Category: Retellings & Reimaginings (page 1 of 2)

Once Upon A Time: A Springtime Reading Festival

For many years, one of my favorite bloggers held a spring-time festival of all things fantasy, folklore, fairy tale and myth. He called it the Once Upon A Time Challenge, and it generally lasted between the first day of spring (the vernal equinox, which is today) and the first day of summer (summer solstice, June 20). Unfortunately, it seems to have gone by the wayside, since I went looking for it today and was unable to find any sign that it’s coming back in 2017! He also had some of the most wonderful images, which I am recycling for this post!

This is a major bummer for me. As fall, to me, is all about gothic literature, supernatural, terror, and crime, spring, to me, has developed into an opportunity to dive into epic fantasy and fairy tales. In spite of the fact that Once Upon A Time has been consigned, apparently, to the past, I’m going to move forward with the quest.

The Way of Kings/Words of Radiance: I’ve been holding off on starting Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive because I know that Sanderson is planning somewhere in the neighborhood of 8 more books, and therefore it will be frustrating, and I will likely shuffle off this mortal coil before he finishes. Nonetheless, the third book is planned for release in November, so I’m going to read the first two books for this project.

Lady Trent: I’m a huge fan of Marie Brennan’s Lady Trent series, which is all about combining intrepid Victorian lady explorers in skirts with dragons!. I’ve read the first two books, and the fifth and final book is going to be released on 4/25. I’m going to reread the two first books, and then continue on with the final three to complete this series!

Series Rewatch TBD: I’m vacillating here between Grimm and Once Upon A Time. I’ve watched more of Grimm than OUAT, but I’m way behind on both. I’ll advise once the decision is made. Suggestions are welcome.

Multimedia: I’ve been planning on re-reading Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell for a while, and while I am at it, I wouldn’t object to watching the companion series.

American Gods: I’ve owned this book for years, and haven’t ever gotten around to reading it. The series begins in April on Starz, and it looks amazing. I need to read this book, and I need to read it soon!

There will be more than this – fairy tales and folklore and fantasy will abound!

The Mirk and Midnight Hour by Jane Nickerson

The Mirk and Midnight Hour by Jane NickersonThe Mirk and Midnight Hour by Jane Nickerson
Published by Knopf on March 11, 2014
Genres: YA
Pages: 384
Source: Purchased: ebook
Goodreads
two-half-stars

Seventeen-year-old Violet Dancey has been left at home in Mississippi with a laudanum-addicted stepmother and love-crazed stepsister while her father fights in the war—a war that has already claimed her twin brother.

When she comes across a severely injured Union soldier lying in an abandoned lodge deep in the woods, things begin to change. Thomas is the enemy—one of the men who might have killed her own brother—and yet she's drawn to him. But Violet isn't Thomas's only visitor; someone has been tending to his wounds—keeping him alive—and it becomes chillingly clear that this care hasn't been out of compassion.

Against the dangers of war and ominous powers of voodoo, Violet must fight to protect her home and the people she loves.

From the author of Strands of Bronze and Gold comes a haunting love story and suspenseful thriller based on the ancient fairy tale of “Tam Lin.”

This is a retelling of Tam Lin, a Scottish ballad with which I was unfamiliar until I read this book. I am very familiar with the Grimm tales, but this one was new to me, and that might have prevented me from enjoying the book as much as I had hoped I would.

Information about Tam Lin (from Wikipedia):

Most variants begin with the warning that Tam Lin collects either a possession or the virginity of any maiden who passes through the forest of Carterhaugh. When a young girl, usually called Janet or Margaret, goes to Carterhaugh and plucks a double rose, Tam appears and asks why she has come without his leave and taken what is his. She states that she owns Carterhaugh, because her father has given it to her.

In most variants, Janet then goes home and discovers that she is pregnant; some variants pick up the story at this point. When taxed about her condition, she declares that her baby’s father is an elf whom she will not forsake. In some variants, she is informed of a herb that will induce abortion; in all the variants, when she returns to Carterhaugh and picks a plant, either the same roses as on her earlier visit or the herb, Tam reappears and challenges her action.

