Retellings and Why I Struggle With Them

Friday, February 27, 2015

Over the past few years, I have had MAJOR difficulties reading retellings. I've read several over the past few years, and even more during my time as a book blogger, but it seems like most of them fall flat. Then there are those two or three books that completely blew me out of the water, I loved them so much!

But I think I figured out why I struggle with retellings, and it comes down to a single word:
Originality.

I have found that the more original the story, the more I love it. Now when I say original retellings (yes, I realize that it's a slight oxymoron), I mean books that use same themes but a drastically different kind of plot.

Take for instance Rosamund Hodge's books Cruel Beauty and Crimson Bound. The first is a Beauty and the Beast retelling that actually pulls most from the original tale and not the Disney version, but in the end she completely changes the tale to fit her world. And Crimson Bound is a a mixture of retellings: Red Riding Hood and The Girl With No Hands. She pulls only slightly from both of those tales and weaves her own very original story, characters, and plot. 

I think there in lies the difference in retellings. You can even use that in the Lunar Chronicles. It's the same. Though Marissa Meyer uses Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, and Rapunzel, there is no argument that her books are very original.

So I think that's my problem. If I read a retelling that is so common or predictable, I lose interest completely; it's the originality of the narrative that grasps me.

So what about you? Do you struggle with reading retellings?


37 comments:

  1. I haven't read a huge amount but those I have read, have been a good experience. I do tend to shy away from them until I hear other people's opinions but there are a few on my list I can't wait to read like Cinder and Crimson Bound! There is a wariness there though so I understand where you're coming from!

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    1. Girl, Crimson Bound is so freaking good... I'm not even kidding. It was phenomenal! Be ready for excellence!

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  2. I love retellings if they are original, well-written and just good overall. If it's not very original or doesn't have characters I can root for,... I'm not interested. Luckily I haven't had too many bad experiences with retellings so far. :)

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    1. I'm glad you haven't had much of a problem. It seems like every time I pick up a debut retelling it's just not what I was hoping it would be.

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  3. I vary with retellings.. I don't know why. Some work out fine, some not quite so much, and like you, I think it comes down to how well they spin the retelling. If it feels like a story in it's own right, then I'll more than likely love it, but if it's a retelling like a re-telling, just using the same story, then no thank you, I'd like better. Nice short, sweet post Amanda!

    Amanda
    Beautiful Bookish Butterflies

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    1. I agree with you! I felt that way with A Wicked Thing by Rhiannon Thomas. It just didn't work for me. But then the originality of books like Cinder or Crimson Bound I feel like it becomes a completely different books just because of the originality.

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  4. I don't struggle with them at all, but that's just because I have a huge love for fairytales and everything that has to do with them. I do prefer the more original, twisty stories, but if an author follows the story it's also not a problem for me. I think it really depends on what you look for in a book!

    I would recommend Jodi Lynn Anderson - Tiger Lily if you haven't read it. Beautiful story and told from Tinkerbell's POV, which I thought was really nifty :)

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    1. I'm so glad you don't have a problem with it!! I wish I didn't, because I LOVE fairytales too. I have been meaning to read Tiger Lily for a loooonnnng time, I have just never gotten around to it! Thanks for the reminder, maybe I can bump it up my TBR! :)

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  5. Throne of Glass is a re-telling?? OF WHAT? Are you sure about that . . . ??? I love that series and can't for the life of me think what story it would be re-telling hmmm.

    Anyway, I'm the opposite haha. I ADORE re-tellings. I don't like Rosamund Hodges versions, if I'm honest, but aside form that I basically love every re-telling I've read. The Lunar Chronicles is amazing and ACOTAR just became a new favourite for me.

    There's just something kind of magical about new spins on old tales.

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    1. Actually yes, You should read the Author's Note. I believe that's where she says that Throne of Glass was originally a Cinderella retelling except Cinderella was an assassin and she came to kill the king/prince. I think that's where her story began. I don't count it as a retelling honestly because it's a almost too original to consider a retelling in my opinion. And girl, I can't it's my favorite series too! I have yet to read ACOTAR, but I SOOOOO can't wait!!!

