Sarah V’s Retelling Review!

Welcome, everyone, to the first edition of my Retelling Reviews! For those of you who don’t know, I will be writing my dissertation on fairy tale retellings, and even though I’m a little more than a year away from starting my dissertation officially, I am already beginning to work on a methodology that will help me analyze books and other media based on fairy tales. Since this month’s fairy tale is “East of the Sun and West of the Moon,” I thought I would kick things off by revisiting one of my favorites: East by Edith Pattou. This time, as I read, I annotated the book and took down data that I hope will be useful to my analysis later on. I’m sharing some of that with you here, so this review will look a bit different from my other book reviews! 

To start off, I stayed up way too late last night making a fun infographic detailing some of the elements of both the tale and the novel. Check it out!

Now, Let’s Break it Down!

Panel 1: East was written by Edith Pattou and published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2003. The target audience is young adults and the genre is fantasy. It was 122 chapters and 476 pages

Panel 2: The tale “East of the Sun and West of the Moon” is Aarne-Thompson-Uther Type 425A and was collected in Norway by Asbjørnsen and Moe in 1845

Panel 3a – POV: The book is written in 1st Person and has 5 POV characters. 3 of these characters are men (Neddy, Father, and the White Bear) and 2 are women (Rose and the Troll Queen). 50 chapters are narrated by male characters and 72 are narrated by women, creating a proportion of 41% Men to 59% Women. However, broken down by page, we see that 155 pages are narrated by men and 321 are narrated by women, creating a proportion of 33% Men to 67% Women. It is interesting, and I believe important, to note that the story both begins and ends with the narration of a man, excepting the prologue, for which the identity of the narrator is unspecified.

Panel 3b – Elements of Folklore: The following elements of folk tradition and folklore are prominent throughout the book: material culture, vernacular vs. orthodox religion, verbal art, transmission of tradition, Rule of Three, and references to ATU Types 510B and 425A.

Panel 4a – Narrative Proportion: I measured narrative proportion by counting paragraphs in the tale found here. I divided this into the three major parts of the story (bear arrives, girl lives in castle and breaks taboo, girl goes on quest). For the novel, I measured narrative proportion by page, using the same three parts. The narrative proportion between the tale and the novel are almost identical, with only 7% of the novel being appended to account for the characters’ journey home. 

Panel 4b – Details: The three old women in the folktale were replaced with a mother/daughter pair, a drunk sailor, and a female Inuit shaman in the novel. The golden apple, golden spinning wheel, and golden carding comb in the tale were replace by a chess piece, a leiderstein (compass), and a story knife in the novel. The four winds from the tale did not appear in the book, but instead, an element from ATU 510B appeared (three dresses made of gold, silver, and moonlight). 


My hypothetical categorization of East is “Retelling” (a goal of this project is to more precisely define retellings, adaptations, reimaginings, and so forth). I have chosen this category because of the adherence to narrative proportion, the contemporary motivations of the characters, and the precision of detail both retained and substituted. 

While there are elements of the novel worth critiquing, such as the emphasis on male characters, overall I find this to be an exquisite example of a fairy tale retelling. It appeals to a 21st century audience while still retaining the setting and narrative features of the folktale. The inclusion of so many folkloric elements in the novel helps reinforce this. 

My analysis will only improve with more data, which I’ll acquire by reading more fairy tale retellings and looking for similar information, but for now I think this project is off to a great start and I’m looking forward to seeing what else I will uncover! 


If you like the story of Beauty and the Beast and fairy tale retellings then you might like this? It’s a retelling of the Norwegian fairy tale East of the Sun and West of the Moon which is pretty similar to Beauty and the Beast. It’s really good! One of my all time favorite fairy tale retellings!

September TBR

#1 – The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

Reason: After several times coming in just short of the win, it’s finally the champion of Recommendation Day!

Thoughts: I don’t generally read sci-fi, but I’ve heard mostly good things about this one!

Genre: Adult Science Fiction

#2 – Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

Reason: I’ve been wanting to read this since its’ release, but I haven’t gotten around to it! I want to read as much as I can by the time BookNetFest comes, because it’s one of the #BookNetReads for this year!

Thoughts: It’s a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin by Naomi Novik, and that’s about all I need to know. 

Genre: Adult Fantasy

#3 – The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer

Reason: September is going to be a crazy busy month for me, so I’ll need short, quick reads to get me through!

Thoughts: My best friend and my mom both love this, and I want to read it before watching the movie with my friend!

Genre: Historical Fiction

#4 – The House of Bernarda Alba by Federico Garcia Lorca

Reason: Teaching this Semester, Diverse Reading Challenge

Thoughts: I’m not teaching this until the end of the semester, but I’d like to get ahead on my planning and it also suits the Diverse Reading Challenge.

