The final book in our season of fairytale retellings is an enchanting novella from an independent publisher.
Rhea is an ordinary miller’s daughter, engaged to be married under suspicious circumstances to a man not of her choosing. He has unknown powers and a manor house full of mysterious women.
Rhea has a hedgehog.
It’s probably not going to be enough.
The Seventh Bride is a retelling of Bluebeard, a sort of gothic horror fairytale in which a young wife discovers that all her predecessors have been murdered by her husband. In this version, Rhea is forced to marry the mysterious Lord Crevan — she doesn’t want to, but neither she nor her family can manage to say ‘no’. When she arrives at his manor house, most of the previous wives are still alive, but have all had something taken from them, and Rhea wonders what it is he wants from her.
Our fifth choice in this season of folk and fairytale retellings is the only book on the list to feature science fiction elements.
Maybe I’ve reminded Papa of the curse and he has nailed me into the tower to protect me!
It would be nice to believe that, nicer than believing he has shut me up to starve out of pure pique. However, if Mama’s Aunt Carabosse managed to get to my christening without an invitation, it is unlikely she would be forestalled by my being locked in a tower.
I do not want to spend the next hundred years lying in this tower room, waiting for some prince to happen by, however charming he may be. The idea is intensely unpleasant and frightening!
It is 1347, and as her sixteenth birthday approaches, Beauty waits for the magical curse that is her fate, trying to avoid spindles and spinning wheels, and her indifferent father and wicked stepmother. But when the inevitable happens, it is not Beauty who succumbs but her illegitimate twin sister Beloved. Beauty escapes, and resolves to find her absent faery mother, who left when she was just a baby. However, just as she is setting out she stumbles across some time travellers from 2091, who kidnap her and take her back to their nightmarish, post-apocalyptic future. And so she begins a long and wondering journey, through different centuries and places both real and imaginary.
I couldn’t bring myself to curate a series of fairytale retellings without including something by Robin McKinley, probably the queen of the genre, and Deerskin has always been my favourite.
When he opened it he reached in to lift something out: and there was a small silver-fawn-colored fleethound puppy who trembled, and struggled to be set down, and as soon as the herald had done so tried to climb into his kneeling lap, and hide her small slender face under his arm.
“The Prince’s favourite bitch whelped two months ago,” said the herald, while the fleethound presented her rear parts to the court and dug her head farther under his arm. “When he heard of your loss, begged his parents to let him send the princess one of the puppies.”
It was the first time anyone of the court had thought of the princess since the queen fell ill.
Princess Lissar’s mother was the most beautiful lady in all of the seven kingdoms. When she died, when Lissar was just a child, she made the King promise that he would not marry again unless it were to someone as beautiful as she. Everyone knows that could never happen, but as Lissar grows up, she resembles her mother more and more, and so attracts the roving eye of her father.
I’d already picked this season’s theme of folk and fairytale retellings when I discovered the Book Smugglers — an indie publisher currently publishing a series of short stories based on… subversive fairytales! I’ve enjoyed all of them but so far Hunting Monsters by SL Huang is my favourite. You can read it online or purchase from ebook retailers. I recommend reading the story before my review as it contains mild spoilers.
My mother taught me to shoot, but it was Auntie Rosa who bought me my first rifle. It was long and sleek and shiny, varnished wood and brass and just my size. I fell in love at first sight.
“Isn’t she a trifle young for a firearm?” said my mother.
“Too young? Ha. Seven is almost too old,” said Auntie Rosa. She reached down and ruffled my hair as I ran my fingers along the stock over and over again, marvelling at the living smoothness of the wood. “Happy Birthday, child. Careful not to shoot any grundwirgen.”
Xiao Hong lives with her mother Mei and her Auntie Rosa, two formidable hunters. She knows the most important rule about hunting: you must never shoot a grundwirgen, a human in animal form, because doing so is tantamount to murder. But just after her fifteenth birthday, her mother is arrested for murder — accused of killing a grundwirgen. The past has caught up with Rosa and Mei, and Xiao Hong must come to terms with the grey area between good and evil.
This is the second post in our season of folk and fairytale retellings.
‘Novices are not permitted to write letters,’ Sœur Emmanuelle said.
‘But I must write. I must write to the King, and to my friends at court. I must write to my sister so she knows where I am… and my stories. How am I to write my stories?’
‘Stories?’ Sœur Emmanuelle spoke scornfully. ‘You think you may waste your time here writing such frivolous stuff? Think again, mademoiselle.’
When Charlotte-Rose de la Force is banished from the French court to a convent for writing satires mocking the King, she assumes her life is over. Stripped of her wealth, her possessions, and even her clothes, she is forced to endure a life of manual labour and forbidden to write the stories that are her solace.
My theme for this first season of books is retellings of folk and fairy tales. This is a common premise for fantasy novels, but folk and fairy tales appear in stories from a wide range of genres. In curating this series I’ve tried to choose examples that aren’t the obvious ones — stories from outside the fantasy section, tales from different cultures, as well as a few old favourites of my own. I hope you enjoy my selection! And I’d love to know which retellings you’ve enjoyed — feel free to leave recommendations in the comments.
“Suppose,” she said, “I really am like the man in the story, and something happened to change my past.”
It was intended simply as a soothing daydream, to bury the strange pointless worry that seemed to be growing in her. But suddenly, out of it leaped a white flash of conviction. It was just like the way those four — or more — figures used to leap into being behind the fire in that photograph. Polly glanced up at it, almost expecting to see them again. There were only men-shaped clumps of hedge. The flash of conviction had gone too. But it left Polly with a dreary, nagging suspicion in its place: that something had been different in the past, and if it had, it was because of something dreadful she had done herself.
When Polly was a child, her greatest friend was a man called Thomas Lynn. Together they made up stories, in which Tom was a giant-killing hero and Polly his sidekick, stories which had an uncanny knack of coming true. So why doesn’t Polly remember Tom, and why does no-one else remember him either? And why does she have an awful feeling that it’s all her fault? As Polly gradually remembers more and more about her life with Tom, we follow the story of their friendship.