She asks him whether he was ever human, either after that reappearance, or in some variants, immediately after their first meeting resulted in her pregnancy. He reveals that he was a mortal man, who, after falling from his horse, was rescued and captured by the Queen of Fairies. Every seven years, the fairies give one of their people as a teind (tithe) to Hell and Tam fears he will become the tithe that night, which is Hallowe’en. He is to ride as part of a company of knights, and Janet will recognise him by the white horse upon which he rides and by other signs. He warns her that the fairies will attempt to make her drop him by turning him into all manner of beasts (seeProteus), but that he will do her no harm. When he is finally turned into a burning coal, she is to throw him into a well, whereupon he will reappear as a naked man and she must hide him. Janet does as she is asked and wins her knight. The Queen of Fairies is angry but acknowledges defeat.

I really wanted to love this book. It is well-written enough, and set in Civil War, Mississippi. It felt, though, like the author really couldn’t make up her mind between writing a straight YA historical fiction romance (like The Caged Graves, which I adored) and an eerie retelling of a fairy tale using the Civil War as a setting and device to tell the tale. This was a rather uneasy blend of both. Of the two, I much preferred the straight historical fiction aspects of the book. I didn’t feel that the VanZandts and the part of the book that was paranormal worked particularly well, and would have been happier without those parts of the story, actually.

mississippi

I haven’t read anything else by this author, although I do have Strands of Bronze and Gold in my kindle library. I liked her writing style, I enjoyed the characters and the dreamy, slightly otherworldly Mississippi setting, so I’m definitely going to give her another try. This book just didn’t quite work for me. I’m not sure if this is because I didn’t really get the Tam-Lin references, or if it was because she didn’t execute it very well.

The Mirk and Midnight Hour qualifies as Mississippi for my USA by the Book challenge.

two-half-stars

C is for Charming. Prince Charming.

C is for Charming. by Maria Tatar
Genres: Fairy Tale

Show of hands of everyone who loves fairy tales!

When I was a kid, I had a tattered copy of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. It was not the prettiest book in the world – the cover was a sort of a putty color, with the title written in green. It had been purchased in a secondhand shop somewhere, and was quite dingy with age. The pictures were line drawings only, not magical, richly colored paintings. But the words inside of it were magical.

Not Disney magical, because the Grimm brothers were grim. Hansel and Gretel, with their neglectful father, The Twelve Dancing Princesses, with all of those poor dead princes, and Cinderella, with her siblings who were willing to remove parts of their feet in order to fit them into the glass slipper – fairy tales are not for the faint of heart. But if you have the heart to read the real things, they are filled with sinister beauty, object lessons, and are a piece of human history that cannot be lost. Fairy tales are how people made sense of a violent, dangerous world that they could not make sense of any other way.

So, I’m addicted to fairy tales, and I own them in many forms.

My favorite book of traditional fairy tales is this one:

Grimm fairy tales

Translated, edited and annotated by Maria Tatar, it is a gorgeous, hardbound book of 552 pages, a compendium of all of the major, and most of the minor, tales by the Brother’s Grimm.

Slightly less gory, but even more gorgeous, are the editions published by Chronicle Books and illustrated by K.Y. Craft. I own Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, and the Twelve Dancing Princesses, and the illustrations on the inside are just as beautiful as the covers.

craft collage

Finally, I love a good retelling, and have read a lot of them. Just a few of my favorite authors are Robin McKinley, Jessica Day George, Juliet Marillier, Elizabeth Bunce, Shannon Hale, Mercedes Lackey, and Gail Carson Levine.

Tale Retold: The Twelve Dancing PrincessesTale Retold: East o'the Sun, West o'the MoonTale Retold: The Goose GirlTale Retold: Beauty and the Beast

(In order: Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier is a retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses; Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George retells East o’the Sun, West o’the Moon, The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale retells Goose Girl, and Beauty by Robin McKinley retells Beauty and the Beast).

Before I read a retelling, I like to make sure that I am familiar with the source material. One of the most comprehensive resources about fairy tales is the website Sur La Lune. Sur La Lune is an unparalled resource for annotated information, cultural comparisons, and other information about the specific fairy tales.

