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!
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.
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