Today we welcome author Marissa Meyer, whose upcoming Cinder has already entranced many on the H&H staff. Cinder is a reworking of “Cinderella,” and we are delighted to have Marissa here to talk about fairy tales—and princes who are actually worthy of a fairy tale.
Some things are synonymous with fairy tales. Wicked queens. Fairy godmothers. Happily ever afters. And, of course, Prince Charmings—those dashing heroes that ride in on their white steeds, sleigh the dragon, and whisk the damsel off to a new life of luxury.
But the problem with Prince Charmings is that they’re so...well...uncharming. What do we know about these guys, really? In Grimm’s “Cinderella,” the prince has the stairs coated with pitch in order to trap his mystery girl before she runs away again—romantic gesture, or overly controlling? In “Snow White,” the prince offers to buy Snow White’s corpse from the dwarves, which is a bit creepy—what does he plan to do with that dead girl, anyway? And then there’s the king from Rumpelstiltskin, who first threatens to kill the poor farm girl if she can’t spin straw into gold, and only offers to marry her later because he thinks her odd talent will make him rich. Not so charming now, is he?
Thankfully, today’s crop of twisted fairy tales is changing all that, giving many of these royal men a much-needed makeover. Here are four novels that have reinstated the charm that fairy tale princes have been lacking.
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
This fun take on “Cinderella” is becoming a classic in its own right. It comes with a sassy new heroine, Ella, who was cursed with obedience as a child and has to follow any order she’s given. The curse is always a pain, but it becomes downright dangerous when her path crosses with the kingdom heartthrob Prince Charmont. Levine’s prince starts out overly conceited and blissfully ignorant of his kingdom’s troubles—making for lots of stinging insults and witty dialogue between him and Ella. But over the course of the book Charmont grows into a brave, generous prince worthy of ruling his kingdom and winning Ella’s affections.
Entwined by Heather Dixon
Dixon’s fantastic retelling of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” fills in the many holes the fairy tale left open. Stifled and miserable during a year of mourning, twelve sisters are delighted when they discover a hidden passageway that takes them to a world filled with magic and watched over by the handsome Keeper. Though Keeper is darkly seductive, Azalea, the eldest sister, instead finds herself drawn toward the blossoming, somewhat awkward companionship of Lord Bradford. It’s Lord Bradford’s warmth and gentle chivalry that wins readers over from the first pages and make him every bit as swoon-worthy as a true prince.
Heart’s Blood by Juliet Marillier
“Beauty and the Beast” is one of the few tales that allows the hero and heroine to fall in love over the course of the story, and that simplified romance is brought to full fervor in Heart’s Blood. Set in 12th-century Ireland, it follows Caitlin, a young scribe who stumbles across a haunted castle with an embittered young master. Caitlin manages to find work there and the love story that unravels between her and Anluan, who was crippled as a child, is both realistic and passionate. Though Anluan starts off irritable and hot-tempered, the hope that Caitlin brings to the castle slowly transforms him into a confident ruler. As an added bonus, this book also includes one of the most beautiful and sensual scenes I’ve read in fairy tale lit.
Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce
On the other end of the spectrum is Sisters Red, which moves away from the fantastical medieval settings of the previous titles and lands us right into the dingy present. This unique twist on “Little Red Riding Hood” focuses on two sisters, Scarlett and Rosie, who became ferocious werewolf hunters after their grandmother was brutally murdered. Perhaps one of the biggest changes to the original, though, is that this novel takes a story that has no prince at all and still manages to give us one heck of a heartthrob in Silas, the girls’ friend and fellow hunter. Sparks fly early on between Silas and Rosie, making for both added conflict and delicious tension. Silas’s steady devotion makes him a beloved new hero in a hero-less tale.
Who’s your favorite prince?
Marissa Meyer is a connoisseur of Prince Charmings. She’s also the author of Cinder: Book One of the Lunar Chronicles, and hopes readers will be thoroughly charmed by her own Prince Kai when the book releases on January 3.