Tuesday, 13 September 2016

8 Favourite Fairy Tale Re-tellings for Teens

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

Originally published by Bethlehem Books under the title 'Snow White and Red Rose,' this is a modern day retelling of the fairy tale of the same name. The two sisters in the re-telling are Blanche and Rose, and Bear is a mysterious, street-wise young man.

'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


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.


There are no magical or fantasy elements in these stories and the characters are very ordinary people living ordinary lives. This 'ordinariness' has allowed the author to create characters we can relate to and identify with. I read somewhere that she set out to take Chesterton's challenge and write a moden novel as if it were a fairy tale. As Chesterton observed in his book, Orthodoxy:

The old fairy tale makes the hero a normal human boy; it is his adventures that are startling; they startle him because he is normal. But in the modern psychological novel the hero is abnormal; the centre is not central. Hence the fiercest adventures fail to affect him adequately, and the book is monotonous. You can make a story out of a hero among dragons; but not out of a dragon among dragons. The fairy tale discusses what a sane man will do in a mad world. The sober realistic novel of to-day discusses what an essential lunatic will do in a dull world.  

G.K, Chesterton 

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.


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.

and here:


Unknown said...

Wow! I love this post, Carol!!! My oldest has read the first retelling on this list, we will have to look for these others.

M @ A Blog Of One's Own said...

That's a great list! I really want to read some fairy tale retellings - unbelievable I haven't read any so far!
Here's my own (first ever, yay!) TTT post if you want to check it out:

https://mreadsbooks.wordpress.com/2016/09/13/ttt-1-all-time-favorite-classics/ :)

Unknown said...

I don't read much fairy tale re-tellings, but I did love Beauty! I need to forward this on to my book group, as they love these kinds of stories :)


Aflyonmyhomeschoolwall said...

Awesome list! Thanks sooooooo much! We're major fairy tale lovers around here, and we haven't read the Regina Doman books, so we're super excited to have new stuff to look forward to. :)

Virginia Lee said...

This is great! Passing it along to a friend as well as looking into some of these for myself.

Carol said...

We've loaned our copies out to so many people. They are great books to get young adults reading.

Carol said...

I had a look and commented on your list last night. Love the classics :)

Carol said...

Thanks Allyson. Off to check out your list.

Carol said...

I always get excited when I find a new author. I hope she keeps writing!

Carol said...

Hope you enjoy them :)

Unknown said...

Welp, all of these are being added to my wishlist. (I'm really hoping that Vassa in the Night turns out well. Have you heard of it?)

Carol said...

I hadn't heard of that re-telling, Kira, but I had a quick look and it looks like it might be promising. Make sure you write a review if it's good!

Meghan said...

Wow, those sound amazing! I love hearing the author's perspective on her work.

Carol said...

The author has her own publishing company named in honour of G.K. Chesterton (Chesterton Press -'Fiction that Evangelizes the Imagination')Love that!

Daphne said...

I love retellings of fairytales, myths and legends. Am currently re-reading Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, which is based on Tam Lin. Have you read that? My favourite Tam Lin retelling is the Pamela Dean book though. Thank you for this list.

Carol said...

I haven't read anything by that author yet, Daphne, but I read that the book you mentioned is modeled after T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets, which I find interesting just in itself.

Brian Joseph said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog Carol.

I have been reading some of your posts. I really like your blog.

I have not read any of these retellings. Many of them sound very good. Many sound like they would be fine reads for adults. I think that is a lot of potential in this type of book.

I have heard very good things about Rapunzel Let Down.

Carol said...

My pleasure! I really enjoyed reading through your thoughts on the books you've read. I think the re-telling's do have a lot of potential and especially so if the original tale is known.

Unknown said...

These books sound amazing! I will definitely be checking them out soon!
Happy reading!