Last year, on the the recommendation of some of my blog friends, I read Orson Scott Card’s sci-fi materpiece, Ender’s Game. Although I thought the ending was bit weak, I enjoyed the book very much. Now I’ve read my second book by Card, and it’s quite different from Ender’s Game, but also delightful.
Enchantment is a fantasy fairy tale based on the story of Sleeping Beauty, set in Russia, and reminiscent of Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. A late twentieth century American young man named Ivan goes back in time to the ninth century to the kingdom of Taina after rescuing a sleeping princess from the clutches of a ravening bear. The book is full of paganism and witchcraft mixed with, sometimes clashing with, Orthodox Christianity and Judaism. Ivan is Jewish; the princess is Christian; both lapse into scientism or superstition at times. The atmosphere of ninth century Eastern Europe is recreated in a way that feels right. Christianity has become the official religion of Taina, but for some it’s only a thin veneer over their native paganism. And when the kingdom must confront and fight true, powerful Evil in the shape of Baba Yaga, the witch, it’s necessary to call on both the old gods and the new Christ and on all the help that the twentieth century can send into the past.
If you’re interested in retellings of fairy tales or in medieval historical fiction, Enchantment is one of the best of either I’ve read. It’s an adult or young adult book with some (married) sexual descriptions and innuendos.
Some children’s fairy tale novels that I like:
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine. In fact, you can hardly go wrong with any of Levine’s books for children.
The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale.
Beauty by Robin McKinley.
Briar Rose by Jane Yolen. Another Sleeping Beauty recreation set in and around the Holocaust. I know it sounds odd, but it works.
The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope. Loosely based on the ballad of Tam Lin.
Sarah Beth Durst’s latest fairy tale commentary: Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Ms. Durst also has a fairy tale-based book, hot off the presses, that I’d like to read and make one of my favorites. It’s called Into the Wild, and I’m going to read it as soon as I get my hands on a copy. I’d also like to read some of Donna Jo Napoli’s fairy tale novels for children and young adults. She’s a good author.
If you read this genre, what are your favorite fairy tales retold or adapted to novel form?