I have a thing for fairy tales. I’ve loved them since I was a small child and they continue to intrigue me. Nowadays, the amount of fairy tale retellings and fairy tale inspired novels being published is staggering and it’s difficult to remember all the books that I may want to read. So here is where I collect all the fairy tale retellings I can find and write a little bit about how I liked them. If the title is red, a review is hiding under the link.
Recommendations are always welcome! Please also let me know if I’ve sorted a book with the wrong fairy tale. I’ve had to rely on book description and other people’s reviews for the books I haven’t read myself yet and it’s quite possible I’ve made a mistake somewhere. This is not a comprehensive list by any means. I am just one person slightly obsessed with fairy tales who jots down book titles whenever they sound like a fairy tale inspired them.
The books are sorted by fairy tale and I included a link to wikipedia in case you want to find out more about the original(s).
- Marissa Meyer – Cinder (read 02 June 2012)
A fun book with some great ideas that could have been explored a little more. Altogether, an enjoyable read with only a few boring moments. The big revelation was sadly obvious and predictable but I’ll come back for some more Lunar Chronicles, anyways. A recommended page-turner.
The series becomes even more fun as it continues.
- Sarah Pinborough – Charm
If you want a fairy tale to wow you, pick up Sarah Pinborough’s novellas. They are quick reads, they are sexy, and they’re worth it for the huntsman alone. Cinderella is a thick-headed naive girl who comes of age through her adventure involving diamond slippers, a mouse, and Robin Hood. Even with that said, the novella still has things in store to surprise you. I fell head over heels in love with these three retellings.
Just… go read them.
- Terry Pratchett – Witches Abroad
I love Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg. Putting them in the middle of a fairy tale with a fairy godmother as their adversary, talking animals, a stepsister and a ball, hilarity is guaranteed. As the title promises, the witches travel abroad, where people speak “foreign” and Nanny tries the local cuisine. Plus, this book contains one of Granny’s most badass moments.
Do not miss it!
- Alethea Kontis – Enchanted
This was such a charming and endearing read.
I hope Alethea Kontis will write many, many more books of this kind. I completely fell in love with the Woodcutter family and can’t wait to read about every single sister, and the brothers too. I particularly liked Prince Rumbold having a proper backstory and not just being a pretty prince. You see the story from his perspective as well which makes it a billion times better.
- Yukimi Ogawa – In Her Head, In Her Eyes
This is a retelling of the Japanese story “A Girl With a Bowl on Her Head” (which is well worth the read, btw) and it was my favorite of the six stories published by The Book Smugglers. It is filled with emotion, the characters are vibrant, the descriptions beautiful. I was utterly taken with the tale, especially the twist ending.
- Malinda Lo – AshThis book was just not for me. Others have loved it but I hated Ash’s passive, bland character, I didn’t feel the romance, I thought the “Cinderella” aspects were just added in to give the book some purpose or to be able to sell it as a retelling. To me, this was a standalone, original fairy story without much substance or plot. The romance just wasn’t there, it popped out of nowhere. Thinking back on it, all I come up with is: meh!
- Rosamund Hodge – Gilded Ashes
Cinderella with a great twist right at the beginning. Set in a universe filled with demons, curses, and bargains with a dark lord, Maia doesn’t want to be loved. It just so happens that, in addition to falling for the duke, she learns to love her stepsisters and sees her family in an entirely new light. Surprisingly wonderful novella companion to Cruel Beauty!
- Tansy Rayner Roberts – Glass Slipper Scandal (read in 2017)
If news reporters had to write about fairy tale princes and hunt for the next palace scandal, this is what you’d get. It’s a light, sweet little novella about royal princes, a newsreporter, an old mystery, and a scandalous night involving a rather unusual shoe.
- Ashley Poston – Geekerella (read in 2018)
A non-fantasy retelling about a fangirl desperately wanting to go to a convention and all the trouble that comes with having an evil stepmother and two stepsisters who want to ruin her life. This was a surprisingly lovely take on Cinderella and I loved that the “prince” is more fleshed out than in other retellings.
- Cameron Dokey – Before Midnight
- Mercedes Lackey – Phoenix and Ashes
- Mercedes Lackey – The Fairy Godmother
- Gail Carson Levine – Ella Enchanted (read years ago)
- Sophie Masson – Moonlight and Ashes
- Jim C. Hines – The Stepsister Scheme
- David Henry Wilson – The Coachman Rat
- Margaret Peterson Haddix – Just Ella
- Sarah J. Maas – Throne of Glass
- Melanie Dickerson – The Captive Maiden
- Lili St. Crow – Wayfarer
- Carolyn Turgeon – Godmother
- Kate Danley – The Woodcutter
- Gregory Maguire – Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister
- Donna Jo Napoli – Bound
- Stella Gibbons – Nightingale Woods
- Jennifer Wardell – Fairy Godmothers, Inc.
- Melissa Lemon – Cinder and Ella
- Sarah Scheele – Alyce
- Sophie Masson – Cold Iron
- Julie Berry – The Amaranth Enchantment
- Eleanor Farjeon – The Glass Slipper
- J.A. Kazimer – Curses! A F***ed-Up Fairy Tale
- Sarah Raughley – Feather Bound
- Lauren Skidmore – What is Hidden
- Paul Rudnick – Gorgeous
- Shonna Slayton – Cinderella’s Dress
- Betsy Cornwell – Mechanica
- Bridget Hodder – The Rat Prince
- Sarah Prineas – Ash & Bramble
- Bennett Madison – September Girls
I hated this with a passion. It is boring and sexist and while the mermaids are updated with a clever twist, not a single character was interesting or felt alive. I hated two or three of them, the others were so bland I didn’t feel anything. The one redeeming quality were the chapters told from the mermaids’ point of view, the rest is utter crap. Those mermaid mini-chapters would have made an excellent book.
- Octavia Cade – The Mussel Eater
This short story (from Book Smugglers Publishing) really shows off Cade’s skill with language. It is stock full of food porn, gorgeous mermaid mythology and just the right amount of darkness. I loved it from beginning to end and have since bought two more stories by Octavia Cade. I believe she’s an author to look out for, highly talented and original!
- S.L. Huang – The Little Homo Sapiens Scientist (read in 2017)
An absolutely devastating flipped retelling in which a human woman wishes to become a mermaid (well, aragati) and sacrifices so much to achieve that goal. All the elements of the original fairy tale are there but I didn’t expect the emotional impact. It’s a novelette, so you can read it pretty quickly, but it sticks with you after you’re finished.
- Esther Dalseno – Drown (read in 2019)
This is a dark, quite faithful retelling of the Little Mermaid. There are some twists along the way, the species of the merpeople is fascinating and the author mixes original ideas with all the things that make the Andersen fairy tale so engaging. This also has nothing to do with the Disney version, so expect some darkness and not a happy outcome for everyone.
- Julia Ember – The Seafarer’s Kiss(read in 2020)
A quick retelling of The Little Mermaid with a bit of Norse mythology and an F/F romance. Worldbuilding, characters, and plot aren’t super in depth but the story was nice to follow and the message is a good one – stay true to who you are, find your place in the world, and learn from your mistakes.
- Jim C. Hines – The Mermaid’s Madness
- Carolyn Turgeon – Mermaid
- Jackson Pearce – Fathomless
- Donna Jo Napoli – Sirena
- Debbie Viguié – Midnight Pearls
- Elizabeth Fama – Monstrous Beauty
- Jaclyn Dolamore – Between the Sea and Sky
- Mercedes Lackey – Fortune’s Fool
- Sarah Porter – Lost Voices
- Sarah Henning – Sea Witch
- Marissa Meyer – Scarlet (read in 2014)
This isn’t a good book, but it is one that you can eat up in a day without thinking too hard. The girl in the red hoodie and the brooding, dark guy named Wolf have a nice, fluffy romance that will actually give you butterflies (if you ignore they’ve only known each other for a day).
