I've always loved fairy tales and fairy tale retellings, so since tomorrow is Tell a Fairy Tale Day, I thought I would recommend a few fairy tale retellings I enjoyed. These are a mix of young adult and adult books, all fantasy/fantasy romance. There are some great contemporary and historical romances that use fairy tales for inspiration without fantasy elements, but I'm focusing on the fantasy ones this time.
Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust (YA, Snow White): In this reimagining of Snow White, the tales of stepmother Mina and stepdaughter Lynet are told in past and present, intertwining. And even though there are two romances in this story—Lynet's f/f romance and Mina's m/f—it's the relationship between Mina and Lynet that drives the story. Mina is the only mother Lynet has ever known, and as in the original tale, their relationships begins to go very wrong, but unlike in the original tale, they can change it.
The Grimrose Girls by Laura Pohl (YA, various): The Grimrose Girls weaves together various fairy tales in the modern settling of an elite boarding school. Three girls have lost their best friend to what the police believe is suicide, but what they believe is murder. When their newest roommate arrives, it sets in motion a series of events in which they confirm that Ariane was murdered, but she wasn't the first murder by far. The fantasy, mystery, and fairy tale elements are all intriguing and well done and just a bit dark, and there is tons of queer rep among the main characters. Also the beginnings of a couple of romances. I have the second book waiting for on my TBR stack.
Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast by Robin McKinley (YA, Beauty and the Beast): I adore this retelling and have since I first read it when I was in middle school. That same paperback—a little battered after so many years and readings—is still on my book shelf. It's a really lovely retelling and a faithful one. The characterization is wonderful, the setting stunning, and writing lovely and perfect for conveying this fairy tale.
Ash by Malinda Lo (YA, Cinderella): When Ash's father dies, she's left at the mercy of her cruel stepmother, a set-up very much like the original tale. In this one, Ash escapes into the stories of fairies her mother told her and dreams of fairies of stealing her away—and thinks her dreams might come true when she meets a fairy. But it's really when she meets the King's Huntress that her life begins to change and she begins to see a life past her grief. There's a lovely f/f romance and a suitably creepy fairy who has laid a claim on Ash to escape as well.
For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten (Adult, Beauty and the Beast): Before I started this book, I thought it was going to be Red Riding Hood inspired, mostly from the cover in which the heroine is wearing a red hooded cloak, the mentions of a wolf, and the heroine's nickname Red. But, it turned out to be a Beauty and the Beast inspired story and a really lovely one. The world building and magic were intriguing, and the romance between Red and the Wolf quiet and gorgeous. The exploration of sisterhood and sacrifice was also compelling. The sequel, For the Throne, finishes the story with a focus on Red's sister and some inspiration from Snow White.
Peter Darling by Austin Chant (Adult, Peter Pan): I'm not sure if Peter Pan counts as a fairy tale, but I had to include Peter Darling anyway because it is a delightful and ingenious retelling. It manages to be a joyful, fun, and funny story while also being thought-provoking throughout, dealing with issues of identity and fantasy and growing up. And there is a lovely love story between Peter and Hook with the absolute perfect ending.
The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea by Axie Oh (YA, The Tale of Shim Cheong): I've never read the original Korean folk tale this book is based on, so I can't give you the differences, but I can tell you I adored this book. Mina's village is beset by destructive storms every year. To try to stop them, they through a beautiful young woman into the see each year to serve as the Sea God's bride. They believe that once the true bride is found, the Sea God will stop the storms. This year, the woman Mina's brother loves is chosen and Mina sacrifices herself in her stead. She finds herself brought to the spirit world where she discovers the Sea God is under a spell and sets out to make everything right. The writing and world building are beautiful, and the characters delightful.
Briarley by Aster Glenn Gray (Adult, Beauty and the Beast): This is a really lovely, touching take on Beauty and the Beast set in England during World War II. A parson stumbles into a country house during a storm to find it seemingly empty but a table laid for him. On the way out, he picks a rose for his daughter and the master of the house, under a curse that turned him into a dragon, appears in a rage. What follows is a beautiful story of love and friendship and companionship.
Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron (YA, Cinderella): In this young adult fantasy, Cinderella has been dead for two hundred years and her story is now used to oppress women and force all the girls of the kingdom to go to balls where men can choose them as brides. Sophia makes the desperate decision to flee from the ball instead, and while hiding in Cinderella's mausoleum, she meets Constance, the last known descendant of Cinderella's stepsister (the stepsisters were not evil in this one!). They vow to bring down the evil king and bring change to the kingdom. Along the way, they discover there's more to Cinderella's story than is told and that there's more going on in the kingdom as well. An excellent reimagining with a sweet F/F romance and big bring down the patriarchy energy.
Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh (Adult, Green Man folklore): Silver in the Wood is a gorgeous novella that draws on Green Man folklore for its inspiration (I know, not exactly a fairy tale, but I'm including it anyway because it is delightful). Greenhollow's woods are magical and wild, and Tobias is tethered to them, living a quiet life in his cottage until sweet, curious Henry Silver shows up and the past begins to be dug up. The novella is sweet and dreamlike and lush in its writing. It explores home and roots and freedom, and putting the past to rest. Tobias and Henry's relationship is lovely. I mostly just wanted more (and since there's a sequel...).
Do you enjoy fairy tale retellings? What are some of your favorites?