Tales Magical and Grim
As a lover of fairy tales from the cut-off-your-heels Grim(m) version of Cinderella to the cheerful Disney rendition of Mulan, I'm willing to be swept away by fairy tales with drama and dark magic as well as ones where I know the protagonist will live happily ever after. For fairy tale fans across the spectrum or those who simply enjoy well-written fantasy, here are some fairy tale reinterpretations that run the gamut from fun, to lush, to thought-provoking and grotesque.
The Fairy-Tale Detectives by Michael Buckley
This charming and engrossing first book in The Sisters Grimm series will appeal to anyone who's ever wished fairy tales were real. In classic fairy-tale fashion, sisters Daphne and Sabrina Grimm are left alone in the world and must go and live with their Granny Relda in the very strange town of Ferryport Landing. They soon learn that Ferryport Landing is filled with fairy tale characters, and as the descendants of the brothers Grimm, they're responsible for carrying on the family duty of solving mysteries and keeping order in the fairy tale world. Will they be able to fulfill their legacy and live happily ever after (until the next book)?
Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson
Beautiful writing graces this poignant and much more dangerous take on the Peter Pan story, told from the perspective of Tinker Bell. Teenage Tiger Lily, Peter's Lilith, and her emotional development as she experiences love and possible loss for the first time are at the center of the book. Anderson also fleshes out other characters like Peter and Hook, granting the reader deeper insight into their motivations and demons. Beyond a simple love story, Tiger Lily uses the Peter Pan myth to thoughtfully explore themes of gender, colonialism, and change, all while maintaining a compelling narrative.
Ash by Malinda Lo
Like Cinderella, Ash is an orphan afflicted with a hard life and an uncaring stepmother and two stepsisters, but her path to love takes a few unexpected deviations from the original fairy tale. There is a ball, a world of magic, and a tempting (fairy) prince, but Ash's quietly intense relationship with the King's Huntress, Kasia, complicates matters and sets up a difficult and dangerous choice for Ash to make.
The Rose and the Beast: Fairy Tales Retold by Francesca Lia Block
Once upon a time is not so long ago, and a land far, far away is the kaleidoscopic dirty glitter of LA refracted in Block's signature magical realism lens. In these nine sensuous and evocative stories, Block infuses fairy tales and mythology with timeless themes like the transformative alchemy of love and modern incarnations of the forces of light and dark like the pain of addiction and abuse.
The Kingdom of Little Wounds by Susann Cokal
Cokal's self-described "fairy tale about syphilis" is a dark Scandinavian Renaissance tapestry woven from the most disturbing pastiche of elements from Sleeping Beauty, Bluebeard, and Snow White. Something is very, very rotten in the state of pseudo-Denmark, and the rot stinks of open genital sores, human feces, sexual abuse, a mysterious sinkhole, and an inbred royal family falling apart in every way. The diseased oppressiveness of the political power structure and its use and abuse of women underscore the palace intrigue and strange magic that will determine the fates of a seamstress, a slave, and the whole wounded kingdom. Squeamish readers need not apply.