Cinder meets the wonderful and enigmatic Captain Thorne and their bickering alone makes the novel worthwile, despite its flaws when it comes to style and world-building.
- S.L. Huang – Hunting Monsters (read in 2014)
This is an okay retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, mixed with a little Beauty and the Beast. Three generations of women come together to tell a dark tale of secrets within secrets. It revisits well-known tales and shows them for what they really are. I liked the ideas a lot, but the writing wasn’t up my alley. I can’t put my finger on what exactly bugged me but in retrospect, this was only an okay retelling for me.
- Rosamund Hodge – Crimson Bound (read in 2016)
A very loose retelling of Little Read Riding Hood, mixed with The Girl With No Hands. I loved this for its atmosphere and complex characters in complicated relationships. It had great mythology, questions of right and wrong, guilt and redemption, and went a lot easier on the insta-love. Very well done.
- Jim C. Hines – Red Hood’s Revenge
- Jackson Pearce – Sisters Red
- Jessica Day George – Princess of the Silver Woods
- Sarah Blakely-Cartwright – Red Riding Hood
- Debbie Viguié – Scarlet Moon
- Robert Paul Weston – Dust City
- Vivian Vande Velde – Cloaked in Red
- Davonna Juroe – Scarlette
- Alison Paige – Little Red and the Wolf
- Rebecca Brown – The Dogs
- Ivy Devlin – Low Red Moon
- Ed Young – Lon Po Po
- Lauren Skidmore – What is Lost
- Sarah Pinborough – Beauty
What if there was a good reason for Sleeping Beauty to be asleep? What if Rumpelstilskin had a hand in it? And what if a prince, a huntsman, and Red Riding Hood were trying to figure it all out? Then you get an awesome, sexy fairy tale with so many twists you won’t see that thorny forest for trees.
It may have been my least favorite of Pinborough’s three retellings but that doesn’t say very much.
Her writing is so good, I am dying to read more by her.
- Linda Medley – Castle Waiting (Volume 1)
Sleeping Beauty is actually only the preface to this wonderful story. The castle is as much a character as the people (and other creatures) inhabiting it. It’s not an action-packed graphic novel but, oh, it was so wonderful to see the largely female cast tell their stories.
Circuses, bearded ladies, Iron Henry, a doctor who is also a stork… you’ll find much to love in this hidden gem.
- Neil Gaiman – The Sleeper and the Spindle
The artwork by Chris Riddell is stunning. Black and white with metallic gold or silver details, it makes the book worthwile all by itself. But Gaiman wouldn’t be Gaiman if he didn’t add at least one spin to the fairy tale. My favorite part? Snow White, the heroine of the story, in full battle armor. Recommended!
- E.D. Baker – The Wide-Awake Princess
A cute, if very black-and-white oversimplified take on Sleeping Beauty. Sleeping Beauty’s sister must go and round up as many princes as possible so the correct “true love” can kiss Sleeping Beauty awake. On her journey, she meets friends and romance of her own, outwits fairies, disenchants bears and frog princes, saves Hansel and Gretel, and much more. A sweet little story for middle grade kids.
- Stacey Jay – Princess of Thorns
- Cameron Dokey – Beauty Sleep
- Robin McKinley – Spindle’s End
- Sheri S. Tepper – Beauty
- Mercedes Lackey – The Gates of Sleep
- Jane Yolen – Briar Rose
- Elizabeth Blackwell – While Beauty Slept
- Helen Lowe – Thornspell
- Melanie Dickerson – The Healer’s Apprentice
- Anna Sheehan – A Long Long Sleep
- Jenny Moss – Shadow
- Alex Flinn – A Kiss in Time
- Robert Coover – Briar Rose
- Jane Yolen – Curse of the Thirteenth Fey
- Orson Scott Card – Enchantment
- Dennis L. McKiernan – Once Upon a Summer Day
- Gail Carson Levine – Princess Sonora and the Long Sleep
- Diane Zahler – Sleeping Beauty’s Daughters
- Regina Doman – Waking Rose
- Tia Nevitt – The Sevenfold Spell
- Susann Cokal – The Kingdom of Little Wounds
- Sophie Masson – Clementine
- Catherine Gilbert Murdock – Princess Ben
- Anne Rice – The Sleeping Beauty Trilogy
- Merrie Haskell – The Castle Behind Thorns
- Christopher Golden – When Romassonse Wakes
- Katharine & Elizabeth Corr – The Witch’s Kiss
- Lexa Hillyer – Spindle Fire
- Liz Braswell – Once Upon a Dream
- Sarah Prineas – Rose & Thorn
- Shonna Slayton – Spindle
- Margo Lanagan – Tender Morsels (read in February 2013)
Most highly recommended! This puts a truly sinister spin on the old fairytale. I felt for the characters as if they were my friends and I was swept into a world full of magic, bears, and all the horrors that good old regular humans brings to the table. Lanagan’s writing is gorgeous and I will read anything and everything else she has written. If you’re put off by the opening chapters (they are rather hard to stomach), push through. This never turns into a fluffy, happy read, but it does get easier.
- Patricia C. Wrede – Snow White and Rose Red
- Regina Doman – The Shadow of the Bear
- E.D. Baker – Unlocking the Spell
- Catherynne M. Valente – Six-Gun Snow White (read in May 2013)
A wonderful retelling set in the Wild West, with Snow White’s parents being a mining baron and a Native American woman. This novella explores so many themes – gender, race, abuse, colonialism – and weaves new ideas into the fairytale. Snow White not being white is just one aspect that makes this so amazing. Valente’s trademark lyrical style is back and her story is filled with mythology and wonder. Can’t recommend her enough.
- Sarah Pinborough – Poison (read in December 2013)
This dark and sexy retelling caught me unawares and hit all the right buttons. If you’re looking for an adult retelling with beautiful language and vivid characterization, look no further. I was actually rooting for the Huntsman in this one… not because I disliked Snow White, just because he was a brilliant character. It’s worth reading the entire trilogy for the proper conclusion to Poison.
- Helen Oyeyemi – Boy, Snow, Bird (read 2014)
Snow White has the best retellings! This book took a different turn, telling the evil stepmother’s story and giving the whole thing a twist that involves racial and gender issues. Oyeyemi’s voice is breathtaking. She never lectures, her characters are multi-layered, and I loved Boy, Snow, and Bird equally.
Helen Oyeyemi catapulted herself into my list of favorite authors with this book.
- Tanith Lee – White as Snow (read in 2015)
A very dark and depressing version of Snow White. The focus lies on both the mother and the Snow White figure, the story follows their tragic lives, filled with violence and broken dreams. I loved the writing but hated what the characters had to go through. This is not a comfort read and most definitely not for children! It was fantastic but I really don’t want to read it again.
- Marissa Meyer – Winter (read in 2016)
The grand finale of The Lunar Chronicles, Winter suffers from a few pacing issues and an ending I’m not quite sure about. But apart from that, it delivers all the romance, all the action, and all the teamworky fun you could hope for. All the fairy tale characters come together and save each other while facing the evil queen Levana. It’s a big book but most of it is pure enjoyment.
- Marissa Meyer – Fairest (read in 2016)
Since Levana is the evil stepmother to Princess Winter, I’m including her in this section, although this is not a retelling of Snow White. It’s an origin story for the evil queen that is the adversary in the Lunar Chronicles series. A slow story, filled with dark moments, but with occasional moments of greatness as well. Not great, but good, and short enough to be a good addition to the overall series.
