We all grew up reading the Hans Christian Anderson and the Grimm Brothers stories. These types of traditional fairytale stories have so many fun retellings for adults. I thought I would share a few so you can explore the fantastical side of literature, or maybe just get in touch with your childhood roots.
Maybe you’ve already heard of Gregory Maguire’s retelling of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Wicked, which was then also developed into the Broadway musical by the same name. Maguire has also profiled Cinderella’s ugly stepsister in Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister. And if you enjoy Snow White, check out the retelling by Maguire set in a corrupt Italy, Mirror Mirror.
Perhaps you’ve stumbled across Jasper Fforde’s novels like The Eyre Affair, in which Jane Eyre the literary character is kidnapped from an alternate London that values literary characters very highly and Thursday Next, a detective, must get to the bottom of it.
Here are some more of my suggestions for new twists on familiar favorites. Enjoy and happy reading!
The Magicians by Lev Grossman
“Harry Potter discovers Narnia is real in this derivative fantasy thriller from Time book critic Grossman (Codex ). Quentin Coldwater, a Brooklyn high school student devoted to a children’s series set in the Narnia-like world of Fillory, is leading an aimless existence until he’s tapped to enter a mysterious portal that leads to Brakebills College, an exclusive academy where he’s taught magic. Coldwater, whose special gifts enable him to skip grades, finds his family’s world “mundane and domestic” when he returns home for vacation. He loses his innocence after a prank unintentionally allows a powerful evil force known only as the Beast to enter the college and wreak havoc. Eventually, Coldwater’s powers are put to the test when he learns that Fillory is a real place and how he can journey there. Genre fans will easily pick up the many nods to J.K. Rowling and C.S. Lewis, not to mention J.R.R. Tolkien in the climactic battle between the bad guy and a magician.” – Publisher’s Weekly.
Check out the sequel, The Magician King
Splintered by Anita Howard
“YA authors have used fairy tales and fantasy as a backdrop for contemporary stories for decades, and first-time author Howard is no exception. Relying on Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland as the infrastructure, as well as Tim Burton’s fantastical movie landscapes for inspiration, Howard crafts a teenage skater girl, Alyssa Gardner, who feels compelled to throw herself down the rabbit hole in an attempt to cure her mother’s madness and quiet the ever-increasing chatter in her own head. But Alyssa does not make this journey alone. Childhood friend Jeb enters Wonderland with her, a constant grounding to the real world as they encounter Morpheus (who sports a hookah), Rabid White, Chessie, the Red and Ivory Queens, and other iterations of Carroll’s familiar characters. It’s a deft, complex metamorphosis of this children’s fantasy made more enticing by competing romantic interests, a psychedelic setting, and more mad violence than its original. With one test after another that she must pass, Alyssa soon learns that the only person she can rely on is herself.” – Booklist Review
In the Night Garden by Catherynne Valente
“A tale of revenge, magic and family. Valente’s publisher compares this book to Arabian Nights, and that comparison is hardly hyperbole. An exotic and unnamed young lady with tattoos around her eyelids has been exiled to the garden of a palace, existing on the scraps and fruits left to her by the rest of the court, who shun her for her mysteriousness. But one unnamed boy is brave enough to talk to her, and she begins to tell him a fairy tale about a young Prince who kills a goose. Only the day is finished before the story is done, and the unnamed boy must return to hear the rest of the tale. From this story emerges another, and then another, and it’s soon revealed that the goose is really the Prince’s sister, and the old woman who owns the goose his mother, and before long, the Prince begins a quest to save his sister’s life. As time progresses, the young boy risks the antipathy of the rest of the court to continue listening to this interweaving story of magic, adventure, quests and murders, handed down through generations of women. A work of beautifully relayed, interlinked fairy tales.” – Publisher’s Weekly
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
“In his latest novel, Gaiman (Neverwhere) explores the vast and bloody landscape of myths and legends where the gods of yore and the neoteric gods of now conflict in modern-day America. The antihero, a man of unusually acute intellect through whose eyes we witness the behind-the-scenes dynamics of human religion and faith, is a convict called Shadow. He is flung into the midst of a supernatural fray of gods such as Odin, Anansi, Loki One-Eye, Thor, and a multitude of other ancient divinities as they struggle for survival in an America beset by trends, fads, and constant upheaval an environment not good for gods. They are joined in this struggle by such contemporary deities as the geek-boy god Internet and the goddess Media.” – Library Journal
“The 21 stories and one verse play that editor Anderson presents are fantasies that influenced, or may have influenced, J. R. R. Tolkien, or that demonstrate Tolkienesque characteristics contemporary with his development of them. Definitely influential is George Macdonald’s “The Golden Key” (1867), which Tolkien admired and from which, along with other Macdonald stories, he learned to make fantasy “a vehicle of Mystery” (that by mystery Tolkien meant Christian truth Anderson doesn’t say). Possibly influential is Kenneth Morris’ 1915 treatment of Viking religion, “The Regent of the North” (although Tolkien seems not to have known of Morris). Showing parallel development is “The Story of Alwina,” a mock-historical chronicling, a la Tolkien’s Silmarillion, of a nonexistent land that Austin Tappan Wright (1883-1931) left to be published as late as 1981 (in 1957 Tolkien said he had never heard of Wright). Besides Macdonald, the better-known writers represented include E. Nesbit, H. Rider Haggard, L. Frank Baum, and John Buchan. In all, a very good gathering of early, distinctively modern fantasy fiction.” – Booklist