Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Sunday Symposium: Retellings

Sunday, October 7, 2012 with 5 comments

The Sunday Symposium is a weekly feature in which I'll be discussing various bookish topics and asking for your commentary, as well.  This week's topic is retellings and reimaginings.

This post is inspired by the fact that I recently started Ironskin by Tina Connolly, which is a reimagining of Jane Eyre.  I've been told to forget what I know of the original in order to properly appreciate the retelling, but that's almost asking too much of me.  I'll admit, I didn't get very far into the book before putting it aside for other reads that were better able to hold my attention, but even so, expecting me not to compare the two novels goes against my very nature.

I'm always iffy when starting a novel that's based even partly on a story I've already read, simply because I will make those comparisons.  I try not to nitpick a retelling to death, but I do like to see how the nuances of the original novel manifest themselves in the new version.  That's part of the fun of a retelling.

Source:  ~temporary-peace on deviantART
I don't always like retellings, but when I do, they're usually mythology-based, like Everneath by Brodi Ashton.  But not always.  I also really enjoyed Cinder by Marissa Meyer, which is a sci-fi Cinderella reimagining.  I love revisiting fairy tales!  Masque of the Red Death, which is a re-envisioning of the world created by Edgar Allen Poe, was also a brilliant read.  And then there are those retellings that just fall flat and make me wish I'd never given them the chance in the first place, or in some cases, that I'd read the original instead of the retelling.   (I'm looking at you Beastly and Tris & Izzie.)

I also like to read multiple retellings of the same story and then compare those to the original.  I know...I'm all kinds of nerdy up in here.  :)  Seriously, though.  Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is considered a masterpiece and rightly so, and therefore it behooves me to read works based on this novel and make the necessary assumptions about those books in comparison to their predecessor.  I've started The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein series by Kenneth Oppel, which is kind of a prequel story, and it's very intriguing, seeing how this young man dabbles in the dark arts and where it leads him.  But I'm also very interested in checking out The Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna, which I didn't even know was based on Frankenstein until I started seeing interviews with the author pop up before the book's release.

So, how do you feel about retellings?  Love 'em?  Hate 'em?  Complete and total indifference?  :P  Have you read any of the ones I mentioned?  What did you think?  Got any you'd recommend?  Wanna win one?  Then stop back by tomorrow because I'll be giving away a retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses as part of the Happily Ever After Giveaway Hop!


  1. For me it also depends. I think if the original story is just transferred into the present day the whole thing is a bit superfluous - I need a more original spin to the story.
    I finished Ironskin last week (review up tomorrow) and also found it hard to get into but sticking with it paid out in the end. Love Masque of the Red Death! I felt kind of indifferent about Beastly and haven't read any of the author's other books because of that.
    But I'm really really curious about Kenneth Oppel's Frankenstein books! He explores a part of Shelley's novel I was always really curious about because it's left blank. I like retellings who set in at another part of the original story or explore it from a different angle/character's viewpoint. And of course I can't just not compare the retelling(s) to the original or each other, that's part of the fun ;)

  2. I love retellings, fairytale or classic. I think they are fun to see how things match up and how things are done with a modern or different twist to them. So for my favorite have been Jackson Pearce's Sister Red and Sweetly. I have not read Fathom yet but can't wait to get my hands on it.

  3. I really like fairytale retellings and books about mythology, yet for some reason I've read quite a few that didn't sit well with me. I haven't read Cinder, but Everneath and Masque of the Red Death were mediocre; unmemorable. I like Gail Carson Levine's retellings though, and also adored Heart's Blood, The Snow Child, Tiger Lily and Impossible. I greatly look forward to reading Ironskin too!

    Great post, Jen. :)

  4. The twelve dancing princesses? Is it Entwined? I love that book. I read a lot of retellings. Tiger Lily, Red Death, etc. and I love those books. I love fantasy, period.

  5. I find it hilarious how I love all the one's you said you ALSO loved! I have The Lost Girl AND Tiger Lily still laying around, unread...and I'm so excited to find out it's based off of Frankenstein..."gasp"...I must read it soon!


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