Fairy Tales and Fantasies : Original and Retold
I honestly will read—and enjoy—almost anything, but fantasies have been my favorite since I first read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe in fifth grade.
Here are some of my favorite 2015 YA fantasies. Since speculative fiction tales tend to take more than one book to tell, check out the end of the post for recent and upcoming additions to fantasy series.
Ash & Bramble by Sarah Prineas. 9780062337948. 2015. Gr 9-12.
The only life Pin remembers is in the Godmother’s fortress, where she is a Seamstress, making ball gowns beautiful enough for fairy tale princess. But she is sure that she came from somewhere else and that she had another name. After she escapes from the fortress, she is recaptured and forced to live out the Cinderella tale. But in this version, the prince is not the hero, the Fairy Godmother isn’t sweet and lovely, and no one really wants to have a fairy tale life.
Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge. 9780062224767. 2015. Gr 9-12.
I’m not familiar with the tale “Girl with No Hands”, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying how Hodge combines it with “Little Red Riding Hood.” Rachelle trains to be a woodwife whose charms protect her village from the evil that lurks in the woods. But she is tricked by a evil wolf-like creature, and becomes bound to him by an invisible crimson thread. Three years later, Rachelle takes a position as a bodyguard to Prince Armand. At first, she loathes the prince, but she begins to see that he could help her find a legendary sword that will save their world from endless night.
Dark Shimmer by Donna Jo Napoli. 9780385746557. 2015. Gr 10-12.
Napoli has retold several fairy tales from the antagonist’s point of view, viewing him or her through a more sympathetic lens. In this book, Dolce has grown up tormented for her large size in a land of much smaller people. Her only happiness was in her mother’s love and her talent for making mirrors. When her mother died, Dolce falls in love with a widower and his daughter, but begins to go mad from mercury poisoning.
Grounded : The Adventures of Rapunzel (Tyme, Book 1) by Megan Morrison. 9780545638265. 2015. Gr 6-8.
Rapunzel lives in a tower that grants her every wish. She loves Witch, who keeps her safe from all danger and unhappiness. One day, Jack (of beanstalk fame) climbs the tower to steal a magic rose, and he tells her that Witch is lying. When she ends up on the ground for the first time, Rapunzel finds that the world is more dangerous and more beautiful than she imagined—and that Jack might be right about Witch. Characters from quite a few fairy tales, a bit sympathetic toward the Witch.
The Shadow Behind the Stars by Rebecca Hahn. 9781481435710. 2015. Gr 7-12.
The Fates Chloe, Serena, and Xinot spin, measure, and cut the threads of human life. They live on an island separated from people, because it is dangerous for them to become involved with humans. But Aglaia, a mortal, finds them; she desperately wants to know why everyone in her village died in a raid and why she was spared. Chloe must try to keep her sisters from getting attached to the girl and involved in her dark fate that could unravel the world.
The next two books retell Scheherazade’s story in A Thousand and One Nights. each in a very different way. My issue with the original tale is that Scheherazade’s prize for staying alive is to remain married to a murderer! Both of these titles present a compelling reason for the king’s actions.
The Wrath & the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh. 9780399171611. 2015. Gr 9-12.
Shahrzad’s best friend was chosen to be one of the Khalid’s virgin brides—and then was executed the morning after her wedding. Now Shahrzad plans to avenge her friend’s death—and volunteers to be the caliph’s next bride. She tells stories to keep herself alive, but her scheme doesn’t account for the secrets she finds in the palace, or that her own feelings toward Khalid might change. This retelling is a drama with lots of action and romance.
A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston. 9781484722275. 2015. Gr 9-12.
A Thousand Nights is a more literary retelling. My issue with the original is that Scheherazade’s prize for staying alive is to remain married to a murderer! Here the ruler, Lo-Melkhiin, has been possessed by a demon, and his bride stays alive long enough to realize that Lo-Melkhiin was not always cruel, and that he might also be in need of saving. This is not a sappy romance, but focuses more on the love of family and of community, which I think makes it more intriguing.
Fantasy & Magic
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir. 9781595148032. 2015. Gr 9-12.
When Laia’s brother is arrested for treason against the brutal Martial Empire, she makes a pact with the rebels: she will spy for them in the Empire’s military academy, and they will try to rescue her brother. At the school, Laia meets Elias, the school’s best and fiercest soldier, who also dreams of freedom and escape. They both struggle to survive in this excellent fantasy. Marie Lu confessed that she missed her plane while reading the ending of this book.
Silver in the Blood by Jessica Day George. 9781619634312. 2015. Gr 7-10.
American cousins Dacia and Lou know little about their Romanian relatives, the Florescus. After their 17th birthdays, they are sent to Romania, where they learn about the family secrets known as the Claw, the Wing, and the Smoke. They also find out about their family’s centuries-old bond with the royal Dracula family, and when they are ordered to help Prince Dracula, Dacia and Lou must decide if they will accept their supernatural inheritance or fight to break free.
Uprooted by Naomi Novik. 9780804179034. 2015. Gr 10-12.
Uprooted’s Dragon is not a creature of scales and flame, but rather a wizard whose power keeps the evil Wood from taking over the valley. In return for his help, every ten years he takes one young girl to serve him in his remote tower. This time around he chooses Agnieska, who is not his typical choice at all. It turns out that Agnieska has some magic of her own—wilder but no less powerful than the Dragon’s—and it will be needed in the battle with the Wood. This dark fairy tale is original, fast-paced, and surprisingly funny in places, with a not totally unexpected romance.
Series updates for fairy tales and fantasy
The After-Room (Apothecary : 3) by Maile Meloy. 9780399175442. November 2015. Gr 5-8.
The Copper Gauntlet (Magisterium : 2) by Holly Black & Cassandra Clare. 9780545522281. 2015. Gr 5-8.
Frozen Tides (Falling Kingdoms : 4) by Morgan Rhodes. 9781595147073. December 2015. Gr 9-12.
Ice Like Fire (Snow Like Ashes : 2) by Sara Raasch. 9780062286956. 2015. Gr 7-12.
The Shepherd’s Crown (Tiffany Aching : 5) by Terry Pratchett. 9780062429971. 2015. Gr 6-9.
Smoked (Scorched : 3) by Mari Mancusi. 9781402284649. 2015. Gr 9-12.
Winter (Lunar Chronicles : 5) by Marissa Meyer. 9780312642983. November 2015. Gr 8-12.