Although the writing isn’t stellar and some of the characters are a little weak, Cinder has to win for the most original representation of the Cinderella fairy tale. Cinder is a talented mechanic and cyborg living in the city of New Beijing following the conclusion of the fourth World War. Forced to work to support her begrudging stepmother, Cinder is exposed to the plague currently threatening lives in the city. Although Cinder remains well, she is blamed for her stepsister’s illness.
In the midst of turmoil at home, Cinder meets and develops a friendship with Prince Kai. Kai has turmoil of his own as he strives to find a cure for the plague and stop the mind-controlling Lunar Queen from starting another war. Somehow, in the midst of all this classic science fiction conflict, Meyer manages to include a ball and her own version of a glass slipper. I’m not usually a science fiction fan, but this fairy tale retelling was creatively done. Be warned though, it is another victim of the ‘series conspiracy’ and ends on a bit of a cliffhanger. No happily ever after for this intergalactic fairy tale—yet.
Recommended for ages—12 and up
For as long as she can remember, Cecelia has been told she is the true princess being raised in hiding. Her parents were murdered when she was a baby and she was sent to a remote village to be kept safe. All her life she has been a village girl by day studying politics and royal subjects in secret at night. However, when strange things start happening around her little cottage, it appears her identity has been revealed and she is no longer safe.
Cecelia travels to the palace with her best friend Harper in an attempt to take her place as the true princess and right the wrongs she sees in the kingdom. When she arrives at the palace, the current princess has a different perspective. Both girls learn that things aren’t always as they appear and finding who to trust is a constant battle.
A Palace of Mirrors is a mystery, fairy tale, and coming of age story rolled into one. Readers will be kept in suspense, but also learn valuable lessons about trusting yourself and learning to recognize and appreciate your abilities. It is a good story to teach young girls about self-worth and the ability to see the world from different perspectives. One warning, it is a companion novel to Just Ella. You will follow the story fine without reading the other book, but it might give away some plot surprises from Just Ella.
Recommended for ages 10 and up.
Another Pan is a much darker version of Peter Pan placed in a more modern age with hints of Egyptian mythology sprinkled throughout. Wendy and John Darling are students at Marlowe, an elitist New York high school, because their father is a member of the faculty. They are embarrassed by their father’s obsession with Egyptology until they begin working on a special exhibit arranged for the school. They meet Peter, a mysterious new RA, and his gang of boys who refer to themselves as the LBs. Soon Wendy and John are swept up in Peter’s quest to find ‘bone dust’, a dust in the bones of certain mummies and purported to bring eternal life. Strangely, these bones are found in a part of the Egyptian underworld that has relocated to beneath the Marlowe school.
For readers expecting a flying and light-hearted Peter with a harmless crush on sweet, motherly Wendy, this is quite a different story. The evil in Another Pan is much deeper than bumbling Captain Hook and Peter’s selfish desire for immortality is more cutting. In spite of the darker feel, the story is well constructed and exciting to read. I listened to the audio book excellently read by Katherine Kelgren. The story is clean and appropriate for teen readers, but a little too dark and suspenseful for younger children.
Silly fluff and light entertainment, but the plot was surprisingly well done in this fairy tale gone wrong. When Savannah’s boyfriend chooses her older sister Jane and she is left without a prom date, Savannah qualifies for help from a ‘fair’ godmother. Chrissy was a fair student in Fairy Godmother school and attempts to help Savannah for an extra credit project. As usual, Chrissy misinterprets wishes and sends Savannah first into a disaster of a Cinderella story. She next ends up as a Snow White, but the real disaster is when her friend Tristan is trapped in the Middle Ages until he becomes a prince. Savannah tries to help and the romantic comedy ensues.
This lighthearted fairy tale retelling is a fun read aimed toward older teens, but clean enough for tweens. There isn’t a lot of depth, but it is entertaining and appropriate for the age group.
Princess of Glass is a sequel to Princess of the Midnight Ball, but enough back information is given that it can be read on its own. Having previously been cursed to dance each night since she was small, Princess Poppy recognizes an enchantment when she sees one. However, she struggles to help her friends recognize the evil that is trying to take over the kingdom of Breton. There is something sinister lurking behind the mysterious Lady Ella, who appears at all the balls and captivates all the men and infuriates all the women.
Jessica Day George presents an interesting version of the classic Cinderella where the ‘fairy godmother’ may be more nefarious than kindly. Her story is as magical as most fairy tales, but with a twist to the story we expect. In spite of the black magic, the story remains light and the characters entertaining. This new Cinderella is a fun and clean read for girls ages 10 and older.
Patricia Wrede takes the lesser known Grimm Brother’s fairy tale Snow White and Rose Red and places it in a magical, Elizabethan England. She starts each chapter with a passage from the original fairy tale, which is a fun way to see the tale in the midst of her creative changes. In keeping with the time period, Wrede has her characters speak Elizabethan English. The dialogue is a little hard to follow at first, but in the flow of the story, it soon becomes easy to understand. I love this retelling, because it retains the heart of the fairy tale, while placing it in an interesting time and place.
Sisters Blanche and Rosamund live near the edge of the forest with their widowed mother. To earn a living they gather herbs from the forest and sell herbal remedies. At a time of witch hunts and harsh religious piety, their lifestyle is seen as suspicious. Their lives become even more at risk, when an enchanted bear enters their cottage and the women begin working to save him from the evil enchantment. This retelling is a good book for lovers of fairy tales and Shakespeare’s England.
This retelling of Snow White is placed in an Appalachian mountain village during the Great Depression. The setting adds interest to a short and well-known fairy tale. When Summer’s mother dies, her father is crushed by grief. He spends every evening playing his banjo in the graveyard, but one evening is different. As he plays, he meets a strange and beautiful woman and soon the two are married. This seems to be the end of grief, but some things are not right. Although, he is no longer overcome by grief, Summer’s father also no longer plays his banjo. He is slowly becoming weaker and more distanced from the world. Summer tries to please her Stepmamma, but she begins to see the evil behind the woman and is soon fighting for her own survival.
Snow in Summer is an interesting retelling that catches the essence of Snow White, but emphasizes some of the darkness. It is a good read for teenagers, but does deal with verbal and some physical abuse. Although the fairy tale theme is good for younger readers, I would suggest 12 and up.
This story begins with the typical look at a fairy tale princess placed in today’s fast paced world. After sleeping for three hundred years, Talia is awakened by Jack, a lazy and directionless party boy. Both are selfish and immature, but the book improves as they learn to look outside themselves and respect the people around them. This is a light and entertaining fairy tale retelling, but through the development of her characters, Flinn shows the importance of family relationships as well as the need to look for good in everyone.
Mercedes Lackey is usually considered adult fantasy, but many of her fairy tale retellings are appropriate and interesting for young adult readers. I especially like some of her books, because they place fairy tales in a variety historical backdrops. The Gates of Sleep places the story of Sleeping Beauty in a pre-Raphaelite home of artists and free thinkers. Part of the evil being fought is industrialization and pollution of the earth. This is an entertaining and interesting presentation of fairy tale and some history.
Robin McKinley retells the story of Sleeping Beauty in a world where magic is feared and even shunned. As usual, the characters and details are wonderful. However, McKinley can get a little surreal sometimes, so if you aren’t a fan of fantasy, you might not enjoy this one.