Tag Archives: Retellings

Snow, Glass, Apples by Neil Gaiman

Overview
Image result for by blood we live book cover

Title: Snow, Glass, Apples
Author: Neil Gaiman
In: By Blood We Live (John Joseph Adams) & Smoke and Mirrors (Neil Gaiman)
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Fairy tales, Horror, Retellings, Vampires
Dates read: 31st March 2021
Pace: Slow
Format: Short story
Publisher: Night Shade Books
Year: 2008
5th sentence, 74th page: He rode with a small retinue: large enough to defend him, small enough that another monarch – myself, for instance – would not view him as a potential threat.

Synopsis

This is the true story of Snow White… one that will leave you feeling seriously uncomfortable.

Thoughts

I’ve read quite a few theories that state that Snow White is a vampire. Which seriously makes a deep, dark, twisted kind of sense. Apparently Gaiman feels the same. And this completely supported the theory in the creepiest most disgusting of ways possible. I’m glad that before I started reading this, there was actually a bit of a warning… it definitely helped prepare me for the ick factor that this awesome short story had.

Not only does this short story deal with vampires, and snow white. There is also necrophilia and all sorts of hints of bad things that I don’t necessarily want to think about. Again, seriously glad that there was a disclaimer at the beginning. But it didn’t stop me from being unable to put the story down and stop thinking about it.

This retelling is dark, twisted and truly glorious. I have not been able to stop thinking about it since I finished it. Which is probably one of the many reasons why I loved it so much. That, and, you know, I just tend to love everything I’ve read by Neil Gaiman.

<- By Blood We LiveThe Master of Rampling Gate ->

Image source: Fantastic Fiction

Beautiful Beast by E.J. Hill

Overview
Beautiful Beast (Beautiful Queens, #1) by E.J. Hill

Title: Beautiful Beast
Author: E.J. Hill
Series: Beautiful Queens #1
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Fairy tales, Magic, Retellings
Dates read: 1st – 8th January 2021
Pace: Medium
Format: ARC, eBook, Novel
Publisher: E.J. Hill
Year: 2020
5th sentence, 74th page: Dear, it is nothing you have done.

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Synopsis

My name is Kalista. They call me the beast.

Kalista has been cursed by a powerful sorceress and is now a prisoner in her own palace. As petals fall from an enchanted rose, her fate and the sorceress’s victory draw nearer. But Kalista refuses to be defeated so easily and uses her own magic to push against the bindings. Yet what if it is not enough and the only way the curse might be shattered is through the help of another?

When Arawn crosses into the beast’s domain, he has one motive: revenge for his brother’s death. But as he draws nearer to the beast and is surrounded by invisible servants, magical banquets, and an enchanted forest, he realizes that this beast is much more complex and much more human than he first thought.

As their paths intertwine, Kalista must risk opening her heart to another, while Arawn must learn to see past his hate and prejudice. Together, they struggle against spells, wolves, and time itself to break the curse. If they fail, Kalista will fall asleep and will never again wake.

Thoughts

I received this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I got this book as an ARC through Book Sirens. It’s the first of (I’m hoping) many books that I receive in this way. And boy, was it a great way to start getting books through this group. Books that will, hopefully, blow me away like this one did. Because I definitely plan on adding more E.J. Hill to my reading lists! It was brilliant and beautiful. The kind of book that most definitely swept me off my feet and left me feeling giddy, happy and just… complete. Like all good books do.

You can never really go wrong with Beauty and the Beast retellings to my mind. It is still one of my favourite fairy tales, and I have honestly loved each and every retelling that I have had the privilege of reading. Yet, this was somehow my favourite. The motif of roses is strong and repeated throughout, Hill is able to seamlessly weave different aspects of the Disney original throughout her words. And there are just generally so many parts of this retelling that are… well, impossible to step away from. It’s fantastic, wonderful, and, yup, is making me rave about this fantastic retelling.