One of the things that it is interesting about fairy tales is that they typically focus so much on the female character, leaving the poor hero – Prince Charming – more or less nameless throughout the story. There are a few books that have taken that fact, and riffed on it in a fun way. If you’re more interested in Prince Charming than in the Princesses, take a look at:

charminghero's guide

Finally, if you are more interested in a book where the princess rescues Prince Charming, takes care of the dragon herself, and is resourceful, interesting, and not-at-all-into ballgowns, Patricia Wrede’s Enchanted Forest Chronicles is a delightful – and I mean delightful – twist on the princess in distress. It is a fantastic, funny, wry and sweet read-aloud if you have a daughter between 7 and 9 years old. Book I is called Dealing with Dragons.

dealing with dragons

Once Upon A Time VIII

Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings hosts two amazing challenges every year. In the fall, he hosts the RIP challenge, and in the spring, he hosts the Once Upon a Time Challenge. Stick around, and you’ll hear about RIP come autumn.

But right now, I want to talk about Once Upon A Time. You can find the challenge details here. The general parameters of the challenge are as follows:

Friday, March 21st begins the eighth annual Once Upon a Time Challenge. This is a reading and viewing event that encompasses four broad categories: Fairy Tale, Folklore, Fantasy and Mythology, including the seemingly countless sub-genres and blending of genres that fall within this spectrum. The challenge continues through June 21st and allows for very minor (1 book only) participation as well as more immersion depending on your reading/viewing whims.

So, from March 21 through June 21, Carl brings us an opportunity to read, watch, share and dream the stories that have carried us away for generations.

I am signing up for:

once8jquest1

which encourages the reading of 5 books within the four broad categories. I haven’t selected my books yet – that will be for a later post. But I already know that I will read a blend of classic fantasy and recent releases.

Come away, come away … once upon a time.

If you are wondering about the gorgeous artwork, it was created by artist Melissa Lucera. Carl always has such amazing blog art for his challenges – it makes participation that much more fun!

blackboard comment

The Rebecca Wars: New Girl vs. Thorn Abbey

Essay: Updating Rebecca (New Girl, Thorn Abbey) by Daphne du Maurier, Nancy Ohlin, Paige Harbison

My disappointment with Rebecca notwithstanding, I wanted to see how, and whether, the story told by du Maurier would hold up in a modern retelling. Fortuitously, two different YA retellings were published in the last year or so:

New Girl

New Girl was written by Paige Harbison and published by Harlequin Teen in January 2012.

thorn abbey

Thorn Abbey was written by Nancy Ohlin and published by Simon Pulse on May 7. Both authors are new to me.

My overall impression of both books can be summed up in a single word: meh. I have concluded that Rebecca simply doesn’t translate well to the modern world.

Interestingly both New Girl and Thorn Abbey were set in boarding schools in New England. Why, you ask, were both of these retellings set in a boarding school? I have no idea. In both cases, Rebecca was the extremely popular girl who had disappeared the year before, leaving behind her grieving boyfriend – Max, natch – and a whole bunch of people who were pretty irritated that her place was being filled by the narrator. In both books our narrator gets Rebecca’s dorm room, and her moderately crazy roommate, the Mrs. Danvers character, who goes out of her way to sabotage the main character’s ability to fit in at the school.

So, I didn’t love either of them. I liked New Girl a tiny smidge more than Thorn Abbey, although I have a friend who preferred Thorn Abbey to New Girl. Here is why:

Thorn Abbey failed for me because the story started out as straight retelling, and then it veered into a very strange mashup of Rebecca and paranormal/ghost possession. I am fine with paranormal romance, and I wouldn’t absolutely object to a retelling of Rebecca that had paranormal/fantasy/sci fi elements (hello, I really liked Diana Peterfreund’s speculative fiction Persuasion retelling And Darkness Shows the Stars) but I want the book to be intentionally that. This felt like an after thought. As though, at some point, someone told the author: you know what would make this book really different? Ghost possession! And she was all: sure, I’ll go with that.

