Welcome to the most magical thing you’ll read today! Whenever I research books fitting the ‘Retellings’ category, I envision an author taking an original concept and adding sprinkled glitter on top. It’s exciting to see how someone else with a writing gift could rewrite an entirely different story inspired by a theme that you may have come across before in classics or children's stories.
Take a movie like 10 Things I Hate About You, if you didn’t previously know, it’s based on Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. A retelling could be funnier, sadder, more modern, or more fantastical than the original play or novel. Here are some of the best classical and fairytale retellings I’ve read:
1) Heartless by Marissa Meyer
Starting with a classic, this retelling is set in the upside-down and nonsensical universe of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. This is not even the best part. The story follows the infamous Queen of Hearts when she was just a girl in love with the court’s joker before her rise to power and villainous demeanor. The twists in this forbidden love story and adventure are some of the most unique ones I’ve read. There’s more depth to our already beloved characters, even if set in a time before Alice discovered Wonderland.
2) The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore
To me, this book is at the core of what ‘magical realism’ really is. Two feuding families, the most popular competing performers in their respective exhibitions, have been rivals for twenty years. The Palomas’ show centers on swimming as mermaids, while the Corbeaus indulge in high tightrope walking. A forbidden love story between the youngest of both families ensues… sounds familiar? This is a beautiful and unique retelling of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
3) Tiger Lily by Jodi-Lynn Anderson
I must include the twisted side of retellings, ones not based on innocence and purity. I’ve never come across any retelling that’s similar to this. Tiger Lily is an immensely darker version of the cheerful tale of Peter Pan. Narrated by Tinker Bell’s silent observations, we’re thrown into Neverland from both perspectives of Tiger Lily and the natives. It’s a journey of charm, jealousy, danger, and uncertainty. I guarantee you’ve never read a book quite like this one.
4) The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury
And for the only true fairytale retelling on this list (yes, all the previous were based on really old classics), the tale of Aladdin makes a comeback. Except, he’s not our main character. The Genie is. Specifically: Zahra; the most powerful Genie of all. It was delightful to explore the possibilities and character arc between Aladdin and Zahra, all while being hooked on a familiar plot, but with so many extra angles thrown in. I really consider this book to be something of its own. The depth of Zahra’s past and present was beautifully written, and there were many pleasant surprises and additions that made the magic shine more.
All in all, next to an ordinary book’s magic in itself, reading Classical or Fairytale retellings just add the best mood to it. If you’re a reader who likes to connect with the community while reading as well, fan-art and forums for these books are everywhere, so that’s a plus. YA Retellings are an amazing way to revisit children’s favourites in a more adult setting, too.
What are your favorite retellings? Were you familiar with the genre beforehand? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!