My favorite Cinderella retelling is Eleanor Farjeon’s The Glass Slipper which I originally read in Hebrew. I love the image of Shoshi’s father (she is called Ella in the English version), hiding sugared plums for Shoshi in his pocket during the ball, feeling sad about not standing up to his wife. I love the chirping fairy godmother who hides peaches for Shoshi within a pile of kindling, Shoshi’s childlike enthusiasm about dancing and the speeches that the toastmaster gives for every dish.
When I came upon a recommendation for Ash, a Cinderella adaptation by Malinda Lo, I was excited. Here was an opportunity to research the fairy tale market. Ash grows up near the forest, and after her mother and then her father die, she is taken to live at her stepmother’s house, which is adjacent to a different part of the forest. The forest helps maintain the enchantment permeating the book: paths form beneath Ash’s feet as she wanders, leading her in and out of mist-shrouded places to which a fairy friend tells her she ought not to go. In the forest she also meets the King’s Huntress, and in an unexpected twist we find that Ash is to fall in love not with the prince, but with this woman who feels compassion for the deer she hunts.
The novel is beautifully written in lyrical language which brings to life the mystical world Ash lives in. Despite that, I felt confused by Ash’s bizarre relationship with the fairy man. I was further confused by the scene at which Ash enters the ball in her fairy ball gown and is accosted by the prince who falls in love with her. I suppose three is a magical number in fairy tales, but this abundance of lovers simply made me see Ash as rather emotionless. I also wondered whether women kissing in public during the king’s ball was a common occurrence, since no character commented on it.
In contrast, I was entirely entranced by Jessica Day George’s Princess of the Midnight Ball. I do not know if there is another retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses fairytale, but I was smitten by this one. Jessica Day George raises the stakes so high in the story that I was kept wanting to read more and more and in fact felt so eager to know what is coming next that I never once thought to peek ahead (my usual naughty practice). Midnight Ball is readable and colorful, and all the characters felt lovable to me, including the grumpy Reiner Orm, uncle to the soldier who attempts to rescue the princesses from the enchantment placed on them.
I am looking forward to reading some other fairy tale adaptations I downloaded into my ipad, as well as some new releases which I found recommended on blogs. I enjoy discovering new writers, and I already purchased another Jessica Day George novel called Dragon Slippers, which I hope will be as good.