New Girl had it’s own problems, though, including the whole “unnamed narrator” conceit. Daphne du Maurier can get away with it because she’s Daphne du Maurier. But for me, it was just too cute and it didn’t work. Give the girl a name (before the last few pages).

New Girl also made an effort to flesh out Rebecca’s character and provide a reasonable and coherent explanation for why she was such a terrible person – she had really poor self-esteem and sought peer approval in a very self-destructive way. In the context, though, of the Rebecca universe created by du Maurier that reason is not at all consistent with the character that du Maurier created. The original Rebecca had an abundance of self-esteem as du Maurier wrote her – so much that she refused to be bound by society’s limitations on her behavior.

In the end, though, I just don’t think that the story of Rebecca works in a modern teen context. In the original Rebecca, the protagonist was married to Max and had, literally, no where to go. I don’t like her weakness, but I understand it. But in the modern retellings, the weakness of the narrator in sticking with a boy who is supposed to be in love to someone else smacks of self-loathing and cowardice. There is no reason that she would behave the way she does. All of the social boundaries that provide a structure for the original novel don’t exist in the modern world.

This is similar, in my mind, to the problems that exist when authors try to simply wholesale import Jane Austen’s world into a modern context. Today, Lizzie and Darcy would thumb their respective noses at their families and move in together. Marianne and Elinor would get jobs and marry the men of their choosing on their own terms. And Anne Elliot would never have broken off her engagement to Captain Wentworth.

Today, Max would just dump Rebecca before she disappears and move on to another girl that he could genuinely love. Retelling a story that relies upon no-longer-extant historical conventions to make sense in the modern world is difficult to do convincingly without setting up some other social structure in it’s place to explain the character’s actions. It might be possible to set Rebecca in the old West, or in a highly religious society, or in a fantasy world where there are similar social structures. An author could go backwards, and write it steampunk, or forward to space opera or dystopian, but tossing it into a 2013 boarding school in New England – well, I just don’t think it works.

So where is the flintlock fantasy version of Rebecca? Because I would totally read that!

In the end, while both New Girl and Thorn Abbey were fine in terms of writing, editing, and all of those mechanical details that are important, and there is nothing about them that would prevent me from reading something else written by the authors, the story itself just didn’t work for me.

Project Fairy-tale: Entwined by Heather Dixon

Project Fairy-tale: Entwined by Heather DixonEntwined by Heather Dixon
Published by Greenwillow Books Genres: Fairy Tale
Source: Purchased: ebook

Come and mend your broken hearts here. In this retelling of the classic tale "The Twelve Dancing Princesses," the eldest princess must fight to save her family—and her heart—from an ancient dark magic within the palace walls. "Full of mystery, lush settings, and fully orbed characters, Dixon's debut is both suspenseful and rewarding."—ALA Booklist

Just when Azalea should feel that everything is before her—beautiful gowns, dashing suitors, balls filled with dancing—it's taken away. All of it. And Azalea is trapped. The Keeper understands. He's trapped, too, held for centuries within the walls of the palace. So he extends an invitation.

Every night, Azalea and her eleven sisters may step through the enchanted passage in their room to dance in his silver forest, but there is a cost. The Keeper likes to keep things. Azalea may not realize how tangled she is in his web until it is too late. "Readers who enjoy stories of royalty, romance, and magic will delight in Dixon's first novel."—Publishers Weekly

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My second to final retelling was Entwined by Heather Dixon. While the month started out a little bit weak with my first retelling, it is finishing strong. Both Entwined and Wildwood Dancing, by Juliet Marillier (the fourth and final retelling that I’ll be discussing) were very good.

Entwined shares some similarities with Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George. It is pretty much a straight retelling, that does not include elements from other tales. In this retelling, the 12 princesses are – again – all named after flowers. Ms. Dixon used a rather pleasant little conceit to keep them straight – their names are in alphabetical order. So, we have Azalea, the eldest princess, followed by Bramble and Clover. The remainder of the princesses have names ranging from Delphinium down to Lily.

Entwined is quite a long book, at 472 pages in length. As a result of the length, there is a lot of character development, and matches are made for the three eldest princesses. Each princess has a distinct personality. Azalea, the Princess Royale, is the responsible one, Bramble is wild and unpredictable, and the beauty of the family, Clover, is kind and self-effacing. Even the younger princesses get their own personalities in this retelling.