Genre: Drama

#5 – When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

Reason: Diverse Reading Challenge

Thoughts: You might remember that I interviewed Anna-Marie McLemore for First Friday Fairy Tales in May, and I’ll also be meeting her in October at the Sirens Conference. I really hope to get one of her books read this month!

Genre: YA Magical Realism

I’m going to keep this list short this month because the semester leaves things up in the air, but stay tuned for the wrap-up to see if I read anything in addition to this! 

Hello Sarah how are you ? I would like to know if you perhaps know a retelling of Aladdin and Anastasia ?

Hi there! I had a rough week but I’m catching up on some rest this weekend, so that’s nice. 🙂

I don’t know of an Aladdin retelling specifically, but Aladdin is part of the One Thousand and One Nights, and I know of a few retellings of that, such as The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh, A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston, and The Storyteller’s Daughter by Cameron Dokey. As for Anastasia, there’s The Diamond Secret by Suzanne Weyn and Saving Anastasia by Jenni L. Walsh (on Wattpad). I haven’t read most of these but the authors are very talented!

August Reading Wrap-Up

#1 – The Queen Underneath by Stacey Filak


Date Started: August 1st, 2018

Date Finished: August 4th, 2018

Reason: This had been on my list for a long time, and I was so excited about it! I was sad to be so disappointed.

Genre: YA Fantasy

Rating: 1 Star

Blog Review: Click Here

Patreon Review: Click Here

#2 – King John by William Shakespeare


Date Started: August 7th, 2018

Date Finished: August 8th, 2018

Reason: I’m teaching this for the fall semester, so I need to be familiar with it! 

Genre: Drama

Rating: 2 Stars

#3 – The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty


Date Started: August 6th, 2018

Date Finished: September 6th, 2018

Reason: I was really excited to read this one, so I picked it up for the Diverse Reading Challenge this month.

Genre: Adult Fantasy

Rating: 4/5 Stars

#4 – The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman


Date Started: August 4th, 2018

Date Finished: August 21st, 2018

Reason: This was the winner of Recommendation Day!

Genre: Adult Fantasy/Fabulism

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Blog Review: Click Here

#5 – A Princess Bound by Kristina Wright et. al


Date Started: August 9th, 2018

Date Finished: August –th, 2018

Reason: I needed something short to entertain me in the blank spaces in my busy schedule. 

Genre: Erotic Fantasy


Blog Review: Click Here

#6 – The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells


Date Started: August 15th, 2018

Date Finished: August –th, 2018

Reason: I am teaching this for the fall semester and I decided to teach it first, so I had to hurry up and read it! 

Genre: Science Fiction

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Top Five Wednesday!

Welcome to Top 5 Wednesday! Every week, join me and other bloggers/booktubers as we discuss our Top 5 Books according to the theme from the Top 5 Wednesday Goodreads Group! This group, started by @thoughtsontomes and @gingerreadslainey, has prompts every week.


Just in time for back to school, create a reading list for a class on a bookish topic of your choice! — I’m choosing “The American Fairy Tale,” which is the subject of a syllabus I’m currently developing and hopefully get the chance to use in the next couple of years!

#5 – The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

This book is considered the original American fairy tale, and L. Frank Baum’s series of books held a lot of social commentary on American culture at this point in time, including his convictions as a suffragist and women’s rights activist!

#4 – Transformations by Anne Sexton

This is a set of poems retelling fairy tales written by Anne Sexton. It’s considered one of the first important fairy tale retellings of the later 20th century, and she tackles themes of feminine autonomy, sexuality, and the darker side of the fairy tales. 

#3 – Briar Rose: A Novel of the Holocaust by Jane Yolen

This retelling of “Sleeping Beauty” blends the fairy tale with a generational novel of a Jewish girl learning of her grandmother’s past surviving the Holocaust. It’s another highly important selection in American fairy tales. 

#2 – Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast by Robin McKinley

This book is considered by many to be the foundational novel that kickstarted the genre of novel-length fairy-tale retellings post-1970. I consider it a very important hallmark, and it marks the beginning of the period of novels I plan to study in my dissertation.

#1 – My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me: Forty New Fairy Tales by Kate Bernheimer

This is a collection of short stories, all tale-retellings, written by some of the most iconic American writers in fantasy and other genres. I’d probably assign a few individual stories from this book, but it’s an important modern collection to look at! 

I didn’t include the nonfiction books I would plan to assign for a class like this, but the above are all incredibly important installations in the history of the American fairy tale and how its been interpreted over time! 

I’ve been writing a retelling for Little Red Riding Hood on & off for a few years, and feel that I’ve finally gotten to a place where the story is set in stone. I’ve deliberately avoided other retellings because I never wanted to take another authors idea’s. Recently a friend my told me that my story has similar plot points to popular, short story retelling. I feel stuck. I love where my story is, but don’t want to be accused of plagiarism. I was wondering if you had in advice on my situation.