- Neil Gaiman & Colleen Doran – Snow, Glass Apples (read in 2019)
A graphic novel adaptation of the Gaiman short story, this is a dark twist on the fairy tale. Here, Snow White is the villain and the stepmother is just trying to save her kingdom. It is definitely a story for adults, there are many scenes that made me cringe, but it’s also one of my favorite retellings of the fairy tale. Definitely recommended.
- Melissa Bashardoust – Girls Made of Snow and Glass (read in 2019)
A feminist retelling of Snow White set in an original world with super interesting characters. The world building and the romances were not so great, but I loved how this story focused on the female characters and how it teaches you that women can be friends, and lovers, and family, and don’t have to be rivals.
- Carolyn Turgeon – The Fairest of them All
- Gregory Maguire – Mirror Mirror
- McCormick Templeman – The Glass Casket
- Jane Yolen – Snow in Summer
- Tracy Lynn – Snow
- Mette Ivie Harrison – Mira, Mirror
- Gail Carson Levine – Fairest
- Nancy Ohlin – Beauty
- Lili St. Crow – Nameless
- Mercedes Lackey – The Serpent’s Shadow
- Amanda Marrone – Devoured
- Regina Doman – Black as Night
- Richard Sala – Delphine
- Melanie Dickerson – The Fairest Beauty
- Melissa Lemon – Snow Whyte and the Queen of Mayhem
- David Meredith – The Reflections of Queen Snow White
- E.D. Baker – The Bravest Princess
- Mercedes Lackey – The Sleeping Beauty
- R.C. Lewis – Stitching Snow
- Lily Archer – Poison Apples
- Cameron Jace – Snow White Sorrow
- Adèle Geras – Pictures of the Night
- P.W. Catanese – The Mirror’s Tale
- Donna Jo Napoli – Dark Shimmer
- Lauren Skidmore – The Fairest Poison
- Julie C. Dao – Forest of a Thousand Lanterns
- Stephanie Rabig – Winterbourne’s Daughter
- Robin McKinley – Beauty (read 28 May 2012)
A bad start to fairy tale retellings month. Basically a boring version of the Disney movie (and yes, I know the book was there first). Apparently, Disney took the McKinley novel, vamped it up a bit, added music and voilà – there’s a gorgeous story. Now reading it without the music and side characters and the evolving relationship between Beauty and Beast felt like a let down. It’s in no way Robin McKinley’s fault but I was bored to death.
- Rosamund Hodge – Cruel Beauty
An interesting take on Beauty and the Beast, spiced with some Greek mythology. I loved how flawed and believable the protagonist was, but her fickleness bothered me. Add to that a forced love triangle, and writing that got lazier and lazier towards the end, and you’ve got a book that is merely okay. However, I am very interested in what the author does next, because I loved her ideas. If she polishes her writing a bit, I see a potential fairy tale retellings star.
- Laura Ruby – Bone Gap (read in 2015)
Oh my gods, Bone Gap!!! Not a retelling as such, but a gorgeous story that has distinct elements of Beauty and the Beast. It turns all expectations and tropes upside down and delivers one of the most kick-ass endings ever. The protagonists are riddles to be solved, and I love them all to pieces. Plus, it’s just beautifully written book.
- Sarah J. Maas – A Court of Thorns and Roses (read in 2016)
Beauty and the Beast at a fairy court. What sounds good turned out to be a fairly predictable novel about the undying love between a cursed fey lord and a human girl. It has potential, but for a long time, the book drags along. Then the ending is full of action. If the YA fantasy romance tropes had been subverted even a little, I would have liked this much more.
- T. Kingfisher – Bryony and Roses (read in 2018)
Ah, Ursula Vernon (T. Kingfisher is her pen name), why can’t you write a fairy tale retelling every month? Quick-witted, practical heroines, interesting twists on old stories, mixing them up with made-up myths and legends… This Beauty and the Beast retelling has the perfect slow-burn romance, high stakes, and exactly the kind of Beauty I want to read about. Clever, not fussy, let’s-get-down-to-business-and-break-this curse kind of girls.
- Aliette de Bodard – In the Vanishers’ Palace (read in 2019)
A strange, almost science-fantasy retelling of Beauty and the Beast. While I loved the lesbian romance between the protagonists, I felt the world building was way too ambitious for a novella. There is simply too much hinted at and not enough explanation or even hints at explanations for the world to be convincing. Excellent characters and relationships, but a rather weak plot and mediocre world-building. So just an okay read.
- Brigid Kemmerer – A Curse so Dark and Lonely (read in 2019)
A great idea with a wonderfully active heroine who has cerebral palsy and a lot of guts. I loved the characters, I thought the curse was brilliantly dark and truly cruel. The ending was a bit convenient and the writing didn’t exactly shine, but the book was great fun to read. Will read the sequel!
- Robin McKinley – Rose Daughter
- Cameron Dokey – Belle
- Merrie Haskell – The Princess Curse
- Juliet Marillier – Heart’s Blood
- Alex Flinn – Beastly
- Stacey Jay – Of Beast and Beauty
- Clare B. Dunkle – The Hollow Kingdom
- G.R. Mannering – Roses
- Sophie Masson – Scarlet in Snow
- Donna Jo Napoli – Beast
- Mercedes Lackey – Beauty and the Werewolf
- Mercedes Lackey – The Fire Rose
- Susan Wilson – Beauty
- Melanie Dickerson – The Merchant’s Daughter
- Lauren Baratz-Logsted – Crazy Beautiful
- Ann Hunter – The Subtle Beauty
- Mette Ivie Harrison – The Princess and the Hound
- Jessa Russo – Divide
- Christine Feehan – Lair of the Lion
- Cat Hellisen – Beastkeeper
- Kate Forsyth – The Beast’s Garden
- Meagan Spooner – Hunted
- Liz Braswell – As Old as Time
- Zoë Marriott – Barefoot on the Wind
- Jenniffer Wardell – Beast Charming
- Brie Spangler – Beast
- Victoria Leybourne – The Rose and the Mask
- Meagan Spooner – Hunted
- Jessica Day George – Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow (read in 2015)
A quiet and thoughtful retelling whose setup I really liked. The Lass and her relationship to her brother Hans Peter made the book special while the rest of it sticks closely to the fairy tale it retells. It has elements of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” and some random mythology.
Sticking closely to the original, I wasn’t surprised or overwhelmed but I enjoyed reading it, nonetheless.
- Edith Pattou – East (read in 2016)
What a lovely retelling. Pattou builds her own beautiful world and puts her heroine Rose through a lot before she can save her prince. There is no riding on the winds’ backs, instead Rose has to travel miles and miles on land, sea, and ice. Great side characters, wonderful mythology, an all-around great retelling!
- Joanna Ruth Meyer – Echo North (read in 2019)Oh, what a beautiful retelling! The polar bear is a while wolf in this one and the heroine makes a stupid choice that doesn’t seem stupid at all. A very original take on the fairy tale with a kick-ass protagonist and a twist at the end that totally blew my mind! All that, wrapped in beautiful language, with a super intriguing world, there’s nothing I didn’t like about this book.
- Juliet Marillier – Beautiful (read in 2020)
- This audiobook (Audible original) starts out so well. Instead of following the girl or the prince of the original fairy tale, the protagonist is none other than the troll princess. And she’s not actually a villain but rather just a young girl searching for her place in the world. Unfortunately, the second and third parts of this book got weaker and weaker over time, the plot felt forced, and I really only loved the beginning.
