Regina Doman's first fairy tale novel was published in 1997 by Bethlehem Books under the title, Snow White and Red Rose. A few years later it was re-published with the title Shadow of the Bear, and there followed more books in the series. I found these novels when I was searching for suitable books for my daughter's birthday. I think she was about 14 years of age when I bought the first one and she loved it and requested more in the series.
Each book is a modern re-telling of a Grimm Brother's fairy tale and each chapter commences with a quote from the original story. These classic tales are put into a modern setting (e.g. New York City), and the characters face various cultural challenges and battles that young people may find themselves in today. A familiarity with the original fairy tale is helpful (I've linked to online versions of the original tales) and enhances the story, but it's not essential.
The books mature with the reader, with subsequent books tackling darker themes. The first three should be read in order as the main characters re-appear in the books.
The Shadow of the Bear
'Once upon a time in New York City...
...there lived two sisters who loved books, poetry, music, and fairy tales.
They lived with their widowed mother in a brownstone with two rose bushes in front of it.
One winter night, a Bear came to their door and they let him in, even though he could not tell them his real name or his real mission.
He became their friend, protector, and constant companion.
They never dreamed that his friendship might cost them their lives.'
Picky parents guide to this book.
My book isn't a 1950's throwback—it's not a sweet book. I'm a child of the '70s, a teen of the '80s and, growing up in the teeth of the sexual revolution, I lost the innocence of the imagination early, as many kids today still do. I have no nostalgia for a safer and purer time—I never knew one.
My two heroines, Blanche and Rose, face the ugliness that is out there today, and they don't back down. They face the battle for the culture, and they fight it by how they live their lives. I think that's one reason why teens love them. And the "enchanted prince" of the story, Bear, is a great character—guys seem to identify with his sense of purpose and his convictions. He's on a lonely, dangerous mission for justice that few would understand or appreciate, and I think that resonates with teens.
Black as Night
This sequel to The Shadow of the Bear is based on Grimm's Snow White and the Seven Dwarves,
only in this case, the seven dwarfs are seven Franciscan friars. The story revolves mostly around Blanche, but it's a great book for boys, with its strong male characters. It moves more quickly than its predecessor and although there is some harsh realism, the author's writing isn't bleak, and the themes of faith, love and honour are embedded in the story. It's a step up, maturity level wise from the first book.
Waking Rose is a re-telling of The Sleeping Beauty and centres around nineteen year old Rose and her relationship with Fish, Bear's brother. Fish is struggling with an abusive past and fears that Rose wouldn't understand his situation so he distances himself from her. When tragedy strikes, Fish is drawn into web of corruption and retaliation, and into a battle for Rose's life. This is quite a suspenseful book and has some mature themes. Recommended for readers 16 years of age and up.
The Midnight Dancers
A re-telling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses.
This book is quite different from the first three and can stand on its own (one of the characters, Paul Fester, makes an appearance in Waking Rose). Rachel is eighteen and tired of her restricted life with her father, stepmother and her eleven step-sisters. When the girls discover a secret passageway from their old historic home, they make night visits to a bay, meet some interesting characters, and Rachel begins to live a double life.
But why live in the light, when the night seems so irresistibly intriguing?
Regina Doman is a Catholic author and in this book, Rachel's parents are strict Fundamentalists. I think she does quite a good job of showing the effects of outer (legalistic) control and its inability to change the heart. Recommended for ages 16 years and older.
Alex O'Donnell and the 40 Cyber Thiefs
This is a modern retelling of the classic Arabian Nights tale Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves and is less intense than the other books. Alex finds out that his dad, a computer hacker and software programmer has accidentally found a mysterious website that promises instant wealth. Alex and his very untechnological girlfriend, Kateri, end up taking on 40 cyber thiefs. A good bit of technological jargon is thrown about in the book, which is probably why I didn't enjoy it quite as much as the others, but it's still a worthwhile read.
The author recommends it for ages 14 years and over.
Rapunzel Let Down
This is the author's latest re-telling, published in 2013. I haven't read it yet but will be buying a copy for my 23 year old daughter and probably my daughter-in-law also, as they both love Doman's books. It is definitely a book for 18 year olds and over, according to the author.
Beauty by Robin McKinley
I read this book many years ago and recently read it again. It's a re-telling of Beauty and the Beast and is suitable for around age 13 years and up. Beauty was the nickname for the youngest of three girls whose given name was Honour. She was the ugly duckling of the three girls, a tomboy but much loved by her family. To save her father's life (or so she thought) she was obliged to go to live with the Beast in his enchanted castle. It really is a lovely story with some important but not heavy handed themes. A younger child could read it but I was thinking that my 11 year old would turn up her nose at any sign of romance so I'll be leaving it for awhile.
Stories From the Faerie Queen by Mary Macleod
I'm putting this here as an option for teens or adults who haven't read or may have had difficulty reading Spencer's Faerie Queen. We've used Fierce Wars and Faithful Loves, by Roy Maynard which is scheduled in Year 8 of Ambleside Online but the re-telling by Macleod is good for a range of ages.
Linking up at Top Ten Tuesday for 'Top Ten ALL TIME Favorite Books Of X Genre' - i.e. Fairy Tale Re-tellings for Teens - even though I only managed eight out of ten.