Doing a gender swap on the Beauty and the Beast was a great and intriguing way to start off this retelling. That, and the fact that the curse placed upon the ‘beast” was brilliantly described in this story. I love that by starting with the curse and a child being cursed, you were able to feel so much more sympathy and fear for the characters in this story. I also like that Kalista is portrayed as the beast, even though she is physically unchanged. The multitude of different gender comments that this made left me smiling like a fool the whole way through reading this story.

Not only were the fairy tale aspects of this story brilliant, but I also loved the characters. Arawn and Kalista slowly fall for each other in this beautifully organic way. And although you already know some of the background for each of the characters, you only slowly get the full stories revealed. I can’t wait to see what Hill does as a follow up to this fantastic novel! I have all of my fingers and toes crossed in anticipation!

<- More E.J. HillUntitled ->

Image source: Goodreads

Ice and Embers by Melanie Karsak

Overview
Ice and Embers by Melanie Karsak

Title: Ice and Embers: Steampunk Snow Queen
Author: Melanie Karsak
Series: Steampunk Fairytales #2
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Fairy tales, Retellings, Steampunk
Dates read: 19th – 29th October 2020
Pace: Medium
Format: Novel
Publisher: Clockpunk Press
Year: 2017
5th sentence, 74th page: “You’re very kind.”

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Synopsis

When actress Elyse McKenna fell in love with Lord John Waldegrave, she was prepared to keep their liaison secret. What she wasn’t’ ready for was how her newfound love would rock her relationship with her dearest friend, Doctor Kai Murray.

With the 1814 London Frost Fair in full swing, Elyse and her troupe at the Ice House Theatre find themselves at the heart of the excitement on the frozen Thames. But when an exotic ship captain, whose vessel is trapped in the ice, turns her attention to Kai, everything Elyse thought she knew about her feelings for her old friend gets flipped upside down.

While the Ice House Theatre’s production of A Midwinter Night’s Dream thrills the London crowd, Elyse’s life begins to take on a distinctly Shakespearean turn.

Elyse must find a way to discover the truth about the captain, Kai, John, and her own feelings if she hopes to escape the Thames with her heart intact.

Ice and Embers is a retelling of the classic Snow Queen fairy tale set in Regency London.

Thoughts

I must admit that The Snow Queen is one of my all time favourite fairy tales. Which meant that a steampunk adaptation of it was immediately going to draw me in. Particularly when the other two adaptations I’ve read by Karsak (Curiouser and Curiouser and Wolves and Daggers) were just so damn good. And you know what? This didn’t disappoint. It was fantastic and wonderful and did absolute justice to the original fairy tale (thank goodness).

Although the original fairy tale focuses on two children, I loved that Karsak bought this into adulthood. It wasn’t necessarily sexual (although there were moments of that), but Elyse’s battle and journey was that little bit more intense and serious because she was an adult. That, and the fact that it was partnered with Shakespeare, although I probably didn’t pick up on all of the references because I’m a little bit “eh” about The Bard. It was all very well done and completely seamlessly executed.

It may have taken me a bit over a week to read this novel, but the majority of it I actually read in one night. A night when there were thunderstorms overhead and the rain beating down on my tin roof. Which was an absolutely perfect setting for the Frost Fair on the frozen river Thames. Something about the winter setting and my own winter nest was really nice and fun. Cuddling up beneath my blanket while listening to the rain pour down and having my heart beat alongside Elyse’s… it was something very beautiful and thematic. Or at least, my fanciful heart felt so.

This doesn’t have as much of a steampunk feel as Curiouser and Curiouser. It’s a little more a regency feel with a few dashes of steampunk thrown in. Yet, I liked it. It was a nice way to show different classes and people within the same social setting and whilst I loved the Bandersnatch, I don’t think Elyse would have been so suited with so much machinery around her in her adventures…

<- Curiouser and CuriouserBeauty and Beastly ->

Image source: Goodreads

A Lake of Feathers and Moonbeams by Dax Murray

Overview
A Lake of Feathers and Moonbeams by Dax Murray

Title: A Lake of Feathers and Moonbeams
Author: Dax Murray
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Fairy tales, LGBTQI, Retellings
Dates read: 31st July 2020
Pace: Slow, Medium, Fast
Format: Novel
Publisher: Moon Cat Books
Year: 2017
5th sentence, 74th page: She is not delicate.

