Hello readers, I have another Bookish Lists post today! I’m going to be sharing a few of my favorite fairytale retellings today. There were so many to choose from that I might actually end up doing a part two for this post, but for now, let’s take a look at 7 of my favorites!
1. Geekerella (Once Upon A Con #1) – Ashley Poston
Geek girl Elle Wittimer lives and breathes Starfield, the classic science-fiction series she grew up watching with her late father. So when she sees a cosplay contest for a new Starfield movie, she has to enter. The prize? An invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. With savings from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck and her dad’s old costume, Elle’s determined to win – unless her stepsisters get there first.
Teen actor Darien Freeman used to live for cons – before he was famous. Now they’re nothing but autographs and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Carmindor is all he has ever wanted, but Starfield fandom has written him off as just another dumb heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, Darien feels more and more like a fake – until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise. But when she disappears at midnight, will he ever be able to find her again?
Part-romance, part-love letter to nerd culture, and all totally adorbs, Geekerella is a fairy tale for anyone who believes in the magic of fandom.
What I loved most about this book is that it was so relatable at every point and I could strongly identify with Elle’s opinions on fandom. Geekerella so accurately captures the essence of fandom in a modern-day Cinderella story that is truly heartwarming.
2. Heartless – Marissa Meyer
Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend.
But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next queen.
Then Cath meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the king and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship. Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.
In her first stand-alone teen novel, the New York Times-bestselling author dazzles us with a prequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
The only thing better than reading a familiar tale from a new perspective is a good villain origin story and Heartless portrayed a flawless transformation of Cath into the Queen of Hearts. The whimsical setting of Wonderland was true to the original, and this story’s version of the well known characters were amazing.
3. Stepsister – Jennifer Donnelly
Isabelle should be blissfully happy – she’s about to win the handsome prince. Except Isabelle isn’t the beautiful girl who lost the glass slipper and captured the prince’s heart. She’s the ugly stepsister who’s cut off her toes to fit into Cinderella’s shoe … which is now filling with blood.
When the prince discovers Isabelle’s deception, she is turned away in shame. It’s no more than she deserves: she is a plain girl in a world that values beauty; a feisty girl in a world that wants her to be pliant.
Isabelle has tried to fit in. To live up to her mother’s expectations. To be like her stepsister. To be sweet. To be pretty. One by one, she has cut away pieces of herself in order to survive a world that doesn’t appreciate a girl like her. And that has made her mean, jealous, and hollow.
Until she gets a chance to alter her destiny and prove what ugly stepsisters have always known: it takes more than heartache to break a girl.
Stepsister begins with the ending of the original Grimm brothers’ version of Cinderella, immediately creating that delightful dark fairytale vibe. An adventure was about the last thing I expected from this book, but that’s just what it was, making this by far the most unique Cinderella adaptation I’ve ever read. Stepsister is a wonderfully crafted feminist retelling that emphasizes that the journey is just as important, perhaps even more important than the ending – and Isabelle’s path is an excellent characterization of that.
4. The Wrath and the Dawn – Renee Ahdieh
In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning.
When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad’s dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph’s reign of terror once and for all.
Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she’d imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It’s an unforgivable betrayal.
Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid’s life as retribution for the many lives he’s stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets?
I don’t know if this technically counts as a fairytale, but it is undoubtedly one of the best retellings I’ve ever read. Inspired by A Thousand and One Nights, this has the main elements, but is primarily a romance. And you know, I’m not even complaining, it’s just that swoon worthy – and that is not something I say often! This easily ranks among the best YA romances I’ve ever read and a large part of the credit for that goes to the exquisite writing and the immersive storytelling I have come to expect from Renee Ahdieh’s novels.
5. Ella Enchanted – Gail Carson Levine
At birth, Ella is inadvertently cursed by an imprudent young fairy named Lucinda, who bestows on her the “gift” of obedience. Anything anyone tells her to do, Ella must obey.
