What do you get when you retell the Goldilocks fable, blended with elements of Cinderella, and set the story in a distant future? Gretchen and the Bear by Carrie Anne Noble does this, exploring how humanity returns from orbital habitats. They find that not only has the post-apocalyptic earth regenerated—but so have the fey folk. This delightful fantasy/sci-fi mashup defies every expectation. Its “little bear” character is actually a dutiful were-bear son to religious bear-folk parents, and the hardworking heroine takes a dangerous mission into the forbidden Fey Land, motivated by love for her ailing father whose fate seems sealed by her greedy stepmother. Subtle linguistic allusions further elevate this novel within its unique subgenre. Twists, turns, and shockingly dramatic moments abound, and Gretchen and the Bear leaves the fairy tale flavor lingering in the palate.
Best for: Readers who love intelligent plotting, witty wordplay, and fairy tales.
Discern: Mild violence, references to poisoning, romantic innuendo, were-bear transformations.