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Synopsis

A sweeping LGBTQ and polyamorous retelling of “Swan Lake”

Strange things can be said of the forest that spans the border of two kingdoms long at war. An evil sorcerer has mad it his dominion, or an elegant enchantress has claimed it as her domain and grants wishes to those who chance upon her, or maybe the forest is guarded by an ancient and wrathful spirit.

Katya calls the forest home, living a life of magic and charms with her partner Ivan. But a threat looms over their forest, some darkness and danger that Ivan swears to protect her from. Katya finds herself caught up in a web of grudges and deception spanning generations, but most dangerous of all is the beautiful princess who stumbled into their woods. A princess who sets Katya’s heart fluttering with both desire and fear.

As forces rally to rescue the princess or got to war, Katya must take measure of her own powers and decide what she is willing to sacrifice. Will she retreat to the safety of what’s familiar or give up everything she knows to spread her wings and fly?

Thoughts

It took me a little while to get into this story. And then a little while to get the different characters and their roles straight in my head. Particularly when Alexi comes into play – I really never noticed how much I relied on gendered terms until I read this. Now I want to read more full length novels that don’t use gendered terms for all characters – I need to get my head completely around such an idea.

I knew that this was a Swan Lake retelling. I didn’t expect to love it so much. And I most definitely didn’t expect to have a mad desire to rush out and watch the movie immediately after finishing the novel. I’m sure I saw it on one of my streaming services… this novel reminded me of all the hope and love that the movie made me feel when I was just a kid.

This is a beautifully intense and emotional novel. It highlights the different ways we can love and when love can actually conquer all. It also shows where love can blind as well. I loved that this story was so multi-faceted when dealing with the question of love. Multi-faceted, complex and truly, deeply beautiful.

One of my favourite themes throughout this novel is the idea that love is seeing someone for who they truly are. And accepting them. There were numerous non-loves throughout where it was the idea of someone, rather than actually the someone which made them think love. Love is about who the person is, not who you want them to be… and Murray is able to highlight this brilliantly in this beautiful novel retelling.

<- More Dax MurrayMore Retellings ->

Image source: Goodreads

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

Overview
Ella Enchanted (Ella Enchanted #1) by Gail Carson Levine

Title: Ella Enchanted
Author: Gail Carson Levine
Series: Ella Enchanted #1
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Book-to-film, Fairy tales, Medieval fantasy, Retellings
Dates read: 31st July 2020
Pace: Slow, Medium, Fast
Format: Novel
Publisher: Harper
Year: 1997
5th sentence, 74th page: Her conversation was mostly worries that the earl would marry and have a child who would replace her as his heir.

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Synopsis

At her birth, Ella of Frell received a foolish fairy’s gift – the “gift” of obedience. Ella must obey any order, whether it’s hopping on one foot for a day and a half or chopping off her own head! But strong-willed Ella does not accept her fate. Against a bold backdrop of princes, ogres, giants, wicked stepsisters, and fairy godmothers, Ella goes on a quest to break the curse forever.

Thoughts

This is one of those few books that I honestly don’t know if I prefer the movie or the book… honestly, they were just so damn different from one another that it was difficult to find a clear winner. For starters, the movie has Anne Hathaway. But, it is also a lot more grown up and set in a contemporary medieval world that overlays much more closely with ours. The book on the other hand is definitely a lot less mature and filled with characters that have a much simpler, more pleasant characterisation (there really weren’t many messy emotions in this novel). Or at least, that’s how it felt to me.

