In honor of the release of A WICKED THING by Rhiannon Thomas, we’ve asked a few of our other authors who are experts at putting a new spin on “once upon a time” to share THEIR favorite fairy tales or fairy tale retellings.
Rosamund Hodge’s Favorite Fairy Tale Retellings
I’ve been reading fairy tale retellings since I was a tiny, tiny child. (All my favorite picture books were fairy tales, except the ones that were mythology.) So it’s hard to pick favorites—but here are a few that I really loved.
Winter Rose by Patricia McKillip (Retelling of “Tam Lin”)
Rois Melior has always been much less interested in her little village than in the mysterious and possibly magical forest around them. But when a strange young man arrives in the village to rebuild his (supposedly) cursed family hall, Rois begins to suspect that he may be connected to the forest—which may be more magical and alive than she ever thought.
I first read this book when I was thirteen, and it permanently imprinted itself on my brain. I love the luminous, dream-like prose. I love the sense of subtle, ever-encroaching magic. And I love that it interprets Tam Lin the same way I do: as a story about learning to be human.
Entwined by Heather Dixon (Retelling of “Twelve Dancing Princesses”)
Princess Azalea has always helped take care of her eleven younger sisters. When her mother dies and her father retreats into his grief, she takes full responsibility for them; and if that means finding a way around the rules of mourning that forbid them to dance, she’ll do it. Even if it means striking a bargain with the mysterious Keeper who lives inside the walls of their palace.
The best way I can describe this book is that it felt like an old, familiar comfort read on the first time through. Maybe it was because of the relationships between the sisters, which were heartwarming but not cloying, and rang very true. Maybe because of the (several!) sweet romances and the frequent humor. Maybe it was because of the delightful idea of the Entwine, a waltz-like dance where the two partners hold opposite ends of a sash and try to catch the other. Whatever made the magic happen, it was delightful.
The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope (Retelling of “Tam Lin”)
Yes, that’s a second Tam Lin retelling. Why? Well, for one, Tam Lin is my favorite story of all time. But for another, The Perilous Gard is a marvelous novel that shows how different the same fairy tale can become in the hands of two different authors. It’s set in England, 1558; the heroine, Kate Sutton, is a handmaid to Princess Elizabeth. When she accidentally gains Queen Mary’s ire, she’s exiled to the remote Elvenwood Hall, where people still believe in the Fairy Folk . . . who are rumored to perform human sacrifice.
Two things in particular make this story shine: Kate herself, who is smart and stubborn and ruthlessly full of common sense. And the Fairy Folk, who never perform any unambiguous magic, yet are more inhuman and otherworldly than in almost any other fairy novel that I’ve read.
Instructions by Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess (Everything)
This picture book is not a fairy tale retelling, and it is all the fairy tale retellings. It is an exquisite work of negative space: a set of instructions for your journey into the realm of fairy tales. Every line hints at a story, but leaves you to imagine it. I don’t care how grown-up you are; you need to read this book.
More fairy tales!