Monday, September 9, 2013

Fairy Tale Retellings

I've said this before, but I love fairy tale retellings. I feel like fairy tale retellings are a really hot thing right now (although, when I think about it, retellings have been hot for several decades. Disney anyone?) and frankly, some are better than others. I recently read two such retellings, one that I loved and one that I hated, and I'm trying to figure out what the difference was between these two books. So, let's analyze!

Enchanted by Alethea Kontiss

Okay, this is the one I didn't like. To be fair, it started out with great potential. I was kind of excited for a good "Princess and the Frog" retelling, because I haven't read one of those before. But then it got strange really quick. And then the plot got complicated, because this wasn't just a "Princess and the Frog" retelling so much as it was a retelling of EVERY fairy tale you could possibly cram into one story, with a new overarching storyline to try and weave them all together, but it just didn't quite work for me. I can't even put my finger on what exactly was wrong, other than it was just too much story for it's own good. Things were rushed, or not developed well, or just plain didn't make sense. Frankly, it was not a well told story, and I didn't care enough about the characters or the love story to stay engaged. By the end, I was just bored, and I only finished it because I have this compulsion about finishing books. I have no desire to read any other book in this series.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

I was wary about this one at first. Maybe I was being judgmental, but the premise turned me off a little bit. A cyborg Cinderella? Sounds pretty weird. Then there was just that unfortunate name association between Marissa Meyer and Stephanie Meyer which just made feel like Marissa's writing would be of the same ilk, and I felt vaguely skeptical. But! Lay your first impressions aside, because this one was just fun.

So, it wasn't perfect. The romance in this one felt more than a little unbelievable (she never gives a good justification for why a prince would fall for a mechanic) but then, it's Cinderella. The romance was never very believable, and you just sort of have to suspend your disbelief because it's really quite enjoyable once you get past that. The whole dystopian world, civilizations on the moon, cyborg second class citizens, it was a fun setting. I really liked seeing the plot unfold in this setting, and enjoyed the complications with the technology, the plague, and the political tensions. Also, it was just well written. Meyer did such a nice job, and I am dying to read the next one in the series (have it on hold as we speak).

So what was the difference between these two books? Why did I love one and hate the other? The level of writing had to do with it. The likability of the characters and the unique setting played a factor. But mostly, I think the lesson is be careful how you mess with a good formula. Fairy tales are popular because their plots follow certain tropes. Kontiss meshed and messed with the plot structure until it lost any charm the original fairy tales held. Meyer reinterpreted setting and complications, but kept the basic fairy tale in tact. In the end, that formula worked so much better for me.


  1. I have been dying to read Cinder ever since it first came out. I honestly don't know why it has taken me so long.

    Have you read Wildwood Dancing? I thought it was a great retelling of the princess and the frog (though it does have the 12 dancing princesses mixed in with it).

  2. I really liked Cinder too. The second book was ok, but not quite as good, I thought.

    1. Interesting, because I think I liked the second book better. Either way, though, it's a fun series.