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May 6, 2022

2 Fantastic Fairy Tale Retellings

by MK French

Fairy tales have been told and retold since the beginning of story-telling. It is fun to see old favorites getting a fresh look and these two new re-tellings are fantastic.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. Free books were provided for an honest review.

Darling Girl by Liz Michalski

book cover of fairy tale retelling Darling Girl by Liz Michalski
May 2022; Dutton; 978-0593185636
audio, ebook, print (352 pages); fairy tale

Holly Darling, Wendy's granddaughter, runs a successful skincare company. Her son Jack is healthy and her daughter Eden is in a coma, nursed at the family estate. When Eden is missing, it can only be Peter Pan. Eden has a rare disease that ages her rapidly, and her blood is extremely valuable if studied. Jack knows nothing about this or who Eden's biological father truly is. People don't believe that Peter is anything other than a story, so Holly turns to the ex-soldier Christopher Cooke to help her find her daughter.

The story of Holly's children is revealed in bits and pieces, so that all we know at first is that Holly is desperately afraid of Jack getting cut or bloodied if he's sick or injured in some way. She's also a researcher working at a beauty company, and they're launching a new product called Pixie Dust that's meant to make people appear younger and more luminous. She's absolutely banking on the Darling name as much as she hates the notoriety it brings. About two-thirds of the way through the novel we discover how some of those bits of notoriety came to pass. Holly had seen Peter Pan for herself, but her mother Jane never did. Jane desperately wants to meet him, to have an adventure as her mother had, and doesn't seem to care how Peter isn't at all how Barrie's book made him look. On top of that is Cooke, a moody cypher with a hook for a hand that can't be controlled, even with the promise of money.

Everyone here is so damaged. Holly remembers the car accident that killed her husband and one of her sons, as well as the fall that led to Eden's coma. All she had done since is to protect her surviving children, even if that means collecting Eden's blood to at once create a serum to heal Jack and to try to reverse Eden's aging. Of course, her efforts aren't perfect, and keeping everyone in the dark about everything just leaves her isolated and stressed. The few relationships she has with others remained strained as a result of her secrecy, but she also has no idea how to go about searching for a needle in a haystack. Cooke is broody and flippant, a different kind of Captain Hook for a different kind of Peter Pan. We know the two will be at odds as soon as he's introduced in the first half of the book and having the original Peter Pan story in our minds as we read this one adds to our tension as the novel progresses.

Coupled with the story of Peter Pan is the story of family and the connections between them. Holly had to make many impossible choices, none of them very good, and there were consequences she was forced to deal with over the course of this book. Ultimately, it's always been her love for her children that mattered to her more than anything else. As Peter says, she chose her children over him rather than go to Neverland. When it mattered, none of the characters truly had a choice. Children had to be protected from what Peter became, no matter what. I enjoyed reading this, and wish them all (except for Peter!) well.

Buy Darling Girl at Amazon

Misrule by Heather Walter

book cover of fairy tale retelling Misrule by Heather Walter
May 2022; Del Rey; 978-1984818683
audio, ebook, print (480 pages); fairy tale

Alyce now controls all of Briar, a kingdom that revered decadence and beauty and left her an outcast. She wreaks havoc, Princess Aurora in an enchanted sleep so deep even Alyce can't wake her. Alyce will do anything to wake her, even if it means being the monster Briar believes her to be. But could Aurora love the villain Alyce has become?

This is book two of the Malice duology (read my review here). Aurora and Alyce had grown to love each other in the first book, even though Aurora's family had been cursed by the same dark magic that Alyce has. The Queens have become little more than figureheads over generations, and Aurora had hoped she could build a better kingdom with Alyce. At the close of that book, Aurora was cursed to sleep, and anyone other than Alyce would be able to wake her.

In the wake of the first book, Alyce took on the name Nimura, following in the footsteps of the first Vila. In the hundred years after, Nimura crafted the Dark Court where Briar used to be, and kept Aurora hidden where she tried to craft a potion that would allow her to wake without a kiss. Nimura's Dark Court fought off the fae, demolishing the other courts one after another except for that of the High King. Of course, everything goes wrong eventually, and old prophecies come to fruition after a fashion. Nimura is still reacting to old hurts; many of her tormentors still live, because now that the Graces aren't creating elixirs, their magic-laden blood isn't being depleted. Being half Vila and half shifter is still thrown in her face, and all of her old feelings are brought up as a negative. While she eavesdrops and lies throughout the book, she's also betrayed by people that she trusts most.

Because of the betrayals and shifting plots against the fae, there are twists and turns throughout the story. Nimura's emotions are put through the wringer, and she doubts herself almost all the time. It's hard for her to believe that more than a handful of confidantes want to help her, let alone care for her. Too much of the tormented Dark Grace still colors her reactions. This is accurate of that kind of trauma because she will forever lie in wait for a repeat. By the end of the novel, she has to learn to trust not only others but in herself and her own power. It's a healthier ending than the first novel; there, she relied on darker forces of her magic to raze a country to the ground, and now she's using her inner strength to do her best to end a war and save her people. She isn't alone in this and had to learn that the hard way. I wish we had a clear happily ever after, but the ending of the novel fits and furthers the growth that was started. I loved this book, and feel it's a fitting conclusion to the duology.

Buy Misrule at Amazon

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and a golden retriever.

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  1. I read Darling Girl and liked it... I'm also hosting a giveaway for it. I have to go check out Misrule further. :-)