Let's face it, fairy tale retellings are an incredibly beloved genre. As a culture, we still love the traditional fairy tales, regardless of how old (or how terrifying) they are. There's a truth to them, and their plots are timeless. A man sets out on a quest to get his heart's desire, a down on her luck woman simply wants to go to a ball, magic is real, and wishes come true. But, one of the best things about fairy tales is how malleable these stories are. You can turn a page-length story into an entire novel or film if you'd like, and it's just as exciting and just as touching as the original.
Then then are those awesome fairy tale retellings that take us away from a far off kingdom or twist a character into something modern. Maybe Cinderella doesn't really need her prince, or maybe the forest where the twelve princesses dance has a nefarious and dark purpose. Twisted fairy tales are great, because they use familiar tropes to tell a wonderfully new story.
To celebrate this genre, I've compiled a list of 10 fairy tale retellings that twist the story just enough to make it new. Whether the ending is changed, everything is flip-flopped, or it's set in an interesting new place, these fractured fairy tales make for good reading. Try to guess which fairy tale the books are based on!
1. Mechanica by Betsey Cornwell
Set in a steampunk alternate universe, Mechanica centers on Nicholette, called "Mechanica" by her stepsisters due to the fact that she learned how to invent things at her mother's knee a long time ago. Now that her mother's gone, she's been turned into a servant in her own home. Then, on her 16th birthday, she discovers a workshop in the cellar full of strange books and a mechanical menagerie led by a clockwork horse named Jules, and she realizes that she might be able to use these tools to escape from her dreary life. With a technological exposition and royal ball on the horizon, Nicholette must work to create her own destiny.
2. A Whole New World by Liz Braswell
Published recently, A Whole New World is the first book in a new YA series that re-imagines Disney movies by changing a single detail. Jafar, being the first one to find the lamp, has used his first two wishes to become the sultan and the most powerful sorcerer in the world. Now the kingdom of Agrabah lives in fear of Jafar and what his third wish might be. With the situation dire, a street thief named Aladdin teams up with Princess Jasmine to bring Jafar down.
3. Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George
Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow centers on Lass, a girl who can talk to animals. This, of course, has made her a bit of a black sheep in her own family, but everything changes the day that a polar bear approaches her and offers to make her family rich as long as she accompanies her to his castle. His castle isn't very welcoming. It's made out of ice and is staffed by a team of silence servants. But soon, the bear reveals to Lass that he's actually a prince who has been cursed by a troll queen, and he needs her help before he ends up having to marry a troll princess.
4. A Curse as Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce
Charlotte Miller has never believed in the curse that was on her father's mill. But after her father's death, a string of misfortunes threaten to destroy the mill and the beloved little small town that relies upon it. Then, one day, a man named Jack Spinner comes to town with a strange and tempting proposition: he'll spin straw into gold thread for the simple price of her mother's ring. Charlotte is forced to balance her bargain with Spinner, her blossoming romance with a banker, and a desire to unravel the curse on her mill.
5. Heart's Blood by Juliet Marillier
Whistling Tor is a mysterious crumbling fortress full of secrets in the middle of the woods, and it is owned by a feared and disliked Chieftain named Anluan. Enter Caitrin, a scribe running from the demons in her past. As she finds sanctuary in Whistling Tor, she comes to know Anlaun, and swiftly begins to realize that it's only through her determination and love that the curse can be unraveled.
6. Thorn by Intisar Khanani
Princess Alyrra has never really been very good at being a princess, preferring instead to stay away from her cruel and abusive family. When Alyrra is betrothed to a foreign prince, she doesn't have much choice, and sets off to meet her husband-to-be. When she stops to wash in the river on her journey, her handmaiden uses some magic to switch places, causing Alyrra to become the castle goose girl. However, when the prince she was supposed to marry grows suspicious and discovers Alyrra's identity, the two of them must team up to set things right before dark forces destroy them both.
7. Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente
When she was a young girl, Marya Morevna caught the attention of the Czar of Life, otherwise known as Koschei the Deathless. After blossoming into a young woman, Koschei whisked her away to a strange world of whimsy and wonder. Marya grows to truly love Koschei, but she is disturbed by the prophecy that every lover Koschei has ever had will betray him. When a stranger named Ivan finds her and tries to convince her that everything she knows is wrong, Marya needs to make a very serious choice... or else she might lose everything.
8. The Night Dance by Suzanne Weyn
The youngest of 12 daughters, Rowena loves to slip out at night and dance her shoes to pieces in the middle of a magical forest. When the powerful Sir Ethan realizes that something's going on, thanks to the tattered shoes of his daughters every morning, he sets out a decree across the kingdom: anyone who can figure out where his daughters are going at night will be free to marry whichever daughter he chooses. Meanwhile a handsome knight named Sir Bedivere has been charged with returning the magical sword Excalibur to the lake from which it was taken. One night, he runs into Rowena on her way to the dance and they fall in love. The only way he can get Rowena's hand in marriage is by completing the challenge, but by doing so, he may put the both of them in far more danger than one could ever imagine.
9. Spinning Starlight by R.C. Lewis
Sixteen-year-old heiress Liddi Jantzen may be a favorite of the paparazzi, but she actually hates the spotlight. However, she's the only daughter of the most powerful tech family in the galaxy, so she knows there's no choice. When tragedy strikes in the forms of shots being fired in her home, Liddi escapes and stumbles upon an intergalactic conspiracy. With her brothers trapped between conduits, Liddi's voicebox gets implanted with a device that monitors her speech: one word, and her brothers are dead. Now without a voice, she needs to figure out a way to save her eight brothers before it's all too late.
10. Entwined by Heather Dixon
Azalea had everything in the world going for her: fancy balls, beautiful gowns, dashing suitors...until it's all taken away. Then, she meets the Keeper. He's been trapped within the walls of the palace for centuries, and he sends her an invitation. Every night, Azalea and her sisters can slip into the woods and dance all night in his magical forest. It seems like a wonderful way to get back everything Azalea thought she had lost...until she realizes that it comes with a cost.
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