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Fairy Tale Fantasy – Don’t Miss These Captivating Reads

by on January 10, 2013

I have been in love with fairy tales ever since I was a child. These magical stories filled my childhood with imagination and wonder, and it is no surprise that as an adult I have sought out fairy tale-inspired fiction in troubled times. For me, there is something innately comforting about these stories. Modern authors, such as Mercedes Lackey, Pamela Dean, and Neil Gaiman, have provided me with hours of reading pleasure and new takes on some of the favorite stories from my youth. Lackey’s Tales of the 500 Kingdoms series, Dean’s Tam Lin, and Gaiman’s Stardust have reawakened the fairy tale fantasy genre and given it new life, and any fantasy collection is more complete for having them on the shelves.

Mercedes Lackey, best-selling author of the Heralds of Valdemar series and many others, brings to life a magical new world where fairy tale archetypes take unexpected turns with her Tales of the 500 Kingdoms series.  In The Fairy Godmother, the first in the series,  Lackey turns tradition on its head when Elena Klovis, her kingdom’s Cinderella, finds herself without a Prince. Thanks to her own Fairy Godmother, she instead becomes the protector and guide of the Tradition (with a capital T) as a Fairy Godmother, complete with trials and tribulations, haughty princes, and ultimately, true love. One Good Knight, the second in the series of books, finds bookish and bespectacled Princess Andromeda packed off as a sacrifice to a dragon, and along the way, she gets a little help from her own Champion and finds love in the most unusual form of all. There are currently seven books in the 500 Kingdoms series: The Fairy Godmother, One Good Knight, Fortune’s Fool, The Snow Queen, The Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Werewolf, and A Tangled Web.

Neil Gaiman, who some readers will recognize for the film adaptations of his works Coraline (2009) and Stardust (2007), is included in this discussion of fairy tales specifically for the novel Stardust. The book tells the story of Tristran Thorn (called Tristan in the movie version) who leaves the village of Wall for the world of Faerie to capture a fallen star for his dream girl. In the world of Faerie, fallen stars are sentient beings that appear as human, and Tristran soon discovers Yvaine, the fallen star, who throws mud at him and hurls insults. Tristran resolves to bring her to Victoria, and the two set off, but unbeknownst to them both, they are being followed by a Witch-Queen who wants to kill the star and take her heart. Throw in a royal family feuding over a succession for the throne, magic, and air pirates, and you have a truly enjoyable story that is a must read for fairytale fans.  Stardust is available in both print and electronic formats.

My last choice for Fairytale Fantasy is also classified as Contemporary Fantasy and is not based on a fairytale, but a Scottish Ballad. Tam Lin, by Pamela Dean, tells the story of Janet, an English major at fictional Blackstock College in Minnesota, who comes face to face with the realm of Faerie during her studies in the Classics Department. Filled with English literature quotes; classics such as The Iliad, Shakespeare, and Keats; ghosts; and a little magic, this story is a captivating read I recommend to anyone interested in fairy tales. Tam Lin is currently available only in print.

Join me next time as I delve into the world of Dark Fantasy for some spooky good fun. As always, keep reading, and may all your stories be epic.