Polly Crosby chats This Tale is Forbidden and fairytale retellings

This Tale is Forbidden is basically Brothers' Grimm meets The Handmaid's Tale.


My debut YA novel, This Tale is Forbidden, is a dystopian fractured fairytale set in a world where gender equality does not exist – think the Brothers’ Grimm meets The Handmaid’s Tale.

Sixteen year old Nesta lives in a cottage in the woods with her grandma. She has been brought up to believe in the women of the fairytales – true stories of powerful, magical women who once lived all over the world. But a century ago, a political party known as the Authorities was formed. Threatened by these women’s power, they began to silence them, stealing their stories and rewriting them for their own gain. The new versions of the fairytales feature simpering, naïve princesses, the strong, powerful women that Nesta has learnt about reduced to mere caricatures of themselves. Worst of all, everyone thinks this is how it’s always been, and no one believes in magic anymore. In the city near the forest where Nesta lives, it is now law that each household must own a copy of this fairytale book.

When her grandma is kidnapped, Nesta must infiltrate the city to rescue her. There, she discovers a frightening world where women are forced to obey strict, outdated laws. They must wear regulation clothing and are treated as second class citizens. If they disobey, they are locked in cruel correction cages, their hair cut off to shame them.

But Nesta was not brought up in the city. She grew up knowing the truth. And this makes her very dangerous.

Fairytales have been told and retold for centuries, and the twenty first century is no exception. Thankfully, heroines nowadays are more vocal, refusing to be silenced. In today’s fairytale retellings, important themes such as gender and feminism are being celebrated.

Here are a few of my favourites:

Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron
Two hundred years after Cinderella found her prince, the world has changed. The Cinderella story is famously celebrated, and each year, all girls must attend a ball with the objective to be ‘chosen’. If at the end of the night a man has not chosen someone, her life could be forfeit. A clever Cinderella story with a great dystopian twist.

Bitterthorn by Kat Dunn
This Carnegie nominated and Nero Book Award shortlisted stunner has shades of Beauty and the Beast. A sinister castle, wild woods and a monstrous and lonely witch feature in this beautiful sapphic romance, filled with seductive gothic darkness.

Good Enough to Eat by Gina Blaxill.
It’s so refreshing to find a fairytale that isn’t all about princesses and romance. This Hansel & Gretel based story is aimed at a slightly younger readership. Two children get lost in the woods, only to be imprisoned by a witch. When they escape, everyone assumes it was Hansel who managed to set them free. Yet Gretel is determined to reveal the truth. An inspiring story about a girl who doesn’t need saving.

My Love Life and the Apocalypse by Melissa Welliver
This post-apocalyptic romcom is a clever twist on Sleeping Beauty. A fabulous blend of humour, dystopia and romance in a world where humans have left the earth, and only bots remain, looking after the cities. That is, until a space-pod crash lands with a girl called Pandora on board…

Mirror Me by Jan Dunning
Set in the intimidating world of high fashion, and written by a former fashion model, this modern fairytale thriller is Snow White meets Dorian Grey. Freya’s new step mum is a glamorous former supermodel. But how exactly does she look so impossibly perfect? And is there another reason she’s latched onto Freya’s poor unsuspecting dad?

Princess of Souls by Alexandra Christo
A young witch is locked in a tower and forced to steal souls for an immortal king. But when her fate becomes tied to a reckless, rebellious boy, things take an exhilarating turn. This Rapunzel-inspired fantasy is filled with powerful magic and glitters with a dark seam of romance.

This Tale is Forbidden by Polly Crosby is out now. (Scholastic)
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