- Edith Pattou – West
- Sarah Beth Durst – Ice
- Margi Preus – West of the Moon
- Dennis L. McKiernan – Once Upon a Winter’s Night
- Mercedes Lackey – Home From the Sea
- Michelle Diener – Mistress of the Wind
- William H. Hooks – Snowbear Whittington
- Lili Wilkinson – Scatterheart
- Genevieve Valentine – The Girls at the Kingfisher Club (read in 2014)
Genevieve Valentine can do no wrong. I’m sure her style isn’t for everyone but if you like it at all, you will love it for ever and ever. Characters come to life and live and breathe on every page. The smart little tidbits (in parentheses) reveal worlds about their personalities. Oh, and making 12 girls real and believable is a feat of strength all by itself. After reading this, I want to be friends with Jo and Lou, and go dance the Charleston until my shoes fall apart.
- Catherynne M. Valente – Speak Easy (read in 2015)
A very, very loose retelling but a brilliant story in its own right. The Hotel Artemisia is filled with colorful inhabitants, booze, dancing, and its very own underworld… erm, I mean basement. The narration is gorgeous, the story heartbreaking (what else?) and the characters amazing.
- Tansy Rayner Roberts – Dance, Princes, Dance (read in 2017)
The sequel to Glass Slipper Scandal deals mostly with the original characters, but there is definitely a fairy ball happening every night. I didn’t like this as much as its predecessor, because it felt rushed and pieced together. But I love the world and characters so I’d still recommend the series.
- Erin A. Craig – House of Salt and Sorrows
- Heather Dixon – Entwined
- Merrie Haskell – The Princess Curse
- Juliet Marillier – Wildwood Dancing
- Suzanne Weyn – The Night Dance
- Jessica Day George – Princess of the Midnight Ball
- Heather Tomlinson – Aurelie
- Regina Doman – The Midnight Dancers
- Diane Zahler – The Thirteenth Princess
- Amanda C. Davis – The Lair of the Twelve Princesses
- Nikki Katz – The Midnight Dance
- Vivian Vande Velde – The Rumpelstiltskin Problem (read in 2014)
Six alternative versions of a fairy tale that makes no sense! The author turns things on their head to put a little more logic into the least logical Grimms’ tale of them all. I loved the humor and the ending lines, as well as the diversity of the tales. One is set in Russia, one features a female Rumpelstiltskin, and most of them give the miller’s daughter a little more brains to work with. This is a lovely and very quick read. Also: totally suitable for small children.
- C.S.E. Cooney – How the Milkmaid Struck a Bargain With the Crooked One
(read in 2016)
Oh, my heart! This novelette, included in Cooney’s collection Bone Swans is probably the only version of Rumpelstiltskin that put me through all the emotions. Gordie, a milkmaid who likes being a milkmaid, is thrown into trouble by her drunken father’s boasting of her otherworldly abilities (straw, gold, you know the deal). But in addition to a crooked man helping her, there is excellent world building, drama, wars, and a romance. I absolutely loved this and cannot recommend it enough!
- Veronica Shanoes – Burning Girls (read in 2017)
Deborah grows up in Poland, apprenticed to her witch/healer grandmother, and as such demons are no strangers to her. When she and her sister Shayna move to America, they think they’ve left the old Gods behind. The Rumpelstilstkin aspect is only a minor part of this novella, but the story is so exciting that I didn’t mind. A good, darker retelling.
- Naomi Novik – Spinning Silver (read in 2018)
Based on the eponymous short story in “The Starlit Wood”, this starts as a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin and then turns full-on epic fantasy. I loved the three main characters and their resolve, I loved how these three women worked together, and I loved the setting. It wasn’t quite as great as Uprooted but it’s a worthy follow-up. I hope Novik writes many more of these fairy tale inspired stories set in vaguely Eastern European places.
- Elizabeth C. Bunce – A Curse Dark as Gold
- Jonathan Carroll – Sleeping in Flame
- Gary D. Schmidt – Straw into Gold
- Liesl Shurtliff – Rump
- Suzanne Weyn – The Crimson Thread
- Donna Jo Napoli – Spinners
- C. J. Redwine – The Wish Granter
- Shannon Hale – The Goose Girl (read in 2014)
A very faithful retelling of the fairy tale. There are no surprising twists or turns, but Shannon Hale gives the rather flat fairy tale characters a personality and agency. While there is a tender romance, the heart of the novel is politics and identity. These themes are beautifully explored and packed into a slow but satisfying story. The great thing is, you can read the book without knowing the fairy tale first.
- Intisar Khanani – Thorn (read in 2014)
A very well written retelling with a little more magic than Shannon Hale’s version. Alyrra is a kind and quiet heroine who stands up for those she loves. A little lacking in romance and a bit overloaded during the second half of the novel, this was still an enjoyable read with great character growth. I’ll be sure to check out more books by Khanani.
- Alethea Kontis – Dearest (read in 2015)
While the first two Woodcutter books charmed me out of my socks and made me utterly in love with its characters, this was the opposite. Bland insta-love, constant repetitions, a boring plot, and things that fall into place way too neatly. The Goose Girl part is a side-plot with the focus on the Six Swans.
- Patrice Kindl – Goose Chase
- Anne Ursu – Breadcrumbs (read 17 June 2012)
An adorable and beautifully written retelling. I liked Hazel immediately and could relate to her love for everything imaginative. I liked the part set in the real world better than the part that is much more clearly a fairy tale, but overall, this was a very good book for children. And the illustrations are breath-taking!
- Benjanun Sriduangkaew – Winterglass (read in 2018)
A fantastic novella, told in lush language, about one woman who wants to kill the Winter Queen who has enslaved her land. She develops a relationship with the Queen’s lover General Lussadh. Brilliant world-building, fantastic characters, a fast-paced plot, and original ideas. Only the ending is lacking because the story feels like the first part of a trilogy (and may well be, I don’t know at this point).
- T. Kingfisher – The Raven and the Reindeer (read in 2018)
I love what Kingfisher has done with this tale. The beginning was rather slow and very fairy tale-like (almost no characterization, quick plot, etc.) but once the journey starts and this turns out to be a lesbian retelling, things get really interesting. The animal sidekicks were also wonderful, the mythology was lovely, and have you seen the covers on these retellings?
- Joan D. Vinge – The Snow Queen
- Benjanun Sriduangkaew – Mirrorstrike
- Cameron Dokey – Winter’s Child
- Mercedes Lackey – The Wizard of London
- Mercedes Lackey – The Snow Queen
- Jim C. Hines – The Snow Queen’s Shadow
- Jackson Pearce – Cold Spell
- Karen Foxlee – Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy
- Vicki L. Weavil – Crown of Ice
- Wendy Delsol – Stork
- Danielle Paige – Stealing Snow
- Robin McKinley – Deerskin (read in 2018)
A truly amazing but very tough to read retelling. It’s a quiet sort of book that focuses almost entirely on its protagonist and how she deals with pain and heals, her beautiful relationship to her loyal dog, and a slow and believable romance. I came to adore Lissar and felt for her every step of her rocky way, and I also loved the imagery used in this novel. Recommended but don’t expect a happy read.
- Mercedes Lackey – Unnatural Issue
- Juliet Marillier – Daughter of the Forest (read 19th February 2013)
A beautifully told, very quiet book with brilliant characterization but not enough fantasy/mythology for me personally.
Sorcha, the heroine, while strong and sympathetic, didn’t develop enough considering what she went through. There are some passages that require ploughing through, but the ending makes it all worthwile. Plus, butterflies guaranteed.
- Alethea Kontis – Dearest (read in 2015)
I haven’t been this bored in a long time. I don’t know what happened but Alethea Kontis’ usual originality, cute romances and charming characters seem to have left the building. Friday is bland, the extreme insta-love left me emotionless, and the terrible consequences some characters have to bear in the fairy tale were magically explained away, with everything being too happy and too neat and altogether too uninteresting.