The story essentially begins with the Queen fading and dying. The King is devastated by the death of his wife, and handles it very poorly, essentially withdrawing from his daughters. His lack of sympathy drives a wedge between him and the princesses, and when he tells them that there will be no more dancing until the year of mourning is over, they rebel and find their way to a secret ballroom beneath the castle. The villain – the Keeper – draws and repels Azalea simultaneously, as he entices the princesses further and further into his web of deceit and magic.

One of the things that I liked about this story is that there is much less princess-saving going on in this book than in many fairytales. In the end, there is collaboration between the princesses and the heroes that results in the saving of the kingdom. But none of the older princesses are the type to sit around fainting and waiting for their prince to save them, thank you very much. They are quite capable of doing at least some of the saving themselves.

Dancing is a significant part of Entwined. All of the princesses love to dance, and Azalea is the most accomplished dancer of the group. Some of the dance names I recognized as traditional dances, some, like the Entwine, I did not and therefore assume that Ms. Dixon made them up. The magic blends well with the story. Overall, I really loved this retelling and would read it again. This may actually be my favorite of the four – which is saying something, because I thought that three out of the four were quite entertaining.

Project Fairytale: Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George

Project Fairytale: Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day GeorgePrincess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George
Published by Bloomsbury USA on 2009
Genres: Fairy Tale
Pages: 280
Source: Purchased: ebook
Goodreads

A tale of twelve princesses doomed to dance until dawn…

Galen is a young soldier returning from war; Rose is one of twelve princesses condemned to dance each night for the King Under Stone. Together Galen and Rose will search for a way to break the curse that forces the princesses to dance at the midnight balls. All they need is one invisibility cloak, a black wool chain knit with enchanted silver needles, and that most critical ingredient of all—true love—to conquer their foes in the dark halls below. But malevolent forces are working against them above ground as well, and as cruel as the King Under Stone has seemed, his wrath is mere irritation compared to the evil that awaits Galen and Rose in the brighter world above.

Captivating from start to finish, Jessica Day George’s take on the Grimms’ tale The Twelve Dancing Princesses demonstrates yet again her mastery at spinning something entirely fresh out of a story you thought you knew.

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My second retelling was Jessica Day George’s Princess of the Midnight Ball. Full confession time: I had previously read this book, along with the sequel, Princess of Glass. I am a fan of Jessica Day George’s books – they straddle the line of middle grade and young adult quite nicely, in my opinion.

Anyway. Princess of the Midnight Ball is far superior to the first retelling. It is a straight retelling, doesn’t attempt to incorporate elements of other legends or fairy tales, and is the better for it. The twelve princesses in this retelling are all named after flowers: the eldest, Rose, is the most complex. This is a rather odd coincidence, because the princesses in the third retelling – Entwined – are also all named after flowers. However, that is just an aside.

One of the difficulties of a book with TWELVE dancing princesses is that it is difficult to develop twelve distinctly different characters. All of the books essentially chose two or three of the princesses and really focused on them. In this retelling, Rose was the focus of the books, along with her sister, Lily. The middle princesses rather blended together, and the younger princesses were noteworthy mostly for their need to be taken care of by the older girls.

The story is set in the imaginary kingdom of Westfalin, and concerns the long-suffering King Gregor and his twelve daughters who disappear each night to dance for the King Under Stone. The story itself maintained the “supernatural opponents” aspect of the original tale as the main conflict. In this retelling, the princesses do not dance by choice, but because they have been essentially enslaved by their well-intentioned but deceived mother. The main hero, Galen, is a returning soldier. Knitting also plays a rather large part in the tale itself, and the book includes some knitting patterns. Manly or not, our hero, is the knitter. The romance between Rose and Galen develops sweetly and convincingly, and is lovely and age-appropriate. I would not hesitate to allow any fairy-tale loving young reader to read this book.

There is now a third book in the series – Princess of the Silver Woods – which takes place 10 years after the original story, and which presents the youngest princess, Petunia, as the heroine. According to the book description, this one takes elements from Little Red Riding Hood and Robin Hood. It looks like a lot of fun. The cover is just beautiful as well.