This is a great, sweet and funny little book. Throughout reading this I had multiple little giggles at the different circumstances in which the characters found themselves. There was just something that was enjoyably cute and sweet about Ella’s narrative voice. Something that made all the horrible, annoying things that happen to her throughout this story seem somehow slightly less. It made them a little less intense and difficult. Which was the perfect balance between serious and playful that a good book should have.

As much as I enjoyed this novel as an adult, I know that I would have absolutely adored this as a kid. There is something light and approachable and just downright fun about this that is seriously enjoyable. Plus, in Ella, there is a great lead character who is everything that I would have looked up to as a young girl. Someone who is smart and kind, funny and independent. And definitely sure of their own mind. It also helped that there was a great little rebellious streak running through her that I find a little too familiar…

Ultimately, this is a great take on Cinderella. And it also had a great sense of “just desserts” at the end of the story. A little bit more revenge-driven than most of the Disney versions of fairy tales that I read. But, also,  a lot more fun, light and PG than the Grimms Brothers fairy tales that fill my shelves.

<- Ogre EnchantedMore Gail Carson Levine ->

Image source: Goodreads

To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

Overview
To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

Title: To Kill a Kingdom
Author: Alexandra Christo
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Fairy tales, Mermaids, Retellings, Young adult
Dates read: 27th – 28th June 2020
Pace: Fast
Format: Novel
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Year: 2018
5th sentence, 74th page: “Have you known for a while?” Sakura asks.

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Synopsis

I have a heart for every year I’ve been alive.

There are seventeen hidden in the sand of my bedroom. Every so often, I claw through the shingle just to check they’re still there. Buried deep and bloody.

Princess Lira is siren royalty and revered across the sea until she is cursed into humanity by the ruthless Sea Queen. Now Lira must deliver the heart of the infamous siren killer or remain a human forever.

Prince Elian is heir to the most powerful kingdom in the world, and captain to a deadly crew of siren hunters. When he rescues a drowning woman from the ocean, she promises to help him destroy siren kind for good. But he has no way of knowing whether he can trust her…

Thoughts

I’ve had this book sitting on my shelf for a while, and I kind of figured that it was just going to be another cute little retelling. I was excited to read it, but wasn’t desperate to. And then I read this. And honestly… WOW! This is an AMAZING Little Mermaid retelling. I honestly just can’t get it out of my head. It’s dark, it’s fun and it’s weirdly sweet…

Probably one of my favourite things about this novel / retelling is that Lira is completely predatory. She isn’t the nice, sweet, innocent mermaid of the Disney stories. Or even the kind of sad sack from the original Hans Christian Andersen story. Instead, she is tough, hungry and completely powerful in her own right. I also love that she is seriously sarcastic and aggressive in so many, many, many ways. Which, of course means, she fits perfectly with Elian. He’s also a pretty intense predator, and a pirate. Although, in this battle, I think it’s actually Lira that I found more intimidating and powerful… just as it should be.

Although this is a really nice little romance, it’s definitely not going onto my romance shelf. It’s a little unromantic in many places, and although it does still follow that fairly typical YA romance pattern… there is something a little extra about it. Something that doesn’t give me romantic feelings, but rather, happily ever after, big smile feelings…

The world building, characters and story line of this novel is just phenomenal. It made the story completely impossible to put down and forget about. Impossible to forget and stop thinking about. What makes that fact really horrible… this is a standalone. I would love to find out more about how Elian and Lira get along in the new world that they’ve created. Find out more about Lira’s cousin… there are so many more stories I want told from this world!!!

<- The Crooked PlaceMore Alexandra Christo ->

Image source: Goodreads

Wolves and Daggers by Melanie Karsak

Overview
Wolves and Daggers by Melanie Karsak

Title: Wolves and Daggers
Author: Melanie Karsak
Series: Steampunk Red Riding Hood #1
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Fairy tales, Retellings, Steampunk, Werewolves
Dates read: 25th June 2020
Pace: Medium
Format: Novel
Publisher: Clockpunk Press
Year: 2018
5th sentence, 74th page: Sitting outside the hangar were two autos that I recognized from the warehouse night before.

