I started reading at an unusually young age and I frankly didn’t stop for a long time. As a kid, my family didn’t have cable TV, and we didn’t have an extensive collection of VHS or DVDs. I managed to hit some major popular culture moments, but usually only after I’d missed out on the peak moment of it. Except for books. I was always up to date with books
Books and I have always gotten along. But then, for a little while, we stopped hanging out so much. In high school I actually started making friends, getting involved, and started a part time job. I had a lot on my plate and so I read less and less (especially once the bookstore by my house closed and my weekly visits had to come to an end). College saw more of the same with my taking two majors, maximum amount of credits, and working two to three jobs towards the end.
It was last year that I started reading some fairy tale adaptations. I used to read them a bit when I was younger as I really enjoyed some of the more famous ones, like Beastly by Alex Flinn and Beauty by Robin McKinley. I was exploring Kindle Unlimited options, contemplating starting a subscription when a book popped up. It was a retelling of an unusual fairy tale, 12 Dancing Princesses. But it didn’t focus on a princess, instead on a female warrior.
I ended up with an Unlimited free trial and this book by author K.M. Shea. This post is essentially going to be about how I adore K.M. Shea. I have yet to dislike a book by her (and I’ve read almost all of them) and I’m not going to lie, reading her entire Timeless Fairy Tale series in about two week inspired me to love books even more than before. She is the reason I have a book blog over a year later!
The Fairy Tale series is absolutely delightful! K.M. Shea chooses fairy tales to retell deliberately, constructs stand alone stories that take place within the same magical world, and outlines different cultures, political situations, and moral conflicts that also tie together into one cohesive build up to something bigger.
One thing I found especially refreshing was that even though each book focuses on the romantic aspect of a fairy tale, the romances were all ones I could root for easily. Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorite tales, and this is the first book in the series (and the second that I read). As fellow readers of these retellings may know, sometimes the captivity of the “beauty” is uncomfortable to read. Shea’s version of the story involves no such captivity, and instead provides a better reason for the extended visitation.
Some of the tales chosen are unusual to say the least. The series progresses through Beauty and the Beast, The Wild Swans, Cinderella, Rumpelstiltskin, The Little Mermaid, Puss in Boots, Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, The Frog Prince, The Twelve Dancing Princesses, and Snow White. I was surprised by the selection of stories, which includes familiar classics, some made famous by Disney, and others that are a little more obscure (I have never read the original Wild Swans for example).
And yes, each and every single one of the books focuses on a female heroine who eventually finds love, sometimes in an unexpected manner. I read all of these books within the span of about a week and a half and still found myself drawn in by the way Shea portrayed her characters and world so uniquely. It’s not necessary to read them in order, either. There are passing references to other lands, characters, and events that will make more sense if the books are read in published order, but otherwise if you think you want to start with your favorite of the originals in order to test the waters you absolutely can.
The books are definitely YA, with little to no foul language, and no sexual content. Serious subject matter is addressed, but with tact. There is definitely cultural diversity, and you can see that certain in-world countries are inspired by different real world cultures (usually you can see the influence from the original fairy tale most strongly in this way). There isn’t a whole lot of explicit racial diversity, and no LGBT characters though. As a member of the LGBT community myself, I still found the romances enjoyable even if they are all straight.
In addition to the Timeless Fairy Tales series, there are some additional stories set in the world including one finishes trilogy and one series that is currently ongoing. The Snow Queen series functions as a sort of prequel to the ongoing events of the Timeless Fairy Tales. The queen herself is references frequently in the series, and having read both of them I can see that the stories are building up to some sort of connection in the new series, the Fairy Tale Enchantress series.
A more comprehensive review of both the Fairy Tale Enchantress series and the book, Curse of Magic, the second in that series and one I am currently reading, are forthcoming.
Shea is not limited to only these connected series set in her fairy tale world, though. She also has a series called The Elves of Lessa, set in another fantasy world of her design and focusing on the complex relations between the elves and humans of that world, who have a huge culture and language barrier. The King Arthur and Her Knights series focuses on, you guessed it, a retelling of the King Arthur mythos but focused on a modern woman who’s accidentally and magically teleported to the Arthurian times to take up the crown. There’s a Robyn Hood story, also a female centric retelling of the legend.
You can check out these series as well as the books I haven’t read by Shea (yet) here on her Goodreads page! If any of these sound like your kind of YA read, please do check her out and let me know what you think!