10 Recommended Fairy Tale Retellings for Adults

Posted on May 25, 2023

by Brooke C

The upcoming release of the live action Little Mermaid has me in a fairy tale mood.  Since I haven’t been a child in a long while, I searched for fairy tale retellings.  And let me tell you, I found some gems.  I’m sharing them here so you, too, can be part of that world, but with books written for adults.  Enjoy!

All the Tides of Fate by Adalyn Grace

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Through blood and sacrifice, Amora Montara has conquered a rebellion and taken her rightful place as queen of Visidia. Now, with the islands in turmoil and the people questioning her authority, Amora cannot allow anyone to see her weaknesses. No one can know about the curse in her bloodline. No one can know that she’s lost her magic. No one can know the truth about the boy who holds the missing half of her soul.

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

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A novel inspired by Russian fairy tales follows the experiences of a wild young girl who taps the mysterious powers of a precious necklace given to her father years earlier to save her village from dark and dangerous forces.

Darling Girl: A Novel of Peter Pan by Liz Michalski

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Holly Darling, the granddaughter of Wendy, is running a successful skincare company when she gets a phone call that her comatose daughter, Eden, has been kidnapped from their estate and immediately suspects Peter Pan, who is real and very dangerous.

The Sea Witch by Katee Robert

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Once upon a time, I met a man who stole my heart. In my desperation to reunite with him, I have nowhere to turn but the Sea Witch. Ursa is as beautiful as she is dangerous, and the one person my father warned me never to let close. But she’s all crimson lips and pretty lies, and I’m convinced despite my fear. It’s a simple enough plan, if not for the faint of heart.

By the Book by Jasmine Guillory

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In this Beauty and the Beast story, Isabelle is completely lost. When she first began her career in publishing after college, she did not expect to be twenty-five, still living at home, and one of the few Black employees at her publishing house. Overworked and underpaid, constantly torn between speaking up or stifling herself, Izzy thinks there must be more to this publishing life. So when she overhears her boss complaining about a beastly high-profile author who has failed to deliver his long-awaited manuscript, Isabelle sees an opportunity to finally get the promotion she deserves.

Kaikeyi by Vaishnavi Patel

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So begins Kaikeyi’s story. The only daughter of the kingdom of Kekaya, she is raised on tales of the gods, yet she watches as her father unceremoniously banishes her mother, listens as her own worth is reduced to how great a marriage alliance she can secure. And when she calls upon the gods for help, they never seem to hear. Desperate for some measure of independence, she turns to the texts she once read with her mother and discovers a magic that is hers alone. With this power, Kaikeyi transforms herself from an overlooked princess into a warrior, diplomat, and most favored queen, determined to carve a better world for herself and the women around her. A retelling of the queen from the Indian epic the Ramayana.

A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow

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Left with a rare condition caused by an industrial accident, Zinnia Gray celebrates her 21st, and possibly last, birthday and pricks her finger on a spinning wheel at a party, in a modern retelling of Sleeping Beauty.

Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

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In the winter of 1953, Boy Novak arrives by chance in a small town in Massachusetts, looking, she believes, for beauty-the opposite of the life she’s left behind in New York. She marries a local widower and becomes stepmother to his winsome daughter, Snow Whitman. A wicked stepmother is a creature Boy never imagined she’d become, but elements of the familiar tale of aesthetic obsession begin to play themselves out when the birth of Boy’s daughter, Bird, who is dark-skinned, exposes the Whitmans as light-skinned African Americans passing for white. Among them, Boy, Snow, and Bird confront the tyranny of the mirror to ask how much power surfaces really hold. A reimagining of the Snow White story set in the United States during the 1950s and 1960s.

The Girl in Red by Christina Henry

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It’s not safe for anyone alone in the woods. There are predators that come out at night: critters and coyotes, snakes and wolves. But the woman in the red jacket has no choice. Not since the Crisis came, decimated the population, and sent those who survived fleeing into quarantine camps that served as breeding grounds for death, destruction, and disease.  Red didn’t like to think of herself as a killer, but she wasn’t about to let herself get eaten up just because she was a woman alone in the woods.

Nocturne by Alyssa Wees

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Growing up in Chicago’s Little Sicily in the years following the Great War, Grace Dragotta has always wanted to be a ballerina, ever since she first peered through the windows of the Near North Ballet company. So when Grace is orphaned, she chooses the ballet as her home, imagining herself forever ensconced in a transcendent world of light and beauty so different from her poor, immigrant upbringing. Years later, with the Great Depression in full swing, Grace has become the company’s new prima ballerina though achieving her long-held dream is not the triumph she once envisioned.

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