Here’s the thing: it’s going to be very, very difficult to come up with an entirely unique fairy tale retelling concept. That’s just the nature of the genre. I wouldn’t worry too much about similarities with another retelling, because 1) there’s no way that everyone who’ll read yours will have also read the other and 2) I firmly believe that it’s best to stick with the story you believe in. Yes, you may have to explain that the short story did not inspire yours, but it’s unlikely that someone would accuse you of plagiarism (this generally come to word-for-word similarities). Just keep driving on with the story you believe in and don’t worry about other stories that might resemble yours. There’s no way to prevent the possibility of similarities with any kind of fiction, especially for fairy tale retellings, so just stick with your idea and don’t worry too much. 🙂

If you like cats so much, would you ever consider writing a retelling of Puss-in-Boots? Or the White Cat?


I would consider writing a retelling of pretty much any fairy tale! However, I wouldn’t do it unless I had a cool idea for how. I’ve got no ideas for those stories right now, but that could always change.

I love that @the-la-la-landerr mentioned The White Cat! I used it for my MA thesis this summer (examining women’s agency and selfhood in Maiden in the Tower tales). It’s one that ripe with potential for retelling, and it’s definitely on my list to tackle in the future!

Sarah Reviews: To Kill a Kingdom


To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

Princess Lira is siren royalty and the most lethal of them all. With the hearts of seventeen princes in her collection, she is revered across the sea. Until a twist of fate forces her to kill one of her own. To punish her daughter, the Sea Queen transforms Lira into the one thing they loathe most—a human. Robbed of her song, Lira has until the winter solstice to deliver Prince Elian’s heart to the Sea Queen or remain a human forever.

The ocean is the only place Prince Elian calls home, even though he is heir to the most powerful kingdom in the world. Hunting sirens is more than an unsavory hobby—it’s his calling. When he rescues a drowning woman in the ocean, she’s more than what she appears. She promises to help him find the key to destroying all of sirenkind for good—But can he trust her? And just how many deals will Elian have to barter to eliminate mankind’s greatest enemy?

Publication Date: March 6th, 2018

Date Started: July 24th, 2018

Date Finished: July 27th, 2018

Recommended By: An anon on tumblr

Acquired: Aubiobook from Audible

Content Warnings: Brief Sexual Assault, Violence, Blood, Parental Abuse, Amisia/Aromisia

Extended Review: Click Here

Rating: 5/5 Stars!

The Good: I basically fell in love with the characters instantly. There wasn’t a single character that I wasn’t fond of, and Elian and Lira both were incredible POV characters. I was rooting for them both so hard. They might be my new OTP of this year! The tension in this book was also incredible. I was on the edge of my seat more often than not and I was so utterly invested in the story! The stakes were high, the villain was awesome, the banter was A+. It’s clearly inspired by The Little Mermaid, but I don’t quite consider it a retelling (see my Extended Review for my reasoning). Nevertheless, the story it did tell was really enjoyable. There was so much to love about this book that I plan to get a hard copy as soon as I can. It needs to be in my collection! 

The Bad: The worldbuilding was inventive, but also a little basic in my opinion. There was a rich nation, a nation of warriors, a nation love, a nation of thieves … it seemed a little too simple to me. The characters within these places were good, but I found the rest to be a bit bland. I thought there was a missed opportunity with descriptions of sailing that I enjoyed in other books, like The Girl From Everywhere and A Conjuring of Light. There’s also a problem with amisia and arophobia in the character of Gallina. This queen apparently cannot touch anyone without making them fall in love with her, so she refuses to touch anyone, not even her husband, which leads him to throw a coup. Then there’s also this troublesome notion that her gift only affects men, not women. So … I’m not sure what to make of this, really. It made me uncomfortable, as an asexual and grey-romantic person, that this touch aversion/sex aversion was such a problem to everyone and negatively affected her ability to rule. This doesn’t strike me as something that was intentionally anti-ace or -aro, but it seems like an idea that wasn’t thought through all the way and could upset some people. 

Representation: Apart from the above, representation was just “all right” in this one. I’m wracking my brain, and even went back to listen for concrete descriptions, but I don’t think much of the supporting cast is described with skin tone. That said, they do come from many different nations, and the author’s pinterest includes many characters of color (I don’t think that counts, but it’s something). The one clear exception to this is the ice nation to which they travel, which is clearly inspired by Japan. I love the use of Japan as an inspiration for a wintery nation because I think it’s often overlooked for its potential there. There isn’t much by way of representation of different gender identities, and the one f/f “couple” is a political arrangement related to Gallina, who I talked about above. This book was not bad for representation, and perhaps when I reread it as a hard copy I’ll find more details I overlooked, but it didn’t impress me in this department. 

Favorite Line: “Some people burn so brightly, it’s impossible to put the flames out.”