If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m a sucker for fantasy, and I blame it all on my father. He started me young with the speculative books, and I’ve never forgotten them. One of the series that I have had on my shelf as long as I can remember are the Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede. Like, I have no idea where they actually came from, I’ve owned them that long. And they have had a profound influence on my taste in books and my style of writing.
And the best part? I went back and re-read them just last month and they are still just as good as when I was reading them as a child. Do you know how hard that is to pull of as a YA author? Go on, I dare you to go re-read your favorites from before puberty. You’ll wince. But not these; the writing and the characters, and all of it are so vivid and excellently written that they withstand the scrutiny of an MFA wielding writer 25 years down the line. Now that’s just impressive.
But back to the books themselves. They are the most delightful parody of classic fairy tales you could ever wish for. On her site, Ms. Wrede claims inspiration from the land of Oz and the “Fractured Fairy Tales” of Rocky and Bullwinkle. You can certainly feel it in the quirky and determined heroine Cimorene in the first book all the way through to our overly polite hero Daystar in the last book. They take every fairy tale trope and turn it over, shake it hard, set back upright and paint a new face on it.
The reason I went back to these stories now was because I wanted to capture that feel of intelligent irreverence before going back to edit my own fantasy novel, Mark of the Storyteller. Ms. Wrede’s grasp of language, comedic timing, and knowledge of fairy tale lore is unique in her genre, and it is worth studying—and studying hard—before moving on to your own fairy tale parodies. Or for reading when you’re stuck sick in bed because it can always make you laugh, even when you have the majority of it memorized.