Chicago for San Fransisco to become a governess in the household of a wealthy rail baron and Fire Master, Jason Cameron. Upon arrival however, Rosalind discovers that there are no children, but that it was her services as a medievalist and classical scholar that were wanted instead. And so, Rosalind settles in as research assistant to a man whose face she is forbidden to see.

The Black Swan delves into the tale of Swan Lake from the perspective of Odile, the lonely and manipulated child of Baron Eric von Rothbart, as she watches and cares for the enchanted flock of swan maidens. As Odile develops a closer bond with the enchanted maidens she discovers that her father is not the honorable individual she thought he was. Will Odile challenge her father's authority and help the women she has come to call her friends?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Retelling of: Cinderella

Bound by Donna Jo Napoli.

This is a reworking of the fairy tale Cinderella set in Ancient China. This retelling is particularly thought provoking because it is not set in the typical European setting. Fourteen-year-old Xing Xing is a young girl who is bound and abused in many ways. Following the death of her mother, Xing Xing's father remarries and the young girl gains a stepmother and a stepsister, Wei Ping. A short time later tragedy strikes again when Xing Xing's father dies. The young girl is forced to work as a servant for her stepmother and stepsister. With only a gold and white carp for company in a pond near their home, whom Xing Xing believes is a reincarnation of her mother's spirit, the girl tries to maintain a sense of pride and strength. Xing Xing is bound by the cultural traditions of ancient China because without her parents to arrange a suitable match for marriage she cannot find a husband. She is also bound to forever be a servant in her own household, thus becoming an invisible part of Chinese society. However, Xing Xing is not the only girl that is forced into bondage. Her stepsister, Wei Ping, is forced by her mother to bind her feet to make them small and delicate, thus illustrating the girl's grace and desirability. One night at a celebratory festival all the stability that Xing Xing has sought to create could be gone with the loss of one slipper...

If you enjoyed this book by Donna Jo Napoli be sure to look into some of her other fairy tale retellings:

Beast is the story of Orasmyn, a Persian prince, who is transformed into a lion and can only regain his true form with the love of a woman.

Sirena is the story of a siren, or mermaid, who must earn the love of a human man to gain eternal life. She and her sisters sing to lure men to them. However, after a shipwreck, Sirena begins to rethink what she wants from her life and the way in which she wants to receive love.

Spinners is the tale of a young tailor that sought to impress his would be father-in-law by clothing his beloved in gold. He attempts to spin gold thread, but becomes crippled in the process and is rejected by his lover. Years later the daughter to his once-betrothed is singled out for her skills in spinning thread by a young king that hungers for gold.

is the story of a young girl growing up and finding love in 16th century Switzerland. When Zel attracts the attentions of Konrad, a count's son, her mother becomes afraid that she will lose her daughter forever and imprisons the young woman in a tower. Can Konrad find his beloved and rescue and find out!

To learn more about Donna Jo Napoli go her website!

Read an interview with Donna Jo Napoli!

Retelling of: Rapunzel

The Tower Room by Adele Geras.

This novel is a re-imagining of the Rapunzel tale, set in a 1960s, all girls, British boarding school. The protagonist Megan is not held captive in a tower room by an evil witch as in the original story. Instead, Megan and her two best friends, Bella and Alice, choose to bunk in the tower room because of the privacy and seclusion it offers. A young science teacher by the name of Simon catches the eye of Megan and the two lovers begin a passionate affair that will come at a cost.

This is the first book in a trilogy involving Megan, Alice and Bella. If you liked The Tower Room be sure to pick up the second and third books in the Egerton Hall series:

Watching the Roses
tells the story of Alice and her vindictive aunt, who holds a grudge because she was not invited to Alice's christening.

Pictures of the Night
is the tale of Bella and her beauty obsessed, jealous stepmother who will go to great lengths to be rid of Bella, whom believes she is a threat to her beauty.

To learn more about Adele Geras go to her website!

Read her thoughts about writing in an interview!