- Diane Zahler – Princess of the Wild Swans
- Zoë Marriott – The Swan Kingom
- Rafe Martin – Birdwing
- Ursula Synge – Swan’s Wing
- Nicholas Stuart Gray – The Seventh Swan
- Peg Kerr – The Wild Swans
- R. C. Lewis – Spinning Starlight
- Alethea Kontis – Enchanted
Retelling more than one fairy tale, I’ve raved about this book already (see Cinderella). But the Frog Prince part deserves to be mentioned separately. Because that part irked me. Sunday falls in love with the frog really, really quickly. Like three days quickly. The romance continues later on and becomes more believable. I stand by my opinion – I loved this book – but it could have used a bit more time for developing the romance.
- Donna Jo Napoli – The Prince of the Pond (read in 2017)
A slightly odd retelling of The Frog Prince, dealing mostly with the enchanted prince learning how to be a proper frog, or “fawg” (as his frog speech impediment makes him say). It read a bit like a documentary on frogs, the only fairy tale element being the hag and the fact that Pin is a very un-frog-like frog. Cute, short, and quite original, but not my favorite type of retelling.
- Nancy Springer – Fair Peril (read in 2019)
A modern twisted retelling of the Frog Prince, this wasn’t my kind of book. I hated all of the characters, most of all protagonist Buffy, with her man-hating, embittered view of the world. The plot was incredibly weird, but got better as the story gets more comfortable with its own magic. I liked how Buffy developed but that wasn’t enough to save the book. The writing was also strange, with weird words and rhymes thrown in when it didn’t feel appropriate.
- Garth Nix – Frogkisser!
- Alex Flinn – Cloaked
- Suzanne Weyn – Water Song
- Robin McKinley – The Door in the Hedge
- Jon Scieszka – The Frog Prince Continued
- Vivian Vande Velde – Frogged
- J.A. Kazimer – Froggy Style
- Melanie Dickerson – The Princess Spy
- E.D. Baker – The Frog Princess
- John Moore – The Unhandsome Prince
- Bruce Coville – Jennifer Murdley’s Toad
- Alix Berenzy – A Frog Prince
- Donna Jo Napoli – The Wager
- Jamie Robyn Wood – Bearskin
- Catherynne M. Valente – The Orphan’s Tales
- In the Cities of Coin and Spice
I have endless amounts of love for everything Cat Valente writes.
But The Orphan’s Tales are something else! They don’t retell the Arabian Nights per se, but they have a similar structure. Stories within stories within stories mesh with stories that happen to other characters but at the same time. It’s a tapestry of wonders, featuring the most diverse cast I’ve ever found in a book.
There are stories that will make you laugh, stories that will break your heart, characters who grow into themselves, who find friends, who fight for what they believe in. There is myth and magic and crazy ideas – and it all comes together beautifully. If you don’t mind keeping a lot of plot strings in your brain, pick this up. If you do mind, just keep track on a piece of paper and read it anyway.
It’s one of my favorite stories ever. Period.
- In the Cities of Coin and Spice
- Catherine F. King – The Ninety-Ninth Bride
This novella published by The Book Smugglers differs from the tale we all know. But it adds lovely twists and a new focus. It is much more about the frame story than the 1001 tales told.
I quite liked it.
- Martine Leavitt – Keturah and Lord Death (read in 2020)
This lovely little book is parts 1001 night, parts Hades and Persephone, and all fairy tale. Told in simple prose, it’s the story of Keturah and her village and how she bargains for another day of life by telling Death a story.
- E.K. Johnston – A Thousand Nights
- E.K. Johnston – Spindle
- Cameron Dokey – The Storyteller’s Daughter
- Hanan Al-Shaykh – One Thousand and One Nights
- Marjane Satrapi – The Sigh
- Susan Fletcher – Shadow Spinner
- Regina Doman – Alex O’Donnell and the 40 Cyber Thieves
- Liz Braswell – A Whole New World
- Jessica Khoury – The Forbidden Wish
- S. A. Chakraborty – The City of Brass
- Angela Carter – The Bloody Chamber (read June 2013)
This collection contains retellings of Bluebeard as well as Puss in Boots, Red Riding Hood, and Beauty and the Beast. But the titular story was the most impressive one. Dark and sexy, with lyrical language – I was fascinated and terrified alike. Angela Carter just blew me away. I already put her gorgeous Fairy Tales book on my wishlist. Let’s see how long I can resist the temptation.
- Amélie Nothomb – Barbe bleue (read in 2014)
This Bluebeard is a gentleman obsessed with gold and Spain. His “wives” are roommates that mysteriously disappear. The “princess” is his latest roommate who won’t fall for his tricks. And she’s staying away from the forbidden (yet unlocked) room. I loved the ending to bits, the rest was the usual Nothomb weirdness. As retellings go, this was a nice short one, perfect for a plane ride or a quick weekend read.
- Helen Oyeyemi – Mr. Fox (read in 2015)
Oyeyemi’s language is beautiful, her characters multi-layered, and her tales touching. But Mr. Fox was a bit too messy for my taste. Imaginary (or not) muse Mary Foxe visits the writer Mr. Fox and questions his story-telling skills.
Daphne, his wife, feels threatened by this spectre, this strange woman – and together, they weave new Bluebeard tales and have to figure out their own lives. A good, labyrinthine book of stories. But very difficult to follow at times, if only because many characters share the same name. Not my favorite.
- T. Kingfisher – The Seventh Bride (read in 2016)
A 15-year-old miller’s daughter isn’t fooled by rich Lord Crevan. A man who already has six wives can’t be quite right, especially considering the horrors he did to them. This starts like a children’s book, but then clearly drifts into horror with some shocking reveals, but a charming, practical heroine. I loved this very different, new imagining of Bluebeard, even though (or maybe because) it completely leaves out the forbidden room. Highly recommended.
- Jane Nickerson – Strands of Bronze and Gold
- Gregory Frost – Fitcher’s Brides
- Margaret Atwood – The Robber Bride
- L. M. Montgomery – The Blue Castle
- Mercedes Lackey – Reserved for the Cat
- Sophie Masson – Carabas
- Alan Armstrong – Whittington
- Bettie Sharpe – Cat’s Tale
- Marissa Meyer – Cress (read in 2015)
I adored this! The Lunar Chronicles are a mixed bag for me but Cress just had everything I wanted. An arrogant, dashing hero, all the elements of Rapunzel seamlessly fused into this science fictional world, romance, action, quippy banter, and a whole cast of characters working together as a team. Yay for Cress!
- Cameron Dokey – Golden
- Kate Forsyth – Bitter Greens
- Carolyn Turgeon – The Fairest of them All
- Alex Flinn – Towering
- Regina Doman – Rapunzel Let Down
- K.C. Hilton – My Name is Rapunzel
- Donna Jo Napoli – Zel
- Sophie Masson – The Crystal Heart
- Madeleine E. Robins – Sold for Endless Rue
- Shannon and Dean Hale – Rapunzel’s Revenge
- Sarah Beth Durst – Into the Wild
- Rachel Schieffelbein – Don’t Fall
- Patricia Storace – Sugar Cane: A Caribbean Rapunzel
- Nicholas Stuart Gray – The Stone Cage
- Dawn Lairamore – Ivy’s Ever After
- M. P. Kozlowsky – Frost
- Catherynne M. Valente – Deathless (read in January 2013)
The most beautiful retelling I have ever read. Valente brings Russia to life (both the real and the fairy tale side of it) with her lyrical, gorgeous language. Every sentence begs to be printed out and hung up on a wall, her characters are diverse and magical, and I don’t know how many times she broke my heart with this story. “I have come for the girl in the window.” Aaaaaah! The highest recommendation on this list so far.
