Enchanted Kingdoms Review: Part 1

The Enchanted Kingdoms box set is a massive undertaking by the Enchanted Quill Press to collect a large group of fairy tale authors to adapt 20 different fairy tales in an anthology to support an Puzzle Piece United, a children's autism charity. For a while, I was juggling with the idea of signing up to be one of the authors in this set, myself, and now I am kicking myself for not doing it. These 20 top tier books not only retell a multitude of beloved stories, but they do so in a unique and creative way that makes each one feel fresh and new. I haven't finished the entire set yet, so I decided that the best way to review it would be in chunks because I might forget the first few book by the time I get to the last one. Therefore, this will be the first post in a four-part series of mini reviews in which I summarize my thoughts on five books within this set. Before I begin, I have to say that it is absolutely worth the price for 20 full-length novels. Each one could easily thrive on its own, but together, they are unbeatable.

Enchanted Kingdoms Box Set

We're All Mad Here by J.A. Armitage and J.A. Culican

This "Alice in Wonderland" retelling takes the disjointed storytelling out of the Lewis Carroll's trippy novel and places the it in modern times. A young lady is tasked with helping her mother clean out the house of an old woman who was recently deceased when she accidentally falls through a mirror where she finds herself trapped in the Victorian era. It's a classic time travel romance filled with not-so-subtle references to all the colorful characters from the original novel in the forms of eccentric people. The story amps up near the end when she finds herself stuck in a competition to marry a powerful dragon king. She decides that power is not something she desires and follows her heart to find her way back home. I believe this is one of the shortest books in the set, but the story contains plenty of romance and drama to make up for it.

Ash and Cynder by Kimbra Swain

This is by far the most unique and imaginative retelling of "Cinderella" I have ever read. It was was a little too out there for me at first, but the characters become more relatable as the story goes on. It takes place in a world of gods and goddesses who give trials to the women of the land to win an opportunity for wealth and happiness. Ashtyn is a meek young lady who seems like the worst possible candidate for a test of endurance, but the fates are on her side for reasons that we do not fully comprehend until the end of the book. She has a few love interests who knew her when she was younger to counteract the most popular complaint about "Cinderella," which is that she had only met the prince once when she married him. The book combines surreal politics and original mythology in a way that is reminiscent of The Hunger Games and Pan's Labyrinth.

Snow and Red by Eileen Mueller and A.J. Ponder

Though it incorporates a lesser known fairy tale, which seems like a promising concept, this version of "Snow White and Rose Red" barely resembles the tale from the Brothers Grimm. Here, Snow and Red are modern-day rebellious teens who like to go clubbing in skimpy outfits and choose questionable lovers. It felt like I was reading something that aired on the CW instead of an adaptation of a fairy tale. There were still some things that I liked about it, though. The girls find themselves wrapped up in the middle of a mystery involving their parents, their mysterious powers, and shapeshifting dragons. They pair up with a couple of bad boys who know more about their powers than they do and go on a series of misadventures that enrages their mother when she finds. The ending leaves room for a sequel, but I'm not sure how that would work since none of the books in this anthology have been released as standalones.

Tainted by Beth Hale

This is a charming take on "Beauty and the Beast" if it had taken place in the real world. Carlynn struggles to care for her mentally ill father when she learns that he was sued for damages by his extremely young boss. She goes to the young boss's mansion to make amends and meets Sean, an angsty young CEO covered in scars from a bad car accident that indirectly led to his parents' death. One of Sean's housekeepers hires Carlynn with the ulterior motive of bringing Sean out of his shell. Over time, the two teenagers help each other work through their past traumas and bring out their true selves. I thought this book was similar to the first one in the anthology because it contained modern-day human versions of every character from "Beauty and the Beast" in the same way that We're All Mad Here contained human versions of every character from "Alice in Wonderland."

Enchanted Wishes by Zara Quentin

This starts out as a completely original story about a slave woman who breaks free of her master through the power of a magic lamp that turns her into a different type of slave. A few chapters in, however, the book becomes a standard retelling of "Aladdin" with more of an emphasis on the Disney version than the original fairy tale. It's a shame that Aladdin has such a cookie cutter arc when Ziba, the genie, has a fascinating backstory that results in many questionable or morally gray decisions. Aside from her genie powers. Ziba is psychic, an ability that she maintains after her transformation that feeds into many of her decisions when it comes to Aladdin and obtaining her freedom. The book's ending incorporates something that people have suggested that Disney should have done in their version for years and provides a satisfying resolution for all the characters.

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