Welcome, ladies and gents, to my newest feature here on The Fangirl Reads: The Fangirl Recommends, where I talk about my favorite books and movies and TV shows that have to do with particular genre. I’ve been plotting to get some kind of recommendations post up here for a while but I wasn’t sure where to start. But I finally figured it out….
In honor of my favorite TV show, Once Upon A Time, and its absurdly wonderful mashup of all things fairytales having its 6th (!!!!) midseason premiere yesterday, I’m starting with my Favorite Retellings. Being the hopeless romantic that I am, I’m a sucker for fairytales and classic stories and Disney movies and the like and I love when someone can breath new life into those stories. And these are the ones I think have done it best.
As a disclaimer, I will say I am going to go into rant mode with the TV/Movie section of the piece because they’re what I’m more familiar with. Anyway, here we go!
I can’t talk about retellings without talking about The Lunar Chronicles by the one, the only, Marissa Meyer. Words cannot describe how much I love this series and the characters and how I wish it would never end. If you’ve been living under a rock for the last five years, this is an epic series that takes four beloved fairytales – Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and Snow White – and sets them in the future with cyborgs and androids and moon dwellers with powers. Its exciting, romantic, at moments hilarious (*cough*Thorne*cough*) and easily has one of the best main casts of characters that I’ve read in a long time. And one of the best parts about it is the way that Meyer weaved the references to the original stories into the her world and, especially in the later books, balanced the retelling side with the larger story of the series. There’s a spin-off/continuation graphic novel duology called Wires and Nerve, the first edition of which was published in January. It’s a great addition to the series as a whole, but doesn’t add much to the retelling side of the story. Ms. Meyer also has another retelling that I can’t help but recommend, the Alice in Wonderland prequel, Heartless. It’s much darker than The Lunar Chronicles, with more of a focus on the forbidden romance between Catherine, a young noblewoman who has caught the eye of the King of Hearts and Jest, the King’s Jester. It’s a pretty solid origin story but, you know it isn’t going to end well from the get go, and it puts a damper on the tone. One last one I want to throw out there is a hidden gem of a book called Unhooked by Lisa Maxwell. Its dark and twisted Peter Pan retelling – my favorite kind. Its darker, edgier and sexier. I kind of loved it for reasons that I’ll get to in a second, but it’s a hell of a lot of fun.
TV and Movies
If you’re going to talk about retellings, I can’t skip the reason that I’m writing this post in the first place and that is Once Upon A Time. I have a lot of feelings about this show and its utter insanity that I love so much- literally, this show is cray-cray at moments. Basically, a woman named Emma is approached by the son she gave up for adoption with a crazy story – his town is populated by fairytale characters, cursed to forget who they really are by the evil queen of Snow White fame and Emma, supposedly Snow White and Prince Charming’s daughter – is the only one who can break the spell. And that’s just the premise for the first season! It’s gone on to touch on pretty much every Disney movie ever (ABC is owned by Disney, so , ya know, ease of access), not to mention Camelot and Robin Hood and The Wizard of Oz and The Single Best Retelling Of The Peter Pan Story Ever (first half of season 3 nothing will ever top it not now not ever, end of story) while creating a bit of its own mythology. Not to mention houses the single best romantic couple and storyline ever put on TV. Basically, I love it to death and nothing will ever change that.
I also can’t skip Into The Woods, the popular Stephen Sondheim musical that fractures the hell out of all the classic fairytales. I will say that the second half is darker than the first – not that it’s any less good. And, if you’re going to watch this for the first time, I would HIGHLY recommend going for the video of the Original Broadway Cast that was filmed for PBS (I believe) rather than the Hollywood adaptation that came out a couple of years ago. Having seen both, there’s a great deal lost in adaptation, particularly so much of the humor that’s can only work on stage (there’s a one-off sight gag involving the cow that CANNOT be done in the movie).
And then there’s the one that introduced the idea of fractured fairytales to me and made a great deal of influence on me as far as my love of adaptations and my weird sense of humor. It’s a gem of an NBC miniseries called The 10th Kingdom and it credit my love of it as the reason that I watched/read everything else on this list. In this miniseries, an alternate dimension that houses the 9 Kingdoms (where all the fairytales live and breathe) intersects with New York City and sets a father and daughter off on what can only be described as a magical adventure. The writers have a sick sense of humor – I mean they body swap a man and a dog, have trolls obsessed with the BeeGees and a talking vacuum cleaner – and I love it to death. As far as pieces of media that influenced my interests into adulthood, this is right up there with Harry Potter. Yes, I am dead serious. Also, I have a really hard time watching the early seasons of the Gilmore Girls because of a certain overlap in casting.
That’s it for me this time! What about you? What retellings would you recommend?
See you next time!