Sunday, December 19, 2010

Guest Book List #1: Angie of Angieville on Retellings

Angie of Angieville should be, like, required reading for YA bloggers. Her reviews are the perfect blend of insight and friendly conversation, and I'm thrilled that she agreed to contribute a list to my feature!

Best Retellings

Steph invited me to contribute a list this year to her fabulous compendium of top books in a wide variety of categories. Left to my own devices, I went with one of my particular weaknesses--retellings. I have a thing for a really well done retelling. And it can be of pretty much any kind of work: fairy tales, classics, myths, legends. You name it, I'm game. I read a lot of retellings and some of them are aces and some of them . . . not so awesome. So I decided to put together a list of my very favorite retellings in the hopes you might find something up your alley.

Beauty and Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley
My two favorite Beauty and the Beast retellings are actually by the same author! I'm fascinated when an author returns to a story she already told with an entirely fresh perspective. Written twenty years apart, these two versions of the same fairy tale are like night and day. Yet both retain those essential elements that make this beautiful fairy tale magic. She saves him. They triumph because they need each other, they see past the superficial, and meet on equal ground.

Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier
A retelling of the Seven Swans fairy tale set in 9th century Ireland, this gorgeous historical fantasy shot right to the top of my comfort reads list the moment I closed the final page. I am continually foisting this book on unsuspecting friends and strangers and, in my experience, it has proved to be one of those books that binds people together. Another example of a young woman triumphing over evil through love, sacrifice, and unfathomable determination and a truly breathtaking bit of storytelling.

The Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley and Lady of the Forest by Jennifer Roberson
Speaking of weaknesses, I have a big soft spot for a killer Robin Hood retelling and these two are the best ones I've read. Both set against the backdrop of a nation on crusade, they feature very different (but equally excellent) Robin Hoods and my favorite Maid Marians ever. McKinley's Robin is a reluctant hero at best and it's Marian who's the crack shot when it comes to archery. Roberson's Robin returns home from crusade broken and disillusioned and it is Marian who returns him to life and a cause truly worth fighting for. Finest kind, both of them.

A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce
Bunce's debut novel is an unlikely retelling of the Rumpelstiltskin fairy tale set in an England just on the cusp of the Industrial Revolution. I could not have been more taken by surprise by this book. It took an extremely problematic fairy tale and spun it into pure gold. I savored every aspect of it, from the beautiful names of the characters, to the details of life in a woolen mill, to the lovely themes of courage, ill luck, curses, and redemption. Not to be missed.

The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
This one is likely on everyone's list and with good reason. Hale's adaptation of the Goose Girl fairy tale is pitch perfect and guaranteed to capture any reader's imagination with its lyrical language and likable heroine who goes into hiding in order to save her life and her kingdom. It only improves upon rereading and is the start of an excellent series--the Books of Bayern.

Song of the Sparrow by Lisa Ann Sandell
Along the lines of Robin Hood, I am nothing if not up for a superb Arthurian redux. In this case it comes in the form of a retelling of Tennyson's Lady of Shallott poem. Written in verse, it is a marvelous revisionist take on Elaine of Ascolat, her magic web, and her love for Lancelot. What won me over is that this Elaine chooses to fight instead of die. Set amid Arthur's first few battles, all the principal players are there in both familiar and surprising roles. Truly a breathtaking read.

Valiant by Holly Black
Another Beauty and the Beast retelling. Modernized in every sense of the word, Black's version is urban fantasy featuring faeries, trolls, and the creatures of your nightmares. An angry, angsty girl faced with the ultimate betrayal, Val makes some pretty bad choices. But it's how she acts when a true friend is in need that shows her inner strength. Overcoming addiction, recognizing true beauty where it is least like to occur--I never tire of this darker take on the classic tale.

Jane by April Lindner
We'll end with the best retelling I read this year--April Lindner's modern version of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. Everything comes together shockingly well in this one, from the gorgeous cover to the choice to make Mr. Rochester a fading rock star, from the simple, clean writing to the brilliant little touches added here and there to update the original without taking away from its excellence. A superb crossover novel and one of my favorite novels of 2010.

Thank you, Angie! Be sure to visit Angie at her blog, Angieville.

Back to: Master List | Pt. 1 | Pt. 2 | Guest List #1 | Pt. 3 | Guest List #2 | Pt. 4


  1. I was just thinking that I'd like to read more retellings. Thanks for the list! :)

  2. Daughter of the Forest = SO GOOD.

    Also, I didn't even realize Valiant was a Beauty and the Beast retelling. I'm smart.

  3. Great list. I really enjoyed JANE, too, and have been wanting to add A CURSE...GOLD to my to-read list (thanks for the reminder).

  4. Oh my, such a great list! I LOVE retellings, I can't get enough of them. Thanks for putting together this list, Angie. I've read all of them except for Outlaws of Sherwood (which I really should bump up my list since it's a McKinley), Lady of the Forest and Song of the Sparrow (the latter two, already added in my wishlist).

  5. Love Beauty and The Goose Girl! Those are a couple of my favorite retellings. I've been wondering about Jane by April Lindner - I'm always a little more leery about retellings of classics vs. fairy tales. Nice to know you enjoyed it!

  6. The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale is one of my favorite books of all time. Maybe THE favorite actually.

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  8. Oh, I do love Angieville! And now I'm itching to read both Valiant and Jane!!

  9. I'm so glad to see Daughter of the Forest and Song of the Sparrow in your list - both are two of my favorite reads ever.

    Marillier writes in a way that it aches when you read, but in the best possible way. She has a somewhat re-telling of Beauty and the Beast too called Heart's Blood, which is also quite good.

    And Sandell's interpretation of Elaine and the others does something few others do: it's fair to both the women and the men.

    I actually loved Jane too. I read it last month. I liked how it came together.

    Also, have you read Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow? I just forgot the author, but it's a lovely re-telling - I can't really say of which story because I think the author based it on Norten European folk tales, but I know of a German folk tale with similar elements.

    Anyway, I'll check out those others you mentioned (and sorry for the long post).

    Happy Holidays,

  10. I love retellings! I've never heard of Jane, but now I must read it!

  11. What a great list. And thank you so much for mentioning CURSE! I want to second the recommendation for Juliet Marillier's HEART'S BLOOD, which was one of my favorite books this year. And also Heather Tomlinson's TOADS AND DIAMONDS. So good!


  12. What a great list Angie. I think I've read many of these titles on your recommendation alone ;)

    Still need to pick up the Jennifer Roberson Robin Hood one tho. It sounds excellent.

  13. I'm excited to read Song of the Sparrow and A Curse...Gold sometime. Great list.

  14. Valiant is one of my favorite books ever!


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