- Michael Wojcik – Mrs. Yaga
Here’s the one Book Smugglers Publishing short story that I was least taken with. It is a very obvious spin on the princess-in-need-of-rescuing trope. The princess goes out and does things herself. But instead of making it sound revolutionary, it reads like a parent is talking down to their child, teaching them a Valuable Lesson on how Girls Can Do Stuff Too. I love the message but I didn’t like the execution.
- Naomi Novik – Uprooted (read in 2015)
I adored this original fairy tale about an evil Wood and the wizards who keep it from taking people’s lives. Agnieszka was a heroine to root for, her teacher, the Dragon, was wonderful in his gruff, cold ways, but the star of this book is the Wood and all the evil that lives in it. Baba Yaga features only slightly as a historical figure, but the story gives a real sense of place and ancient fairy tales.
- Sarah Porter – Vassa in the Night (read in 2016)
A highly original take on Vassilissa the Beautiful, set in modern day Brooklyn. The book has gorgeous imagery (and illustrations), a wonderful heroine, and so many great ideas. It’s truly creative and, while flawed, a lovely escape from the real world. Plus brownie points for no romance/love triangle.
- Katherine Arden – The Bear and the Nightingale (read in 2017)
Oh, how I loved this! A retelling of Father Frost, this is the story of Vasya, a girl who grows up wild, loving her folk spirit friends, riding horses, and roaming the woods. But she has to fight two evils, one very real one (with prophecies and everything) and one in the shape of a priest, come to convert her village’s old beliefs to Christianity. I soaked up every word of this wonderfully atmospheric read. Highly recommended, especially if you can read it during winter.
- Katherine Arden – The Girl in the Tower (read in 2018)
Another absolutely beautiful story by Katherine Arden. It continues just where The Bear and the Nightingale left off, adding new layers to Vasya’s world. Morozko, the Winter King, is back, and with him some other mythological creatures from Russian folklore. Add to that the wonderful, defiant Vasya, her siblings, and her niece (who stole my heart really quickly).
- Katherine Arden – The Winter of the Witch (read in 2019)
The epic ending of the Winternight Trilogy, this book combines all the elements of the previous two. Vasya tries to find middle ground between the old beliefs and the new, between the world of magic and the world of men. There is more than one war to be fought with Vasya right in the middle, but Arden brings her tale to a fantastic close.
- Jane Yolen – Finding Baba Yaga (read in 2018)
This novel in verse is both enchanting and over way too soon. While it’s not my kind of poetry, I appreciated it for the story it told and the images it evoked in my mind. If you want a really quick read, to dip your toes into Russian folklore, or you simply enjoy poetry, give this one a go.
- Dubravka Ugrešić – Baba Yaga Laid an Egg
- Toby Barlow – Babayaga
- Gregory Maguire – Egg and Spoon
- Gregory Maguire – The Dream Stealer
- Patricia A. McKillip – In the Forest of Serre
- Peter Morwood – Tales of Old Russia
- Prince Ivan
- The Golden Horde
- Mercedes Lackey – Firebird
- Marcus Sedgwick – Blood Red Snow White
- E.D. Baker – A Question of Magic
- Kate Danley – The Woodcutter
- Pamela Dean – Tam Lin
- Elizabeth Bear – Blood and Iron
- Holly Black – Tithe
- Jane Nickerson – The Mirk and Midnight Hour
- Janet McNaughton – An Earthly Knight
- Elizabeth Marie Pope – The Perilous Gard
- Diana Wynne Jones – Fire and Hemlock
- Geraldine McCaughrean – Never Let Go
- Katherine Harbour – Thorn Jack
- James Moloney – Silvermay
- Patricia McKillip – Winter Rose
- Ellen Kushner – Thomas the Rhymer
A beautiful, quiet retelling of the eponymous ballad. With its focus on the four first-person narrators, this story interweaves myth, fairy tales, romance, and wonderful character development. Very much my cup of tea, highly atmospheric – recommended!
- Terry Pratchett – The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents (read in 2012)
This was the Pratchett book that made me truly fall in love with his writing. Maurice, a perfectly cat-like cat, together with a bunch of rats and a human with a pipe, scams villages by creating a rat “plague” and then miracindculously clearing the rats away. Funny, touching, full of truths and charm. It will make you laugh, it will break your heart, and it will make you want to read all the Discworld novels you can get your hands on. Highly recommended (also suitable for children).
- C.S.E. Cooney – The Bone Swans of Amandale (read in 2016)
This novella is both dark and humerous. Narrated by a rat (interestingly, called Maurice), it tells the tragic tale of a village enthralled by an evil mayor and how Maurice, a swan princess and a very broken pied piper save its people. This tale is full of magic and beauty and humor in the face of death. Lovely!
I also recommend the rest of Cooney’s collection – every story is a gem.
- Cecilia Dart-Thornton – The Ill-Made Mute
- Victoria Schwab – The Near Witch
- Meg Harper – Piper
- Lyn Gardner – Into the Woods
- Bill Richardson – After Hamelin
- China Mieville – King Rat
- Donna Jo Napoli – Breath
- Jay Asher – Piper
- Alethea Kontis – Trixter (read in 2017)
Only a small part in this book is a retelling of Frau Holle. A side character is one of the two girls from the fairy tale. This middle grade book is cute, adventurous, but doesn’t really use its fairy tale origins to do anything new or interesting. Recommended for young children.
- Neil Gaiman – Hansel and Gretel
Not my cup of tea. Gaiman brought nothing new to this fairy tale and the artwork by Mattotti just didn’t work for me. It’s fittingly dark but other than broad brush-strokes and shady silhouettes, there was nothing for me to discover. The text is simple and straight-forward. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t anything to write home about either.
- Adam Gidwitz – A Tale Dark and Grimm (read in 2018)
While Hansel and Gretel are the protagonists here, they live through all sorts of fairy tales. This middle grade book was nice, although nothing groundbreaking. I’d recommend it for kids who like fairy tales and adults who are looking for a lighter read.
- Helen Oyeyemi – Gingerbread (read in 2019)
Oyeyemi’s gift with language creates a strange, magical realist tale of a fictional country and family confusions, all to do with gingerbread and following metaphorical breadcrumbs to discover the truth about your childhood. There are talking dolls and a relationship between three generations of women. Very strange but lovely.
- Claire Legrand – The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls
- Alex Flinn – Bewitching
- Jackson Pearce – Sweetly
- Donna Jo Napoli – The Magic Circle
- Louise Murphy – The True Story of Hansel and Gretel
- Eliza Granville – Gretel and the Dark
- Nikki Loftin – The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy
- Keith McGowan – The Witch’s Guide to Cooking With Children
- Walter Moers – Ensel und Krete
- Stephanie Oakes – The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly
- Angela Slatter – The Girl With No Hands
- Sarah McGuire – Valiant
- Cameron Dokey – Wild Orchid
- Elizabeth Lim – Reflection
- Heather Tomlinson – Toads and Diamonds
- Heather Vogel Frederick – Once Upon a Toad
- Régis Loisel – Peter Pan (graphic novel) (read in June 2012)
Incredible. The best alternate version of Peter Pan I have ever read. I fell in love with these books years ago and they haven’t lost any of their magic. I have reread the comics a couple of times and intend to do so many times more. Former street urchin Peter finds a new life as the Pan of Neverland but it’s a hard and bloody road to reach the life led as the boy we all know. But watch out: This is not for children!