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Synopsis

Who’s afraid of the big, bad werewolf?

When London’s brightest tinkers and alchemists come up missing, Red Cape Society Agent Clemeny Louvel is on the case.

To help her get the problem in hand, Queen Victoria assigns her a temporary partner—a werewolf with a knightly history and a tendency to be far too flirtatious for either of their good. Can she trust him to help her chase down the monsters they’re hunting?

Wolves and Daggers is a retelling of the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale set in Melanie Karsak’s bestselling steampunk universe.

Thoughts

This really wasn’t quite what I was expecting from a Red Riding Hood retelling. It was great. It was unique. And it was completely unexpected. Which is probably what I enjoyed so much about it. I can see how the entire series will unfold as an overall retelling, rather than just this one story. There are so many aspects to the original fairy tale that just weren’t in this retelling, and I can’t wait to see how Karsak continues to weave Red Riding Hood into her wonderful world of steampunk.

One of the things that I love about this author is her ability to write steampunk retellings in a way that makes you feel really reminiscent of the original fairy tales. But also, to make an entirely new and unique story line. There are certain aspects which are seriously familiar, but there are so many completely new aspects which draw you in and leave you feeling happy, compelled and intrigued. In the case of Red Riding Hood, the wolves are werewolves and “Little Red” is a werewolf hunter.

I absolutely can’t wait to read more about “Little Red” and Sir Richard and all of the hunting and controlling of the werewolves that they do. There is just something fun and a little entertaining about Karsak’s take on such a common and well known fairy tale. I also love that although it is originally a French fairy tale, the story and the characters are just oh-so-British. It added a great extra layer to the adventure of Little Red and the Victorian steampunk setting.

It’s kind of impossible not to love this book – it has werewolves, hunting and a great steampunk setting. Not to mention the fact that it’s a world of fairy tales. Not quite like you remember them, but still kind of amazing and really, really fun. I absolutely adored this novel and can’t wait until I have the money to buy the rest of the series!

<- More Melanie KarsakAlphas and Airships ->

Image source: Goodreads

Black Thorn, White Rose edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling

Overview
Image result for black thorn white rose book cover

Title: Black Thorn, White Rose
Author: Ellen Datlow, Terri Windling, Nancy Kress, Patricia C. Wrede, Ann Downer, Daniel Quinn, M.E. Beckett, Michael Kandel, Michael Cadnum, Lawrence Schimel, Isabel Cole, Tim Wynne-Jones, Midori Snyder, Jane Yolen, Howard Waldrop, Roger Zelazny, Peter Straub, Ellen Steiber, Storm Constantine & Susan Wade
Series: Adult Fairy Tales #2
In: Black Thorn, White Rose (Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling)
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Fairy tales, Retellings, Short story collections
Dates read: 12th February – 25th May 2020
Pace: Medium
Format: Anthology
Publisher: Prime Books
Year: 1994
5th sentence, 74th page: Thank you for your last letter, which reached me before I set off.

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Synopsis

The award-winning editors of II Snow White, Blood Red II return us to distinctly adult realms of myth and the fantastic with eighteen wondrous works. From Roger Zelazny’s delightful tale of Death’s disobedient godson to Peter Straub’s blood-chilling look at a gargantuan Cinderella, here are stories strange and miraculous that remold our most cherished childhood fables into things sexier, more sinister… and more appealing to grown-up tastes and sensibilities.

Thoughts

After reading Snow White, Blood Red, I knew that I needed the other books which were edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling featuring fairy tale retellings. Because these aren’t the retellings that you would expect. And they’re not the kinds of retellings that make you feel all nice and fluffy on the inside. They’re dark and twisted in places. Sexual in others. And just downright make you think most of the time.

