Enchanted Kingdoms Review: Part 3

This is the third part of my review for the massive Enchanted Kingdoms fairy tale anthology. You can find the first part here and the second part here if you missed them. Today I am covering the first five books from the external file that is linked to at the end of the Amazon ebook. This was my favorite set of stories from this series so far. They stuck closer to the fantasy settings of original fairy tales than the previous books, which contained more sci-fi and horror. These are princess stories at their best, filled with more twists and turns than you would expect from a traditional fairy tale retelling, so let's dive right in!

Enchanted Kingdoms box set

Crumbling Towers by Anne Stryker

This story is my favorite in this anthology so far. Not only is it the best "Rapunzel" adaptation I have ever read, but it is also one of the best fairy tale novels I have had the pleasure of experiencing. My only complaint is that it ended way too soon, which the author apologized for in her notes due to wanting to keep it around the same length as the other books. It combines the best parts of science fiction and fantasy. The story opens in a sterile computer world where a solitary girl is raised by robots and has never seen another human. When a suspicious young man finds her and helps her escape from her high-tech prison, she learns that the world is much bigger and more complex than she could have possibly imagined. The second half of the book is similar to The Princess in the Opal Mask by Jenny Lundquist, but a million times better. I was so invested in the story that I was more than a little disappointed by the abrupt ending that provided no closure for the characters I had grown to care about so deeply.

Robin's Hood by Jacque Stevens

This is one of the most creative takes on "Robin Hood" that I've ever seen, reimagining the classic rogue as a woman in disguise. Disney attempted to do something similar in 2001 with their made-for-TV movie Princess of Thieves. While that version used the trope of giving the legendary hero a daughter who followed in his footsteps, this book explores what would have happened if Maid Marian and Robin Hood were one and the same. I appreciate that it doesn't use the traditional modern badass warrior woman archetype who could do no wrong. In this book, Marian is clumsy and nervous and mostly gets by on luck or help from her rowdy troupe of merry men. Her confidence and bravery are derived from her long-lost husband, Rob, whose memory allows her to take on a new persona when she dons his hooded cloak. The book is filled with twists and turns that will be sure to keep you on the edge of your seat right up to the final chapter.

Like Matches for Wishes by Lee Ann Ward

"The Little Match Girl" is a depressing story, which is probably why there aren't that many adaptations of it. However, Lee Ann Ward managed to do the impossible and turn it into a happy tale of hope. Milla is a pauper who lives alone with her grandmother in a small village whose only worry in life is winning the affections of her crush, Jordy, until a brave knight tells her that she has a much bigger destiny in store. It is a straightforward rags to riches tale that reminds me of Don Bluth's Anastasia in the regard that both stories are about lonely girls who just want to know where they came from. Unlike the original story, this book has a traditional fairy tale ending. While that may take away some of the integrity of the work it was based on, it makes it a pleasant experience to read.

Queen of Snow by Laura Burton and Jessie Cal

This one was a dud for me. It reminded me of Embers: Beastly Curses by Sky Sommers because it takes place in a generic fairy tale world that feels like a rewrite of ABC's Once Upon a Time. It uses similar ideas to the movie Happily N'Ever After and Ever After High, which both suggest that every fairy tale character's story is already written, and their endings are predetermined, so free will no longer exists for them. This trope doesn't usually work because it takes away the characters' agency as well as any motivation for the reader to find out the ending of their story. Throw in a character from the real world who is already familiar with fairy tales and Disney movies, and the whole book feels like a self-insert for the authors. "The Snow Queen" is a complex story with a lot of different elements and characters, but none of them were explored in this version, which made it a slog to get through.

A Siren's Broken Song by Nadira Golde

I was so pleased to find my favorite fairy tale included in this anthology! This book does a fantastic job of maintaining the integrity of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Mermaid" while simultaneously weaving a new tale. It expands upon a small portion of the story that is often overlooked--the period of time after the mermaid realizes that her love has betrayed her and must consider sacrificing herself as a result of the spell that turned her human. In this version, Letha is still able to speak and had only given up her siren song to become human. Even though she still has a voice, she is afraid to use it to ask for help after being rejected by the only person she ever loved. Thankfully, a dragon-man named Sebastian is too stubborn to back down when he discovers her plight. She enlists in his aid as well as several other magical beings of the sea as they explore ways to lift her curse. The story is similar to Saban's animated Little Mermaid series, which also brought in new characters to save the mermaid from her tragic fate.

Click here to read the last part of this review!

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