- Jodi Lynn Anderson – Tiger Lily
A quiet and unexpectedly touching book about the girl Peter loved before Wendy ever showed up. With Tink as a narrator, this turned out to be a very good coming-of-age story in an alternate Neverland. In fact, Tinkerbell had at least as much depth as the protagonist Tiger Lily.
This slow, quiet, and introspective read is something quite different from your average YA romance.
- Andrea Jones – Hook & Jill (read in February 2013)
A dark and sexy version of Neverland in which Hook seduces Wendy (Jill) to leave Peter Pan. This is based on the idea of what would happen if Wendy and the Lost Boys broke Peter’s first rule : no growing up. Great character development, a somewhat clunky, overly flowery style, plot-wise, there isn’t much there, the book focuses on the characters and how they subtly change. Recommended for fans of Peter Pan and the Neverland.
- Lisa Jensen – Alias Hook (read in 2014)
Lots of purple prose, slow-moving, but with some satisfying world-building and a few scenes of quippy banter that made the romance more believable. The plot was a bit weak and, to make up for that, filled with description, description, and more description. Not overwhelming, but an okay spin on who the villain Hook really is. Spoiler alert: He’s not all that bad.
- Austin Chant – Peter Darling (read in 2017)
What if Peter Pan was a transgender man who grew up as Wendy Darling? What if Peter returned to Neverland as a grown-up and fell for his nemesis, Captain Hook? Well, this is their story. I loved the romance but thought the pacing was off. Also not a fan of the ending (but most other people loved it, so don’t let that deter you).
- Brianna Shrum – Never Never (read in 2019)
An okay retelling from the point of view of Captain Hook, who spends his childhood stuck in Neverland, has a romance with Tiger Lily and turns into the villain we all know. Not bad, but not great either.
- Colleen Oakes – Wendy Darling: Stars
- Colleen Oakes – Wendy Darling: Seas
- Colleen Oakes – Wendy Darling: Shadow
- Brom – The Child Thief
- Dave Barry – Peter and the Starcatchers
- Heidi Schulz – Hook’s Revenge
- Alyssa B. Sheinmel – Second Star
- Joe Brusha – Neverland
- Curtis J. Wiebe – Peter Panzerfaust
- Karen Wallace – Wendy
- James Riley – Twice Upon a Time
- Laurie Fox – The Lost Girls
- Peter David – Tigerheart
- Nazarea Andrews – Girl Lost
- J.V. Hart – Capt. Hook
- Daniel and Dina Nayeri – Another Pan
- Sara Saedi – Never Ever
- Audrey Greathouse – The Neverland Wars
- Lisa Maxwell – Unhooked
- Wendy Spinale – Everland
- Frank Beddor – The Looking Glass Wars (read in June 2012)
Meh. Some great ideas that mix Wonderland with sci-fi but sadly, the bad writing became more and more obivous as I read along. The author tells us everything, leaves nothing open for the readers’ imagination. Foreshadowing is destroyed by endless explanations (your readers may be kids, but they’re not dumb!). Also: Very anticlimactic ending.
- Christina Henry – Alice (read in 2016)
This started out really good, but turned into a gore fest of epic proportions where character development got lost for the sake of blood and violence. Hatcher was a great character, Cheshire was intriguing, but Alice herself remained bland and passive. The references to the original Alice were well done, so I’ll read the second book. But Alice didn’t have much substance.
- Marissa Meyer – Heartless (read in 2017)
Meyer’s take on the origin of the Queen of Hearts was so original and lovely. There is a beautiful romance, but most of all Cath is an amazing protagonist. You meet all sorts of well-known characters from Alice, although they may not all be who or what you expect. This is a slow-moving book, but speckled with so many great ideas that I really enjoyed it.
- Colleen Oakes – Queen of Hearts (read in 2019)
A very bland, boring origin story of the Queen of Hearts. Starts some plot strings, doesn’t follow through on any of them. The characters are dumb, the writing style seems to be for five-year-olds, explaining everything, assuming the readers don’t get anything. Very little plot in general. Will not continue, do not recommend.
- A.G. Howard – Splintered
- Jessica Arnold – The Looking Glass
- Colleen Oakes – Blood of Wonderland
- Cameron Jace – Insanity
- Dakota Chase – Mad About the Hater
- Anne Ursu – The Real Boy
- John Claude Bemis – The Wooden Prince
- Charles de Lint – Jack of Kinrowan
- Cameron Dokey – World Above
- Shannon and Dean Hale – Calamity Jack
- P.W. Catanese – The Thief and the Beanstalk
- Dawn Lairamore – Ivy and the Meanstalk
- Donna Jo Napoli – Crazy Jack
- Adam Gidwitz – In a Glass Grimmly
- James Riley – Half Upon a Time
- Claire Legrand – Winterspell
- Gregory Maguire – Hiddensee
- A.C. Gaughen – Scarlet (read in June 2012)
A really bad read. Bland as hell with no plot other than a forced love triangle. The characters are cardboard, the language is supposed to sound uneducated by inserting tons of grammar mistakes, nobody is likable or believable. As the “love story” was both boring and obvious, there was nothing to hold my interest, which is why I broke this off around the middle and don’t intend to continue the series. Ever.
- Stephen R. Lawhead – King Raven Trilogy
- Kathryn Lasky – Hawksmaid
- Jessica Day George – Princess of the Silver Woods
- Robin McKinley – The Outlaws of Sherwood
- Elsa Watson – Maid Marian
- Cameron Dokey – World Above
- Parke Godwin – Sherwood
- Charles de Lint – Jack in the Green
- Betsy Cornwell – The Forest Queen
- Marion Zimmer Bradley – The Mists of Avalon
- T. H. White – The Once and Future King
- Amy Rose Carpetta – Once & Future
- Gregory Maguire – Wicked (read years ago)
Don’t expect a children’s book. This is adult on many levels. Elphaba (the Wicked Witch) grows up in Oz but instead of being enchanted by the cute Munchkins, she learns about politics and inequality. It’s well worth the read, even if you’ve already seen the fluffy (but so much fun) musical adaptation. Very highly recommended.
- Gregory Maguire – Son of a Witch
- Gregory Maguire – A Lion Among Men
- Gregory Maguire – Out of Oz
- John Joseph Adams (ed.) – Oz Reimagined: Tales from the Emerald City and Beyond
- Danielle Page – Dorothy Must Die
- Alethea Kontis – Hero
Oh Princess Alethea! Please keep writing these lovely fairy stories. Hero retells two rather unknown fairy tales. The Master Maid and Petronella. Saturday Woodcutter is a practical girl who’d rather use her muscles than her tongue to solve problems. Saving the world and falling in love are two things she’s never done before, so naturally they come with tribulations and humor and an utterly charming romance. Go, Woodcutters!
- Shannon Hale – The Book of A Thousand Days
- Kate Dalkey – The Nightingale
- Michelle Diener – The Golden Apple
- Jenny Lundquist – The Princess in the Opal Mask
- Alex Flinn – Cloaked
- Nancy Holder – The Rose Bride
- Suzanne Rowntree – The Bells of Paradise
- Holly Black – The White Cat
- Gail Carson Levine – For Biddle’s Sake
- Sue Bursztynski – Wolfborn
- Suzanne Rowntree – The Prince of Fishes
- Steven Brust – The Sun, the Moon and the Stars(read in 2019)
Not really a retelling but rather a young artist’s story set in the 1980s where a Hungarian fairy tale is told by the protagonist. This book deals with art – painting to be specific – and trying to put meaning into something you create. There’s little plot, few characters, but lots of talk about art and meaning and finding out what you want to do in life. I really liked it!
