Best Fairy-tale Retellings for Fantasy Nerds
The Flame and the Mist (Mulan) by Renee Ahdieh
This Mulan retelling follows a girl who, after an assasination attempt on the way to an arranged marriage, pretends to be a boy in order to infiltrate the camp of the group of bandits who are suspected of the attempt. While there Mariko befriends the group and finds a place where she is valued for her intelligence and skill. She also learns there’s more to the group, and more to her family, than meets the eye.
That’s what made this book unique compared to the original Mulan story. Mariko gets a chance to see her family from the view of an outsider, and the tension builds as her new friends are set against her brother, who believes he is getting revenge for his sister. Another unique aspect is the political intrigue and betrayal. The Black Clan members have an interesting backstory, and there are some surprising twists at the end that make this story a great read!
A Court of Thorns and Roses (Beauty and the Beast) by Sarah J. Maas
Ok, I know I’ve written about this series many times, but I can’t exclude it from this list. The whole reason I read it is because my husband saw that it was a Beauty and the Beast retelling (my favorite) and got it for me. This retelling recasts the beast as a shape-shifting Fae who is trapped in his beast form, due to a curse, of course. After Feyre kills a Fae that is trapped in wolf form, the “beast” forces her to become his prisoner as punishment. But if you think this series is going to be predictable, you are wrong. This faerie world is so immersive and creative, and Sarah J. Maas isn’t afraid to subvert our expectations to make this retelling fresh and different.
These books blew my expectations out of the water, and I literally cried when I finished the series because I was so sad to say goodbye to the characters. Sarah J. Maas gives her characters so much depth and most are not who you expect them to be. By the end of the books I really felt like I knew them, and this gave the action and plot so much more weight. A Court of Thorns and Roses continues to be one of my favorite fantasy series.
Dark Breaks the Dawn (Swan Lake) by Sara B. Larson
The Swan Princess movie was one of my favorites as a child, so I was excited to read this retelling. The story follows a Princess who must ascend the throne when her mother is killed, as she struggles to learn to shapeshift into her swan form. Even though I’ve never tried to rule a kingdom, the author found a way to make the character’s struggles and insecurities relatable.
What I found interesting about this book was that the characters aren’t human, but an entirely new race with a unique magic system that influences their entire way of life. It didn’t feel like magic existed just to have magic in the story, but it actually fueled the plot. What really stuck with me though, was the unpredictable ending. It floored me, and left me impatiently awaiting the sequel.
Throne of Glass (Cinderella) by Sarah J. Maas
This series is very loosely based on Cinderella, and came about because the author was listening to the music from Cinderella and thought the song where she flees the castle at midnight sounded more fitting for an assassin than a Disney princess. You will notice little details from Cinderella throughout the story, but the plot is extremely different. You have a glass castle instead of glass slippers, and a world full of Fae instead of a fairy godmother.
Celaena is an imprisoned assassin who comes to the castle of glass to compete in a deadly contest for her freedom. Celaena is no Disney princess, and definitively lives in a moral gray area. However, her backstory makes her a relatable and sympathetic assassin, and she has all the makings of an epic antihero. Whether you are a fan of Cinderella or not, I absolutely recommend this series for all fantasy nerds!
Beastly (Beauty and the Beast) by Alex Flinn
I read this book when I was a little bit younger, and it’s definitely a YA book, but good nonetheless! This book is a Beauty and The Beast retelling set in modern times in New York City. It’s a fairly quick read, and if you like the story of Beauty and The Beast you will surely enjoy this book.
The main character Kyle, our beast, is a typical popular high school kid. His dad is rich, he’s attractive, popular, and kind of a bully. Kyle is rude to a girl who turns out to be a witch and she reactively casts a curse on him turning him into a hideous beast. He has two years to find true love, or be stuck forever. I enjoyed this story because of the different setting, as well as how romantic it is. Kyle’s character development is excellent, I loved reading his change as the book progresses.
The love interest reflects the original Belle, she’s sweet, outspoken and loves books. I also loved the side characters in this book! It’s a quick, sweet and romantic read with the best lesson; love and true beauty are on the inside, not the appearance of a person. When you fall in love it’s for the person they are, not the person they appear to be.
The Wrath and the Dawn (Arabian Nights) by Renee Ahdieh
This retelling is about a king who orders his bride killed each dawn, and a girl who chooses to become his wife in order to stop him. Shahrzad plans to kill the king as revenge for her best friend, who is one of the murdered brides. True to the original, her plan to survive long enough to enact her revenge is to tell him a tale that is still unfinished at dawn, convincing him to stay her execution long enough to hear the ending.
What doesn’t go according to plan is that Shahrzad develops feelings for the king. Shahrzad is at war with her growing affections for the boy she comes to know and the hatred for her best friend’s killer. As her time at the palace continues, she realizes that something more is going on. The deaths of the girls are not just at the whim of a monstrous king.
What I loved most was Shahrzad’s character in this book. She is brave, selfless, and sassy. She is just the right mix of boldness and intelligence that it would take to beguile and outwit a murderous king.
What Do You Think?
Did you find any new books to read? Do you have a favorite that wasn’t on our list? We would love to know! If you are interested in any of the books, click here to view the our list on bookshop.org and support local bookstores! As an affiliate, we do earn if you make any purchases. If you found this post helpful, we would love for you to leave a comment, or even buy us a cup of coffee! We promise to share!
Thanks so much for reading!
-Clever & WTF