12 Exquisite Fairy Tale Retellings

With Disney’s live-action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast, it seems like the whole world is in a temporary fairy tale lock-down.

Why do we love fairy tales? Well, Neil Gaiman sums it up pretty well (in a quote originally coined by G.K. Chesterton):

Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten.

This is why I’ve always preferred fiction over non-fiction, fantasy over reality, and fairy tales over everything else.


Fairy tales provide a distraction from reality while making a statement about it. That’s their genius. Sometimes, you may learn more about life in a fairy story than you would from reality.

But I’m not here to ramble on about the infinite reasons there are to read fairy tales. My point is this: writers understand and use our obsession with fairy tales to their advantage. Some of the most successful book series (The Lord of the RingsHarry PotterThe Chronicles of NarniaThe Hunger GamesTwilight) were based on ancient myths and legend.

In other words, basing a book off of a beloved fairy tale is an attractive selling point. Here are 12 titles that do it extremely well.

1. Entwined by Heather Dixon


Inspiration: The Twelve Dancing Princesses

This fairy tale has been a favorite of mine from a young age, and this adaptation of the Brothers Grimm story has only increased my love for it. This is a stay-up-’til-3am-until-you-finish sort of story, and it puts an elegant and haunting twist on the tale you thought you knew.

Get it on Book Depository (free shipping worldwide).

2. The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale


Inspiration: The Goose Girl

Based off a lesser-known Grimm tale, this novel tells the story of a princess who’s title is stolen. She is forced to disguise herself as a caretaker of the king’s geese, and with a band of animal workers and a lot of courage…well, you’ll see what happens.

Get it on Book Depository (free shipping worldwide).

3. The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh


Inspiration: One Thousand and One Nights

Ladies, get ready to meet your newest fictional boyfriend. Besides the fact that he marries and kills a wife every day,

But wait – its sequel is just as ravishing.

Get it on Book Depository (free shipping worldwide).

4. Cinder by Marissa Meyer


Inspiration: Cinderella

Cinder, a gifted mechanic in New Beijing, is also a cyborg. She’s reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s sudden illness. But when her life becomes entwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she finds herself at the center of a violent struggle between the desires of an evil queen – and a dangerous temptation.

Get it on Book Depository (free shipping worldwide).

5. Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge


Inspiration: Beauty and the Beast  

Graceling meets Beauty and the Beast in this sweeping fantasy about one girl’s journey to fulfill her destiny and the monster who gets in her way-by stealing her heart. Based on the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, Cruel Beauty is a dazzling love story about our deepest desires and their power to change our destiny.

Get it on Book Depository (free shipping worldwide).

6. Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale


Inspiration: Maid Maleen

With Shannon Hale’s lyrical language, this little-known classic fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm is reimagined and reset on the central Asian steppes; it is a completely unique retelling filled with adventure and romance, drama and disguise.

Get it on Book Depository (free shipping worldwide).

7. The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury


Inspiration: One Thousand and One Nights (Aladdin)

When Aladdin discovers Zahra’s jinni lamp, Zahra is thrust back into a world she hasn’t seen in hundreds of years—a world where magic is forbidden and Zahra’s very existence is illegal. She must disguise herself to stay alive, using ancient shape-shifting magic, until her new master has selected his three wishes.

But when the King of the Jinn offers Zahra a chance to be free of her lamp forever, she seizes the opportunity—only to discover she is falling in love with Aladdin. When saving herself means betraying him, Zahra must decide once and for all: is winning her freedom worth losing her heart?

Get it on Book Depository (free shipping worldwide).

8. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine


Inspiration: Cinderella

Levine’s imaginative writing will make you forget that you’re reading a middle-grade novel. Gail Carson Levine’s examination of traditional female roles in fairy tales takes some satisfying twists and deviations from the original. Ella is bound by obedience against her will, and takes matters in her own hands with ambition and verve. Her relationship with the prince is balanced and based on humor and mutual respect; in fact, it is she who ultimately rescues him. Ella Enchanted has won many well-deserved awards, including a Newbery Honor.

Get it on Book Depository (free shipping worldwide).

9. Hunted by Meagan Spooner


Inspiration: Beauty and the Beast

Beauty knows the Beast’s forest in her bones—and in her blood. Though she grew up with the city’s highest aristocrats, far from her father’s old lodge, she knows that the forest holds secrets and that her father is the only hunter who’s ever come close to discovering them.

Get it on Book Depository (free shipping worldwide).

10. Beastly by Alex Flinn


Inspiration: Beauty and the Beast

Find out what it was like for the beast in Alex Flinn’s contemporary retelling of the classic tale.

Get it on Book Depository (free shipping worldwide).

11. A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston


Inspiration: One Thousand and One Nights

Lo-Melkhiin killed three hundred girls before he came to her village, looking for a wife. When she sees the dust cloud on the horizon, she knows he has arrived. She knows he will want the loveliest girl: her sister. She vows she will not let her be next.

Get it on Book Depository (free shipping worldwide).

12. Fairest by Gail Carson Levine


Inspiration: Snow White

My favourite of all Levine’s books, Fairest is a Snow White-esque story plus gnomes, ogres, and lots of singing. It’s basically a Disney movie in a book—what more could you wish for?

Get it on Book Depository (free shipping worldwide).

What retellings have enchanted you? Share them with us below!


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