12873027

Project Fairytale: Notes on The Twelve Dancing Princesses

The Twelve Dancing Princesses by Jacob Grimm, Wilhelm Grimm
on 1812
Genres: Classics - Children's, Fairy Tale

So, I’ve already reviewed one of my retellings for this project, but it occurs to me that I should discuss the original Grimm’s fairytale itself. So, here goes:

Twelve Dancing Princesses

The general story, in summary, involves twelve problematic princesses, each prettier than the last, who sleep in twelve beds in the same room. Each night, their long-suffering – and confused – father, the king, locks them into their room. Each morning, their dancing shoes are found to be worn through as if they had been dancing all night. The king, perplexed, promises his kingdom and the opportunity to wed the daughter of his choosing to any man who can discover the secret within three days and three nights. While this sounds like a potentially good deal, there is a downside: those who fail within the set time limit will be put to death.

An old soldier returned from war comes to the king’s call after several princes’ have failed in the attempt. While traveling he comes upon an old woman, who gives him an enchanted cloak that he can use to observe them unawares and tells him not to eat or drink anything given to him in the evening by any of the princesses and to pretend to be asleep until after they leave.

The soldier is kindly received at the palace just as the others had been and, in the evening, the eldest princess comes to his chamber and offers him a cup of wine. The soldier, remembering the old woman’s advice, pours the wine into a sponge that he has tied around his neck, and pretends to fall asleep. I have attempted to picture how this would work without being observed, and have failed. Nonetheless, this whole sponge trick seems to be an important part of the tale.

The twelve princesses, believing that the soldier is asleep, dress themselves in beautiful dancing gowns and escape from their room by a trap door in the floor. The soldier, seeing this, puts on his magic cloak and follows them. The passageway leads them to three groves of trees; the first having leaves of silver, the second of gold, and the third of glittering diamonds. The soldier, wishing for a token, breaks off a twig of each as evidence, which causes a loud cracking sound that the princesses ignore. They walk on until they come upon a great clear lake, and twelve boats appear with the twelve princesses are waiting. Each princess gets into a boat, and the soldier steps into the same boat as the twelfth and youngest princess. On the other side of the lake stands a beautiful castle, into which all the princesses go and dance the night away.

The twelve princesses happily dance all night until their shoes are worn through and they have to return home. When it comes time for him to declare the princesses’ secret, he goes before the king with the three branches and a golden cup which he has stolen, and tells the king all he has seen. The princesses know that there is no use in denying the truth, and confess. The soldier chooses the first and eldest princess as his bride for he is not a very young man, and is made the King’s heir.

So, there you go. A couple of thoughts:

First of all, for people who haven’t studied folklore, it might come as a surprise to learn that there is a classification system for fairy tales called the Aarne-Thompson Classification System. The Twelve Dancing Princesses is classified as fairy-tale 306, in the “supernatural opponents” category. Other well known “supernatural opponents” fairy-tales include Rapunzel, Bluebeard, and Little Red Riding Hood.

In addition, the original tales have varying levels of murderousness. In the bowdlerized versions, the poor princes are merely banished or disappeared, rather than actually beheaded. However, it is important to note that, at least in the Grimm’s version, the princesses are complicit in the demise of the princes. They are prepared to allow them to be killed before revealing their secret.

I also love the part where the old soldier chooses the oldest princess. Way to go for the age appropriate one, instead of the more youthful one. Thank you, Grimm Brothers, for acknowledging the superiority of the mature princess.

Finally, as is often the case with fairy tales, there are multiple versions from many different cultures, from France to India. The one with the best name is Scottish, and is called Katie Crackernuts. Which is hilarious.

This fairy tale has always appealed to me. I don’t know if it is the strongly visual nature of the story, with the gorgeous dresses and dancing slippers, and the groves of trees, or what, but I remember reading this one in my original Grimm’s fairy tale book as an adolescent. Not surprisingly, every dance I have ever attended has failed miserably to live up to the standard set by the Brothers Grimm.

