HAPPY VALENTINE’s DAY!
Valentine’s Day, many believe, was an invention of Geoffrey Chaucer in his Middle English poem The Parlemont of Foules (Parliament of Fowls, Assembly of the Birds), in which birds of all social ranks gather to pair off, refereed by Nature Herself. In the end, as three guy eagles vie for the hand of a beauteous lady eagle, Nature changes the usual medieval order of things by decreeing that the lady eagle gets to choose which of the suitors she will accept–or not to choose at all, if that’s what she wants.
What better celebration of the day dedicated to romantic love than reading and discussing fairytale retellings?
Last year, I looked at a number of fairytale fantasy retellings from traditions around the world. This year, I focused on two “literary” fairy tales, Rapunzel and Cinderella. Both are popular sources for contemporary retellings.
I chose three novels for each tale. My favorites were: Bitter Greens, Kate Forsyth’s marvelous historical-magical realist-fantasy novel based on Rapunzel, and A Single Thread of Moonlight, Laura Wood’s Victorian romance novel based on Cinderella. Close behind them, more or less tied, came Megan Morrison’s Grounded, a great Rapunzel fantasy choice for young readers, and Sometime After Midnight, a wonderful YA Cinderella-themed romance novel with an LBGTQ+ focus.
Last year’s novels were all solidly fantasy. This year, the mix was a little fantasy, a lot of romance, some satisfying historical fiction, and a dash of mystery. But this is a fantasy blog! I suppose this year I focused more on the retellings than on genre.
If you are a fantasy fan who doesn’t like romance, sort through the choices to find the fantasy novels: Bitter Greens (fantasy at the core), Grounded, and the historical fantasy-romance JJA Harwood’s The Shadow in the Glass.
If you are a fantasy fan who also likes romance, try A Single Thread of Moonlight, Sometime After Midnight, and (but only if you like your romance on the very steamy side tending toward hardcore steamy) Measha Stone’s Tower.
If you love historical novels as well as fantasy and/or romance, wow, Bitter Greens is an amazing read. Both A Single Thread of Moonlight and The Shadow in the Glass deal very well with their historical settings, too.
P.S. if you enjoy cozy historical mystery novels in an Old Country House setting, A Single Thread of Moonlight is the book for you.
Bitter Greens, The Shadow in the Glass, and Tower are adult reads. Tower is very adult, as in “if this were a movie, it would get an R rating.” Bitter Greens is for mature readers, not in the sexual sense (although it does deal frankly with the sexuality of its characters) but because this is very sophisticated writing, skilled readers will probably like it more.
A Single Thread of Moonlight, Sometime After Midnight, and Grounded are YA. Grounded skews very young, while A Single Thread of Moonlight–labeled YA by the publisher–appeals to both adults and younger readers. I’m an older reader, and I loved all three.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this year’s Valentine Week blog series. Happy reading!