      As far as Hodge is concerned. Cruel Beauty was just okay, but if you have the chance you should really try Crimson Bound. I found it to be a billion times better in every way and a lot less convoluted and just all around thought provoking and wonderful! :)

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  6. I actually love retellings. I'm not as big of a fan of the ones that just feel like the fairytale's been given extra pages, but I haven't found many of those. My favorites are probably the Lunar Chronicles and Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce. Also, another really good one is a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin called The Crimson Thread, it follows a family of Irish immigrants in New York during the late 1800's. The book is so simple and yet I am still in awe of it.

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    1. Hmmm those books seem interesting. I've been meaning to read Sisters Red but haven't gotten around to it yet. I agree though, if a retelling is just like the original fairytale with extra pages, it just doesn't do it for me.

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  7. Hey Amanda, I normally avoid reading retellings. Although I did read The Woodcutter by Kate Danely, and I really enjoyed it. Actually I don't think when I started to read it I realized it was a retelling and it's a combination of several stories where a woodcutter is a character in the story. I think the originality of it all is what I loved. My problem with reading a retelling is if it's too much the same then I already know what's going to happen, and I like unpredictable.

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    1. I agree with you unpredictability is a MUST in a retelling. You shouldn't be able to anticipate the ending, imo.

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  8. I always say I love a GOOD retelling because I agree with you, if it isn't more original than not I have a hard time liking them.

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    1. Yeah, I think originality is key to a really good retelling!

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  9. i love retellings, but yes, i appreciate a lot the Originality, i dont want read the same tale just with more chapters, i want a new story based in the tale, thats because i love cinder, East by Edith Pattou or Juliet Marillier's books, they are very original

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    1. Yeah all of those books are very original and I think that's why they are good. :)

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  10. I've read Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress, and had no problems with them, but I have found that I sometimes just don't want to read a re-telling. I have a few on my list that I want to read, but I'm not highly motivated to actually read them. I just can't figure out why.

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    1. For me personally, I have to be in the mood for a retelling. If I'm not in the mood it won't happen. It's just plain as that. :)

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  11. I don't really have the same problem, but that may be because many of the retellings I've read have put a really unique spin on the story, or because I'm not that familiar with the original. I love Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion, which is partly a retelling of Romeo and Juliet (which I've never actually read). Another of my favourites is Diana Wynne Jones's Fire & Hemlock, which is based on the stories of Tam Lin and Thomas the Rhymer; those aren't that well known. My most recent read (Cat Hellisen's Beastkeeper) was sort of a retelling, though it was only loosely based on "Beauty and the Beast".

    When I have problems with retellings (like Cinder or Throne of Glass), it usually isn't because of a lack of originality. It's due to weak world-building and/or characters.

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    1. I'm surprised you thought Cinder and ToG had weak world building and characters. I'm honestly sorry to hear that because I both really enjoyed those books. I think the world and character building does get better with each book in both of those series.
      I agree that sometimes a lesser known tale retelling is sometimes better because we don't necessarily know what to expect. It's not like many of us know what to expect when it's a rarely read tale. :)

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    2. I've heard that the world-building and characters get better, which is why I've got Scarlet and Crown of Midnight on my TBR list. Actually, I might read Scarlet for my next book; I'm quite curious about some of the new characters I've heard about.

      Cinder is interesting to me. The reason I say the world-building is kind of weak is because of how different readers perceive the setting. I saw it as grungy and run-down and kind of post-apocalyptic. I've seen other readers talk about the gleaming, futuristic city in a way that makes it sound pristine and sterile. If there's that much discrepancy with how readers are picturing the setting in their mind, I start to question how good of a job the author did. Plus, I wanted to know more about the history of the world that led to the current society's perceptions and social customs. (Maybe I'm asking for too much from these YA series... I don't know. But I am looking forward to seeing the author's take on some of the other fairy tales in the next books. The premise is a good one, which is why I started the series in the first place!)

