I have always been obsessed with fairy tales, so it’s no surprise that I love Disney princess movies. Something about the enchanting tales about happily ever after, complete with catchy music and clever dialogue, always kept my full attention. I would watch VHS tapes of Mulan and Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid, singing along at the top of my lungs (much to my brothers’ chagrin).
I still love watching Disney princess movies, but now that I'm older, I'm no longer immune to their failings. Like how the main characters are often archetypes with little interiority, and the villains never get a chance to tell their side of the story (and, some of the original fairy tales are actually horrifying). It’s no wonder that so many authors have chosen to write fairy tale retellings: the stories are basically templates just waiting to be fleshed out with complex characters and more thorough background explanation.
If you’re also a fan of the Disney princesses, but want to delve a little deeper into their stories, there's plenty of princess-inspired literature just waiting to be discovered. Some of it directly retells your favorite tale, and some merely reflects the themes found in these timeless stories — but either way, if you like the princesses, you’ll like the following books.
1. Snow White: The Shadow Queen by C.J. Redwine
In this dark Snow White retelling, the story of Snow and the story of the Huntsman intertwine: Lorelai Diederich is a fugitive princess seeking revenge on the evil queen for murdering her father. Prince Kol is the personal huntsman to the queen, and he's responsible for bringing her Lorelai's heart.
2. Cinderella: Cinder By Marissa Meyer
In New Beijing, a deadly plague is raging, and cyborg Linh Cinder gets caught up in the mess. This young adult sci-fi retelling of Cinderella returns Cinderella to China, where the fairy tale originated. This is perfect for fans who can't choose just one favorite Disney princess, as it's the first book in a series. The other three novels in The Lunar Chronicles are retellings of Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Snow White.
3. Aurora: The Sleeper And The Spindle by Neil Gaiman
Sleeping Beauty is one of the shorter Disney princess movies, but it's also one of the most visually beautiful. So, it's fitting that Aurora fans would like fantasy author Neil Gaiman's take on the tale: this book is short and beautiful, with stunning illustrations by Chris Riddell. It combines the story of Snow White and Sleeping Beauty into one enchanting read.
4. Ariel: Drown by Esther Dalseno
I'm a huge fan of anything mermaid-related, but I always enjoy the darker tales the most. Even Disney's Little Mermaid had an undercurrent of darkness, in my opinion. After all, Ariel sold her voice for legs!
Drown tells the story of a mermaid, a troubled prince, and a sea-witch. It's lush and dark and inspired by Hans Christian Anderson's original story, with themes that will captivate fans of the Disney movie.
5. Belle: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Belle will always be my favorite Disney princess, for many reasons. It's hard not to relate to another bookworm! I think Belle would approve of Fangirl. Protagonist Cath is obsessed with the Simon Snow book series, and she writes extremely popular fanfiction about it. But while she's busy writing fanfiction, her real life is kind of falling apart. A girl who loves to read, trying to find adventure and true love? Sounds familiar...
6. Jasmine: The Forbidden Wish By Jessica Khoury
Zahra is a jinni, and Aladdin just found her lamp. But when Zahra re-enters the world, she finds herself in a place where magic is forbidden. In this Aladdin retelling, you'll see a lot of familiar characters, plus a female genie who becomes allies with a princess. Fans of the tough and powerful Jasmine will definitely like this YA read.
7. Mulan: Alanna: The First Adventure By Tamora Pierce
After you read the Ballad of Mulan, read Alanna, another girl-dressing-as-a-boy-and-kicking-butt book to sink your teeth into. Alanna wants to be a knight, and her brother Thom wants to learn magic... so they switch places. If you're a fan of Mulan, you'll want to read this fantasy about a girl becoming a legend.
8. Tiana: Tiny Pretty Things By Sona Charaipotra And Dhonielle Clayton
Tiana has an amazing work ethic, as do the characters in this book — Gigi, Bette, and June are all ballet students in Manhattan, and they'll do anything to make it to the top. No one gets turned into a frog, but there's definitely plenty of drama — and hard work — to make up for that.
9. Rapunzel: Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth
Bitter Greens is both historical fiction and a fairy tale retelling. This book tells the story of Rapunzel, but also tells the story of the woman who penned the fairy tale: Charlotte Rose de la Force, who wrote the story that inspired Rapunzel during her banishment in a convent.
10. Merida: The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig
Nix's father can sail anywhere — anywhere! — on his ship, as long as he has a map to the place. But the only map he really cares about is one that depicts Honolulu in 1868. This map will take him back to his long lost love — Nix's mother. The only problem? If he returns, he might erase Nix's entire existence. This adventurous, whimsical story is perfect for fans of Merida from Brave.
11. Elsa: Swamplandia by Karen Russell
This is a strange tale with a dark, unexpected twist. Ava, like Elsa, is unafraid to embark on a journey alone. But as she ventures further in the "Underworld" — the swamp — she comes to realize that she needs her family by her side, despite their quirks.
Image: Disney (1)