Fantasy Watch: Fairy-Tales the New Trend?

One day, they found themselves trapped in a world where all their happy endings were stolen. …our world.

Whenever a new paranormal, fantasy, or science fiction show appears on my TV watching radar, I pounce. This Halloween week, we have the pleasure of seeing two fairy-tale related premieres. Grimm, a detective-style story about a guy who can see the fairy tale creatures all around us, and Once Upon a Time, a story of fairy tale characters who find themselves in a small modern-day USA town.

The Story: Once Upon a Time…

…an evil queen got her revenge on Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Prince Charming (Josh Dallas) by cursing them to be sent to a parallel world, their memories wiped and their happily ever afters gone.

“Where are we going?” Snow White demands, as a maelstrom of psychedelic curse clouds consumes the walls of the nursery.

“Somewhere horrible,” the Evil Queen (Lana Parrilla) says. “Absolutely horrible.”

Modern-day state of Maine.

But the story really starts when a ten year old kid (Jared Gilmore) takes a Greyhound bus upstate, turns up on bail bondswoman Emma’s  (Jennifer Morrison)  doorstep, and announces, “I’m your son.”

Not only that, he insists that Emma needs to come back with him to Storybrooke, Maine to save everyone from the Evil Queen’s curse. Everyone there is a fairy tale character, he tells her, and they’ve all forgotten who they are.

By pairing the two worlds, Once Upon a Time promises something to both fantasy-lovers and those of us in it for the mystery, drama, and small-town angst. Each episode will spend time in both worlds, moving Emma’s story forward, even as it retraces the steps of Snow White’s happy ending and the lead up to the Evil Queen’s curse.

The performance is top-notch, with the actors playing up the melodrama of their fairy tale roles, and the gritty humanity of their modern day counterparts. Robert Carlyle (Mr. Gold aka Rumpelstiltskin) plays his creepy, mad role to perfection and there’s something so adorable about Jennifer Morrison’s frustrated confusion as the little boy demands she return to Storybrooke with him.

And of course, my personal favorite bit of the first episode? The soundtrack as the Evil Queen crashes the wedding.  Dun-Dun Dun-Dun Dun-Dun.

The pilot creates and builds on its dramatic tension. We, as viewers, know the truth about Storybrooke and we also know who everyone’s alter ego is. But it’s a secret between us, the town mayor (aka Evil Queen), and the little boy. Fairyland itself incorporates an interesting cross-section of fairy tale characters: Carlo Collodi’s Pinocchio exists alongside Brothers Grimm’s Snow White and Red Riding Hood, promising variety and vivid characters.

With its premiere on ABC netting over 12 million viewers, Once Upon a Time is sure to stick around. But only time will tell if it’s a story worth watching.

[ Advance Review ] Beauty and the Werewolf By Mercedes Lackey

Beauty and the Werewolf by Mercedes Lackey

(part of the Five Hundred Kingdom series)

In a world where the forces of Tradition steer people’s lives to follow the routes of legends and fairytales, Isabella Beauchamps is a merchant’s daughter, wears a bright red cloak, and gets attacked by a werewolf on her way from Granny’s house. Let’s pause for a moment here and let the heroine’s name slowly sink in: Isabella Beauchamps.

However, unlike the sparkle-Bella that we all know and love, Bella-Beau is a practical, strong-willed character who is not at all impressed when a run-amok werewolf turns her world upside down.

But what really keeps this story–and others in the series–so engaging is the dramatic tension between what we know happens in stories of Beauty and the Beast and Red Riding Hood and what the author does. We know there will be a happy ending, but will Bella’s Beast turn out to be the unpleasant Gameskeeper, rather than the werewolf? Will Granny bite it? Will the Gameskeeper get to cut our werewolf open at the end? Who are the invisible servants, anyway?

Lackey walks the line between tipping her hat to the fairy-tales, and creating her own, original, self-contained story, and all without using references for references’ sake. In a typical Lackey fashion, the author builds a world–and characters–of moral ambiguity, probing the deep, deep questions of power and responsibility, family and fate.  It doesn’t stop the reader from figuring out who the main villain is fifty or so pages in, however.

Let me give you a clue. We’re introduced to three major characters, and it’s not Bella, and it’s not Bella’s love interest.

The book itself is romance lite, with a rather universal level of age appropriateness. I would recommend it to younger readers, to anyone looking for a light, feel-good adventure with a spunky heroine and a happy ending, and to all recent Mercedes Lackey fans. Beauty and the Werewolf is a lovely way to spend an afternoon. So if you like her LUNA books, you will love this novel.

And if you enjoy story retellings as much as I do, I would definitely encourage you to try out the first of the Five Hundred Kingdoms series, The Fairy Godmother by Mercedes Lackey, or her other, somewhat more substantial “Beauty and the Beast” retelling, The Fire Rose

Other Recommended Reads:

Galley pdf received courtesy of
NetGalley & LUNA Books.