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  12. I've noticed that I specifically don't like Beauty and the Beast retellings - ACOTAR and Cruel Beauty were at best 3 stars for me. I think I've read a few others, but can't remember the titles right now. Any other retelling, and I'm all for it! I think the best one I've read recently is Winterspell by Claire LeGrand - oh so dark and sexy and still keeping some of the best parts of the Nutcracker.

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    1. Why is that? Do you not like Beauty and the Beast, or do you think it's because you love it so much that you hate reading retellings of it? For me Cruel Beauty was a 3 star for me too, but I appreciated her style and what she was trying to do, so I think that's why it's a bit more redeemable in my eyes. I need to read Winterspell!!!! I also need to read Miss Cavendish's Home for Boys and Girls too! I heard that's a good one too!

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  13. Hmm, I definitely see what you mean. I DO! I have to admit that I don't care either way. xD I want to be able to see hints of the original tale, but I get disappointed and bored if it's basically word-for-word the original. Like Ash by Malinda Lo? I felt it was an expanded more detailed Cinderalla story with NO interesting deviations and that made me sad. :( So it's a bit of both for me. I absolutely almost always totally adore retellings. XD

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    1. Yeah! I'm totally with you on that! If it's basically just the same exact plot as the tale with a couple extra characters thrown in it just doesn't quite do it for me. Here's hoping for great retellings this year!

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  14. I definitely want my retellings to be a fresh take on the story with a lot of originality. Totally agree with you on Cruel Beauty (haven't read Crimson Bound yet, but I plan to soon!).

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

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    1. Oh girl, if you liked Cruel Beauty even the tiniest bit, you will ADORE Crimson Bound!!! It's one of my top reads of the year so far! :)

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  15. I absolutely ADORE retellings, but they definitely have to have that special something about them. Like you said: an original retelling. But then there is the other side of the coin where if I can't really SEE the original story in the book AT ALL, then I'm a bit disappointed. That happened a little bit with THRONE OF GLASS, but I really don't think they should have marketed that a lot as a retelling. I mean, there's a little bit of Cinderella in there, but not enough for it to be a retelling, exactly.

    But yeah, I have read some disappointing retellings, and some fabulous ones. So I won't ever give up on them. I think it's just one of those genres where you have to wade through some bad ones to get to the really special ones!

    I obviously need to read CRUEL BEAUTY and CRIMSON BOUND because I have heard nothing but good things about them! Darn my semi book buying ban *shakes fist*

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    1. I agree with you about Throne of Glass. That was a little too original to be considered a retelling, but it was oh so fabulous so I will let that slide haha! Cruel Beauty is great but Crimson Bound is even better believe it or not! It's one of my top reads so far this year! It was glorious!

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  16. I love a good retelling, but I think one of the issues is predictability. I ADORE being able to spot references to the original tale in modern novels, but I do struggle to see the point of continuing if I already know that Cinderella will meet her prince and live happily ever after. I enjoyed Marissa Meyer's Cinder (not enough to read Scarlet and Cress though, which are currently cluttering my TBR pile!) because it was so different. I liked the introduction of new characters and a completely new setting. So, yeah, I agree: for a retelling to be successful, it has to be original. Which is probably a bit of a struggle...
    Beth x
    www.thequietpeople.com

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    1. Ah, yes predictability. Don't you hate when you know exactly what's going to happen before it happens?

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  17. I don't struggle a whole lot with retellings. I honestly don't have that much familiarity with a lot of the stories, so when I read a retelling, I'm really just looking for good characters above all, like I would with any other book. If I care about the characters, I can forgive a lot of other things.

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  18. I haven't found any retellings where the summary doesn't sound original. Actually, i have to try the Meyer books as they sound very original and like something I might like. I feel that my problem's the same as yours.

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  19. I feel that I have the same problem as you. I think I'll give the Meyer books a try because so far they're the only books I can find with an original plot.

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  20. See, this is the reason why I DON'T want to see that Cinderella movie coming up in the theaters. Just by watching the trailer, I can see that it's exactly like the cartoon Cinderella, except this one has real people in it *YAWWWWNNSSS*. I would just be bored while watching it because I already know how it will end. BUT if there's a twist like Hodge's and Meyer's books, then I'll def. read it.

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