Many of the authors in this collection are ones that I have already come across. Which is something I most certainly enjoyed. A few were totally new to me. Enough to make me wonder who I would be coming across next, but not so much that I felt like I had a whole slew of new people to add to my shelves. Rather, it was a fair few authors who are already in my wishlist…

I love the constant returning to fairy tales that were reminiscent of the Grimm Brothers. It’s a nice little departure from the more common fairy tales that I find. And other than Rumpelstiltskin and Red Riding Hood, the vast majority of these fairy tales were of the lesser known variety. Which suited me perfectly. I like those more abstract stories at times.

<- Mr. Simonelli or the Fairy WidowerWords Like Pale Stones ->

Image source: Goodreads

The Black Swan by Susan Wade

Overview
Image result for black thorn white rose book cover

Title: The Black Swan
Author: Susan Wade
In: Black Thorn, White Rose (Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling)
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Fairy tales, Retellings
Dates read: 25th May 2020
Pace: Fast
Format: Short story
Publisher: Prime Books
Year: 1994
5th sentence, 74th page: One night she was so late returning that alll the stable lads had gone and I had been excused from my duties at table – I had progressed to such responsibilities only that summer – and gone to my loft for the night.

Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

Synopsis

All he ever wanted to do was help her win her heart’s desire. But even once she accomplishes that, things don’t go quite as planned. The unveiling of the beautiful Black Swan.

Thoughts

One of the suckiest things about being a woman is this whole idea around beauty – what makes a woman beautiful. What the expectations of beauty are. So on and so forth. It’s kind of horrible and seriously annoying. And this story is a great example of just how wrong things can go when we are constantly told that what and who we are just isn’t good enough.

I love that this short story / retelling of a classic fairy tale has the more traditional tragic ending. There is no joy and happiness in this story. There is nothing like and fluffy. Rather, it is just a whole heap of tragedy all bundled up into one tale. It really makes your heart bleed. And, the very final scene makes an amazing final scene for the ending of this collection…

The Black Swan is a gorgeous little short story. It also has a fantastic voice as a narrator. I love that there is so much foreshadowing for future tragedy throughout. And there’s this constant commentary on what a beauty the woman is, before she undergoes her transformation. And just a genuine wonder and concern as to why she would go through such a horrible thing when she is already wonderful and perfect as she is. Something I think we all need to remember.

<- Sweet Bruising SkinBlack Swan, White Raven ->

Image source: Goodreads

Sweet Bruising Skin by Storm Constantine

Overview
Image result for black thorn white rose book cover

Title: Sweet Bruising Skin
Author: Storm Constantine
In: Black Thorn, White Rose (Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling)
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Dark fantasy, Fairy tales, Retellings
Dates read: 24th May 2020
Pace: Medium
Format: Short story
Publisher: Prime Books
Year: 1994
5th sentence, 74th page: She smiled continually in the presence of others, nodded often, but spoke little of herself.

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Synopsis

This magnificent retelling of The Princess and the Pea is dark, twisting and not at all what you would expect. Filled with fantastic fairy tale tropes and a world of manipulation.

Thoughts

This is my second (I think) Storm Constantine short story. It has that same sense of mystery and darkness as the first story I read. This great feeling of manipulation and comeuppance throughout that is kind of impossible to forget. The strength of women – not one of the more glowing, benevolent strengths, but that dark one we can all harness shines throughout this story.

The lead voice in this story is not the kind of woman I have ever dreamed of being. Or wanted in my life. But I do love stories like this. She not only has found a way to completely harness her own son to her, but also manipulate every single circumstance that comes their way. It’s horrifying and somewhat evil feeling. But it is also really, seriously great. And when the tables are turned… I gave a somewhat gleeful cackle of joy.

Although this story features two incredibly scary and manipulative women, it also has a nice little titbit at the end. One where the ties of sisterhood are realised and acknowledged. It might be a nice happy ending, but it is one in which everyone realises what they wanted in life.

<- Silver and GoldThe Black Swan ->

Image source: Goodreads