Another girl might have been cowed by this affliction, but not feisty Ella: “Instead of making me docile, Lucinda’s curse made a rebel of me. Or perhaps I was that way naturally.” When her beloved mother dies, leaving her in the care of a mostly absent and avaricious father, and later, a loathsome stepmother and two treacherous stepsisters, Ella’s life and well-being seem to be in grave peril.
But her intelligence and saucy nature keep her in good stead as she sets out on a quest for freedom and self-discovery as she tries to track down Lucinda to undo the curse, fending off ogres, befriending elves, and falling in love with a prince along the way. Yes, there is a pumpkin coach, a glass slipper, and a happily ever after, but this is the most remarkable, delightful, and profound version of Cinderella you’ll ever read.
This is the third Cinderella retelling on this list, but probably my favorite because this was the first retelling I ever read, and though I’ve long outgrown middle grade novels, Ella Enchanted is one book I love to reread to this day. What I like most about this version is how it takes such a new approach to the story with a very modern twist, while still maintaining the feel of the original.
6. The Shadow Queen (Ravenspire #1) – C. J. Redwine
Lorelai Diederich, crown princess and fugitive at large, has one mission: kill the wicked queen who took both the Ravenspire throne and the life of her father. To do that, Lorelai needs to use the one weapon she and Queen Irina have in common—magic. She’ll have to be stronger, faster, and more powerful than Irina, the most dangerous sorceress Ravenspire has ever seen.
In the neighboring kingdom of Eldr, when Prince Kol’s father and older brother are killed by an invading army of magic-wielding ogres, the second-born prince is suddenly given the responsibility of saving his kingdom. To do that, Kol needs magic—and the only way to get it is to make a deal with the queen of Ravenspire, promise to become her personal huntsman…and bring her Lorelai’s heart.
But Lorelai is nothing like Kol expected—beautiful, fierce, and unstoppable—and despite dark magic, Lorelai is drawn in by the passionate and troubled king. Fighting to stay one step ahead of the dragon huntsman—who she likes far more than she should—Lorelai does everything in her power to ruin the wicked queen. But Irina isn’t going down without a fight, and her final move may cost the princess the one thing she still has left to lose.
I’m very fond of this series since it picks up some of the classic fairytales and reimagines them in a new land, with each book centred on a different kingdom. It can be read in any order too, and I enjoy spotting the subtle connections and references between the different books. The Shadow Queen, a retelling of Snow White and the Huntsman, is the first in the series, portraying a very different kind of Snow White with none of the annoying tropes of the original.
7. A Curse So Dark and Lonely (Cursebreakers #1) – Brigid Kemmerer
Fall in love, break the curse. It once seemed so easy to Prince Rhen, the heir to Emberfall. Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year over and over, he knew he could be saved if a girl fell for him. But that was before he learned that at the end of each autumn, he would turn into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. That was before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope.
Nothing has ever been easy for Harper Lacy. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother barely holding their family together while constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, she learned to be tough enough to survive. But when she tries to save someone else on the streets of Washington, DC, she’s instead somehow sucked into Rhen’s cursed world.
Break the curse, save the kingdom. A prince? A monster? A curse? Harper doesn’t know where she is or what to believe. But as she spends time with Rhen in this enchanted land, she begins to understand what’s at stake. And as Rhen realizes Harper is not just another girl to charm, his hope comes flooding back. But powerful forces are standing against Emberfall . . . and it will take more than a broken curse to save Harper, Rhen, and his people from utter ruin.
A Curse So Dark And Lonely is a Beauty and the Beast retelling with a darker twist on the tale. You know how the story goes, you know how it ends, but reading this feels like hearing it for the first time all over again – not an easy feat for such a classic fairytale. Despite the fact that I wasn’t too happy with how this series ended, I was overall very impressed with how this retelling took the basic plot of the fairytale and went so far beyond it to create a rich world and an intricate plot.
Have you read any of these books? Are there any others you enjoyed not on this list? Let me know in the comments below!