Project Fairytale: The Night Dance by Suzanne Weyn

Project Fairytale: The Night Dance by Suzanne WeynThe Night Dance by Suzanne Weyn
Series: Once Upon A Time Fairytales
Published by Simon Pulse on 2005
Genres: Fairy Tale, YA
Pages: 193
Source: Purchased: ebook
Goodreads

Under the stars, in a secret world...

Rowena, the youngest of twelve sisters, loves to slip out of the castle at night and dance in a magical forest. Soon she convinces her sisters to join her. When Sir Ethan notices that his daughters' slippers look tattered every morning, he is certain they've been sneaking out. So he posts a challenge to all the suitors in the kingdom: The first man to discover where his daughters have been is free to marry the one he chooses.

Meanwhile a handsome young knight named Bedivere is involved in a challenge of his own: to return the powerful sword, Excalibur, to a mysterious lake. While looking for the lake, Bedivere meets the beautiful Rowena and falls for her. Bedivere knows that accepting Sir Ethan's challenge is the only opportunity for him to be with Rowena forever. But this puts both Bedivere and Rowena in a dangerous situation...one in which they risk their lives for a chance at love.

Unfortunately, I can’t really recommend this retelling. I found it to be fairly mediocre at best. There was way too much telling, not nearly enough showing, and the story itself I found weak.

Essentially, The Night Dance is a mash-up of Grimm’s Twelve Dancing Princesses fairytale and Arthurian legend. I am a huge fan of Arthurian retellings, and consider myself – if not an expert – certainly well-read in that particular genre. This one was only mildly interesting, occurring during the aftermath of the battle of Camlann, in which Arthur is killed in combat with Mordred. Vivienne and Morgan Le Fay are both characters in this retelling, as is the knight Bedivere (or Bedwyr) who is tasked by a dying Arthur with returning his sword, Excalibur, to the Lady of the Lake.

This is a YA retelling, and falls into a lot of the usual traps of not-very-good YA. There is insta-love between a couple of characters on the strength of a meeting. There is weak characterization. There are girls who are behaving like total idiots. There is mooning over kisses. It was a quick little read.

I often enjoy mash-ups, but this one – rather than using the two legends advantageously – in my opinion used the Arthurian legend to try to cover up weaknesses in plotting and characterization. I don’t give star-ratings because I prefer to just talk about books. But this was the weakest of the four retellings that I read for this project.

Project Fairytale: The Twelve Dancing Princesses

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Alison over at The Cheap Reader (http://thecheapreader.wordpress.com/2013/02/01/project-fairy-tale-master-post/) proposed Project Fairytale what feels like ages ago. It was really sometime in November, but when I signed up to review retellings of my personal favorite fairytale, The Twelve Dancing Princesses, it seemed like February was a long, long time in the future.

And yet, here we are!

The terms of Project Fairytale are pretty simple: each participant (and there are a lot of us) agreed to read at least 3 retellings of their assigned fairytale and then review them on their blog. I have been a fairy-tale retelling collector for many years, and will be reviewing the following retellings:

by Suzanne Weyn

by Suzanne Weyn

This is one of the Simon Pulse Once Upon A Time Series of fairy-tale retellings. These tend to be quite short, and this one is no exception, clocking in at about 200 pages.

by Heather Dixon

by Heather Dixon

Entwined is Heather Dixon’s debut novel. It also has the most gorgeous (in my opinion) cover of all of my chosen retellings.

by Jessica Day George

by Jessica Day George

I love Jessica Day George. Princess of the Midnight Ball is the first in her Princess series, followed by Princess of Glass (retelling of Cinderella) and Princess of the Silver Woods (Little Red Riding Hood).

by Juliet Marillier

by Juliet Marillier

Wildwood Dancing was one of Marillier’s first attempts at YA fiction, and is a retelling set in Eastern Europe. The sequel to this one is called Cybele’s Gift.

Finally, I am not sure that I will get this one read, but Winterston’s Sexing the Cherry has been on my list for a long time. It looks quite bizarre. I hate the title and the cover, but I hear the book is good.

by Jeanette Winterston

by Jeanette Winterston

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