With the rise of YA came the rise of fairy tale adaptions, re-emphasizing that there are only so many “original” ideas and everything else is just a rehash of what has already been done. That being said, there have been books I have thoroughly enjoyed out of this trend based solely on a combination of good writing, good story, and inventive/original spin on the stories we know backwards and forwards.
Cinderella is by far the most popular character to be “re-imagined”, if only because her story allows the most flexibility and does not need magic to work. A lot of authors have take it upon themselves to make fairy tale heroines their own heroes, not allowing a prince to come save them from an evil witch or stepmother. Some even take the side of the villain’s point of view (re: Gregory Maguire’s Wicked or Jon Scieska’s The True Story of the Three Little Pigs) just to prove that the story we all know is not what really happened.
These re-imaginings have gone on to include not just fairy tales but different mythologies and other classics such as The Wizard of Oz, Peter Pan, and Alice in Wonderland, each with varying degrees of success. They have also included “sequels” following whatever happens after Happily Ever After or the fairy tale characters’ children and whether or not they are affected by their parents’ stories.
Depending on your tastes, you can probably find an adaption that suits you. There have dark re-imaginings; feminist re-imaginings; goofy re-imaginings; epic re-imaginings; specific time period re-imaginings; and the list goes on. However, some adaptions/re-imaginings are not as well known as others and I would like to recommend one of my new favorites.
The Girls at the Kingfisher Club
The Girls at the Kingfisher Club was loaned to me by one of my best friends (with whom I share an affinity for reading) with her highest recommendations. I then proceeded to devour the book in a span of two days. (It would have been one sitting, but I was visiting said friend along with many others at my old college stomping grounds and therefore was required to be social at least for some of the time.)
It is a spin on the Grimm fairy tale The Twelve Dancing Princesses. While this story does have its own adaptions (one of them being taken on by no one other than the fashion icon Barbie™ herself), it is not as popular as Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, or Snow White.
In Genevieve Valentine’s version, the story takes place in New York City in the Jazz Age, which is itself a revolution for American dance. The princesses are daughters of a man who keeps them hidden due to his embarrassment at his failure to produce a male heir. The sisters sneak out not just as an act of rebellion but also to expand on their world experiences and liberation from their father’s unjust rule.
The story is mostly told from the point of view of the eldest sister, Josephine, who takes on the role as the General or Commander, protecting her sisters from their father and their own reckless behavior. However, some of her sisters see Jo’s protectiveness as yet another form of oppression. Events begin to spiral out of control as their father becomes aware that his daughters might be disobeying him and it is up to the sisters to resolve their differences in order to save each other from a fate worse than death: marriage to men who share their father’s view on how women should be kept.
The story is short and written with modern language that is reminiscent of a fairy tale. Valentine is not overly verbose in her descriptions but lets the characters’ words and actions speak for themselves. The father is easy to loathe and Josephine’s story is filled with hope and heartbreak. The reader is made to understand why she made the choices that she did (not all likable), even at the cost of her own sisters’ love and adoration.
This book may not be easy to find (most large book sellers such as Barnes and Noble only carry one or two copies at any given time (if at all)) and may require a special order through a bookseller of your choice. The story is also available on Kindle, but the hardcover version is especially lovely (see pictured above).