When the weather is bleak and the nights are long, sometimes you want a little escape from the seemingly endless winter. A fairy tale re-told is the perfect getaway — all the comfort of a familiar story with just enough of a twist to keep those pages turning.
For those who prefer to keep the classic feel to their tales, Juliet Marillier’s “Daughter of the Forest” retains all the wonder from Celtic mythology, including sorceress’ spells, swans and seventh sons, but with an endearing new heroine. “The Bear and the Nightingale” by Katherine Arden delves into Russian folklore, winding its way through the traditional fare of enchanted forests, strange gifts, the overcoming of incredible odds and wintery demons (book two of this trilogy is available as well).
For a historical retelling in a more modern setting, nothing beats Genevieve Valentine’s “The Girls at the Kingfisher Club.” The 1920s, filled with jazz, flappers and underground clubs, is a perfect setting to re-imagine the “Twelve Dancing Princesses.” It’s a tall order to tell the tale of 12 characters and have each of them remain distinct and memorable, but you will be remembering the girls from this quick read long after you finish the book.
If fairy tales are a little fanciful for you, “While Beauty Slept” by Elizabeth Blackwell is the "true story" of Sleeping Beauty. The tale is told as remembered by a grandmother who experienced the story firsthand in her youth. Written with a strong historical fiction feel, Blackwell retains all the castles and nobility. One step closer to historical, and away from fairy tale will bring you to “The True Story of Hansel and Gretel,” by Louise Murphy. Two Jewish children are taken in by a German “witch” during World War II in a novel about the experiences of war loosely built around the familiar folktale.
If Eastern tales are more to your liking, Roshani Chokshi has written an absolutely beautiful retelling of Hades and Persephone, influenced by Indian folklore for young adult readers. “The Star-Touched Queen” moves effortlessly from the familiar to the fantastic and back again. “The Crane Wife,” by Patrick Ness, is a whimsical and touching retelling of the Japanese classic tale in a modern setting, including different points of view, and memorable side characters.
Sometimes fairy tales can seem too sweet with all their "happily ever afters." We promise that won’t be the case with “Six-Gun Snow White” by Catherynne Valente. Taking place in a gritty, gun-slinging, lawless, Western landscape, there is still a lot of heart, but far less sweetness to this re-imagining. Or maybe you’ve wondered why fairy tale villains do what they do? The young adult short story collection “Because You Love to Hate Me” will answer that question, revealing backstories for Medusa, the Giant (of Jack and the Beanstalk fame) and Sherlock Holmes’ Professor Moriarty, among others.
Whatever fairy tale flavor you prefer, these books are excellent entertainment for the cold, dark nights of January.