While we at the Riot take some time off to rest and catch up on our reading, we’re re-running some of our favorite posts from the last several months. Enjoy our highlight reel, and we’ll be back with new stuff on Monday, January 11th.
This post originally ran November 25, 2015.
I’m always on the lookout for books that will take me back to a childhood place of wonder, but maybe with a level of complexity and a streak of grown-up themes. If you’ve been seeking stories that peer at the fantastic through an adult lens while offering a new look at old magic, you might want to check out these books.
The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye by A.S. Byatt
Can’t get enough of all things fay? Here’s a collection that begins with four fairy tales that might seem familiar, like something you read in a Brothers Grimm or Hans Christian Andersen anthology–stories featuring tailors who save the day, castles, the dead and dancing, and worms that destroy quiet villages with fire. But the book’s final and title story returns you to today, transports you to Istanbul, and introduces you to a scholar of storytelling, fresh from an awful split with her philandering husband, who buys a dusty bottle at the bazaar. What do you think she finds in it? While the title story is smart, painful, and superior entertainment for the literary academic, I would BUY this one for the fourth companion story, “Dragon’s Breath,” alone. Fun fact: “The Story of the Eldest Princess” is somewhat autobiographical–Byatt wrote it with her worries about being the eldest of three sisters in mind.
The Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani
Amirrezvani’s historical novel about a young girl’s struggle to make a life for herself and her mother as a phenom carpet maker and designer in 17th-century Persia is a powerful story about paving your own destiny against all odds (and at great cost). With a disastrous fate foretold by a comet, a nameless main character, and dashes of spiritual symbolism, this book is imbued with a quiet sort of magic only helped by lush, lyrical prose. But readers will also find seven complete fairy tales, five adapted from traditional tales and Iranian poetry and two original tales crafted by Amirrezvani, artfully woven through the main story, which also makes this book a nice entry into Iranian literature. I would BUY this one because you’ll want to return to the folklore and beautifully-written passages again and again. I also recommend the audiobook, gorgeously narrated by Shohreh Aghdashloo.
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
Give your adult fairy tale favorites a shout-out in the comments.