- Elizabeth Lim – Spin the Dawn
- Jill Myles – The Scarecrow King
- Buffy Naillon – The Girl Who Fell Into the Sky
- Patrick Ness – The Crane Wife
- Wendy Higgins – The Great Hunt
- Wendy Higgins – The Great Pursuit
- Karen Lord – Redemption in Indigo
I loved, loved, loved Karen Lord’s way of retelling the story of Ansige the Glutton. The retelling happens during the first few chapters of this book and are easily its strongest part. It’s got humor, it adheres to the “rules” of fairy tales, it’s a pleasure to read. Then the story becomes weaker and weaker. It’s a good book but its beginning was definitely the high point.
MIXED FAIRY TALES and BOOKS ABOUT FAIRY TALES:
- Katherine Wesley – The Tenth Kingdom (novelization) (read ages ago)
I adored this book. Not knowing there was a TV show and that this was a novelization, I fell into Virginia’s story as she stumbles into the Nine Kingdoms, where fairytale princesses rule, dogs can talk, and wolfish men are strangely attractive. I’m not sure if I’d enjoy it as much now as I did as a teenager but I will always remember this book very fondly! We Will Rock You as an athem for shearing sheep? Hell yeah, bring on the silliness!
- Emily Carroll – Through the Woods (read in 2014)
This is a graphic story collection which blends fairy tales with horror in a really effective way. The images are stunning, the tales wonderfully creepy, and Emily Carroll’s storytelling abilities left me in awe. Some pages follow you straight into your dreams (or nightmares) and I hope there will be many more books like this.
- Marissa Meyer – Wires and Nerve (read in 2017)
The sequel graphic novel to the Lunar Chronicles series deals with Iko, Cinder’s android friend, and features all of the futuristic fairy tale heroes from the series. This is a new tale with a new romance not based on a fairy tale. But Iko – a fun character from the series – gets her own story and some interesting character development. I really quite liked it!
- Soman Chainani – The School For Good and Evil (read in 2017)
Almost like a Disney movie, this is the tale of two very different girls (one light, one dark, one vain, one practical, one pretty, one plain, one vapid, one clever – you get the idea) going to the School for Good and Evil. The school was excellent fun but the characters are so overdrawn that I’m not sure it’s on purpose. There are obvious lessons about what’s important in life (hint: it’s not lipstick) and the story was a lot of fun. Just don’t take it too seriously.
- Soman Chainani – A World Without Princes (read in 2018)
The second novel splits pupils into Boys and Girls rather than Good and Evil – but otherwise it’s pretty much the same thing as before. Lessons learned about one’s gender not saying anything about one’s value. This story is full of original ideas, was a lot of fun to read, but I’m still not sure if I loved or hated the ending.
- Melissa Albert – The Hazel Wood (read in 2018)
Although hyped all over the internet, I only found this story mildly interesting. The vibe of fairy tales somehow being real, of playing such a big part in the protagonist’s life was wonderful. The plot and especially the ending, though, were a disappointment. But there will be a movie and I have high hopes that it will be better, taking only the best of the book and dumping the rest.
- Lisa Goldstein – The Uncertain Places (read in2019)
A tale about a family haunted by fairy tales. When protagonist Will falls in love with Livvy, whose family has been part of a fairy tale for a long time, he wants to rescue her. But messing with the Fair Folk may not be a good idea. Great world building and mixing real world Grimms’ tales with an original story, interesting characters, but sadly too much focus on Will and not enough on the women, for my taste.
- Katherine Wesley – The Tenth Kingdom (novelization) (read ages ago)
- Soman Chainani – The Last Ever After
- John Connolly – The Book of Lost Things
- Tom McNeal – Far Far Away
- Polly Shulman – The Grimm Legacy
- Kate Forsyth – The Wild Girl
- Cassandra Parkin – New World Fairy Tales
- Alex Flinn – Beheld
- Hannah West – Kingdom of Ash and Briars
- Sarah Cross – Kill Me Softly
- Sarah Cross – Tear Me Apart
FAIRY TALE COLLECTIONS and ANTHOLOGIES:
- Angela Slatter – Sourdough and Other Stories
Oh Angela Slatter, I love how you rip my heart out and tear it into a million pieces. With these interconnected short stories about women and the fairy tales they find themselvs in, Slatter has created a beautiful mosaic that can be read almost like a novel. Her words are powerful and she knows exactly how to punch you in the gut with a sentence.
I loved, loved, loved this!
- Angela Slatter – The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings
And she did it again. This was published after but is set before the events of Sourdough, and the stories here are, if anything, even better. Whether it’s revisiting a tale from Sourdough thorugh another character’s perspective or learning more about people and places only mentioned as throwaway lines, Slatter has honed her craft and become a writer of fairy tales so perfect that I just have no words. She is way up there with Cat Valente for me.
- Justin Richards – Doctor Who: Time Lord Fairy Tales
Well, I like Doctor Who and I like fairy tales. Sadly, most of these reimagined versions, using monsters and aliens from the Doctor Who universe, were rather disappointing. The ideas themselves were pretty good and I loved the woodcut illustrations. It was the writing that made everything so dull and predictable. My favorite was the very first tale where we encounter the Weeping Angels.
- T. Kingfisher – Toad Words and Other Stories
A truly charming little collection of fairy tale twists, including one novella retelling Snow White. My favorites were “Toad Words” – the story about the girl who has toads come out of her mouth when she speaks (see Diamonds and Toads), as well as the original and kind of dark-ish view at the Bluebeard tale. Kingfisher is a pseudonym for Ursula Vernon and her style is just wonderfully refreshing. Her heroines are practical, charming, and all-around lovable.
- C.S.E. Cooney – Bone Swans (read in 2016)
This is one of those collections that turn me into a gushing fangirl. I have fallen utterly, utterly in love with Cooney’s writing. Her style shifts effortlessly between each story and while you get humorous tales such as her version of “The Pied Piper of Hamelin”, there is still darkness to them. Her Rumpelstilstkin is inspired by folklore more than the brothers Grimm, and her original stories are just as wonderful, each a little gem of fiction that hooks you and doesn’t want to let go.
- Emma Donoghue – Kissing the Witch (read in 2017)
A collection of 13 fairy tales with a lesbian twist. I loved how we see different perspectives of different tales (princesses, villains, animals) and how some end well, some not so much. This collection is a quick read perfect to get you out of a reading slump and to put you in the mood for more fairy tales.
- Dominik Parisien & Navah Wolfe – The Starlit Wood
A lovely anthology with some stories definitely standing above the rest. Seanan McGuire’s tale was excellent but my favorite was Amal El-Mohtar’s Hugo winning “Seasons of Glass and Iron”. Definitely recommended for fairy tale fans who want to try a few different authors and especially read some lesser-known tales retold.
- Leigh Bardugo – The Language of Thorns (read in 2019)
A fantastic collection of re-told and twisted fairy tales set in Bardugo’s Grishaverse. I loved every single tale, and this book is beautifully illustrated and printed in different font colors. You can read it without knowing any other of her books, although you’ll want to read everything by Bardugo afterward.
- Paula Guran – Once Upon a Time: New Fairy Tales
- Paula Guran – Beyond the Woods: Fairy Tales Retold
- Danielle Ackley-McPhail – Gaslight & Grimm: Steampunk Fairy Tales
- Isobelle Carmody – The Wilful Eye
- Isobelle Carmody – The Wicked Wood
Here are some books that don’t recount a specific fairy tale and don’t have any recognisable characters but still give you that feeling that you’re somehow in a fairy tale. Maybe the author invented their own original tale, maybe it’s just the language, or a particular brand of magic that lends a certain whimsy to the story.
- Lana Popović – Wicked Like a Wildfire
- Molly Ringle – The Goblins of Bellwater (based on “Goblin Market”)
- Jeanette Ng – Under the Pendulum Sun