the Little Red Reviewer

Of Cover Songs and Fairy Tale Retellings

Posted on: February 12, 2020

I love cover songs.   I love them because they are familiar and I can sing along, but they’ve (hopefully) got new flavors, new riffs, something new.   They are just damn fun.


I love Weezer’s Africa as much as I love Alien Ant Farm’s Smooth Criminal. I love it when a musician takes a song in a different style, and does it in their style.  I love Johnny Cash’s cover of Hurt, I love Tori Amos’s cover of Smells Like Spirit, I love Through Fire’s cover of Listen to Your Heart. Disturbed’s cover of The Sound of Silence is disturbingly effective.  I was today years old when I learned the tragic story behind Bad Wolves’ cover of Zombie.


I love it the most when a musician takes a song they love and does it in their own style.  Do a folk song as metal. Do an alt rock song as acoustic. Slow it down, speed it up, give it an EDM backdrop.  Take something you love, something that’s beautiful to you, and put enough of yourself into it so that it is both the original and the new, at the same time.  Lol, Schrodinger’s cover song?


(Also, I could talk forever about Peter Hollens and Pentatonix. Don’t get me started, because I srsly will not shut up)




It dawned on me the other day that I love fairy tale retellings for the same reason that I love cover songs.   Fairy tales are fun, and familiar. The author has made some tweaks, changed up some stuff, colored outside the lines, added some new riffs.   In some cases, they’ve gutted the thing down to the bones, and completely rebuilt it. You recognize the foundation, but everything else is new and fascinating.


This blog post was inspired by two recent fairy tale retellings I am enjoying the hell out of:


I recently zipped through the first Witcher book,  The Last Wish, and among the hella fun episodic adventures is the best remix of Beauty and the Beast that I’ve ever come across. And I love this retelling because it is srsly fucking brutal.  Me spoiling this chapter doesn’t spoil anything about the book, by the way. It starts the same as the Disney version – guy gets cursed because he’s an asshole, and now his exterior matches his beastly and awful soul.   That, thankfully, is the end of the similarities.


His mansion is on a popular trade route. Traders who stop on the property for the night are threatened with death, unless they bring their daughters to the beast.  The first time this happened,  the “beast” felt so guilty about scaring the shit out of some random trader,  that he gave the guy a bag of money.


Word gets out about the beast in the castle, and before you know it fathers are showing up with their daughters on a regular basis. The daughters love the idea of living richly in a castle with a sexy bad boy for a year, and the families get a bag of gold out of the deal. And the beast is having so much fun in his new life as a rich playboy that he kinda doesn’t want the curse lifted.  Too bad his newest girlfriend really, really loves him. Your mileage will vary, but I laughed my head off the entire time I was reading this!


In an entirely different writing style,  is Benajanun’s Sriduangkaew’s Snow Queen retelling. Her 2017 novella Winterglass is all character introduction and prologue,  gorgeous conversations and observations about how colonialism changes more than just language and terminology, it can change the climate and geography of our lives.  Nuawa somehow survived the kilns as a child, and now finds herself chosen by the Winter Queen. She meets General Lussadh, another one of the Queen’s chosen. Like most Sriduangkaew stories, the language is lush and the worldbuilding is unparalleled.


I’m sixty pages into the sequel, Mirrorstrike.  At sixty pages, I know two things for certain: the moment I finish reading this novella I’ll be starting it again from page one,  and I love that Sriduangkaew plays the long game. I just came across “that scene” that calls back to the first chapter of Winterglass, pulling everything together as I believe every good fairy tale should, because even stories take place in a world larger than themselves.   Is it possible for the Queen’s chosen to escape their fates? There is a much bigger conversation in here, that I’ll save for the actual review, about the traitor’s qualm, and about chemistry between characters that has exceeded hot, and hit plasma levels. In my wildest dreams I write prose this beautiful.


(hopefully more indepth reviews of both coming soon.)


Dear authors and musicians:  I love it when you take something familiar,  and remix it to show me a piece of you I’ve never seen before.


4 Responses to "Of Cover Songs and Fairy Tale Retellings"

Hmm, interesting comparison between cover tunes and retellings – I hadn’t thought of it that way. I’m generally not a fan of retellings, but I do like cover tunes in a new style, particularly when a harder edged metal band picks up an 80s pop tune or something traditionally softer/slower. I may have to reconsider my approach to retellings in that same light…


cover songs in a different style are so much fun!!

there are some terrible retellings out there, I’ve been really lucky these last couple years to land on some good ones.

Liked by 1 person

I love Pentatonix. This was a good post. I never would have thought to make a comparison between cover tunes and retellings.

Liked by 1 person

isn’t Pentatonix incredible?? I’m happy you enjoyed the post! 🙂


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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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