30 Day Book Challenge: Day 14!

Heading towards the half way point. Slowly. I’m aiming to finish by Christmas, possibly on Christmas Day which gives me 20 days in which to complete the final 16. Still a little bit of leeway!

Anyway, today’s challenge is

A fairytale retelling.

And there are a lot of these to choose from, even if we focus simply on retellings rather than new stories with a fairytale feel to them. Especially in the Young Adult sections of a library – or a school library.

Let’s pick three which are delightful though, albeit in different ways.

Firstly, the wonderful Winternight Trilogy by Katherine Arden, embedded in Russian folklore and retelling (and embroidering) the story of Vasilisa the Beautiful and Morozko, Father Frost. Arden has created a wonderful and vibrant and credible protagonist in the less conventionally beautiful and “frog-faced” Vasilisa Petrovna in her relationship with the satisfying alien and other Morozko is beautifully pitched. It’s one of those rare trilogies which cements the story in a particular location – a remote village in the wilds of Russia, bound by snow and ice – and successfully moves the narrative into a completely different location in the second book. This series will also always have a soft place in my heart because it was the first ARC I received and the third novel, The Winter of the Witch, will still not be released until January 2019!

Secondly, one of my favourite fairytale writers, Neil Gaiman’s The Sleeper and the Spindle. This story / picture book / graphic novel, is absolutely gorgeous and packed with wonderful illustrations by Chris Riddell. It is exhaustingly beautiful. And Gaiman manages to subvert pretty much every convention in the most familiar fairytales that we all know: Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty….

 The final and utterly compelling example is The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter, powerful and hard-hitting, explicitly feminist, retellings of a range of fairy tales but those which haunted be are the wolf stories. I do love a wolf and, as Carter says “The wolf is carnivore incarnate.” And she brings to the forefront the sexuality and sexual awakenings implicit in so many fairytales.  And Carter’s prose is so beautiful.

Now a great howling rose up all around them, near, very near as close as the kitchen garden, the howling of a multitude of wolves; she knew the worst wolves are hairy on the inside and she shivered, in spite of the scarlet shawl she pulled more closely round herself as if it could protect her although it was as red as the blood she must spill.

There is a vast melancholy in the canticles of the wolves, melancholy infinite as the forest, endless as these long nights of winter and yet that ghastly sadness, that mourning for their own, irremediable appetites, can never move the heart for not one phrase in it hints at the possibility of redemption.

And, ah! his castle. The faery solitude of the place, with its turrets of mistly blue, its courtyard, its spiked gate, his castle that lay on the very bosom of the sea with seabirds mewing about its attics, the casements opening onto the green and purple, evanescent departures of the ocean, cut off by the tide from land for half a day . . . that castle, at home neither on the land nor on the water, a mysterious, amphibious place, contravening the materiality of both earth and waves, with the melancholy of a mermaiden who perches on her rocks and waits, endlessly, for a lover who had drowned far away, long ago. That lovely, sad, sea-siren of a place.

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