12 Reimagined Fairy Tales to enchant your imagination
A book list by Onset & Rime.
In continuing with this week's theme over on Instagram, we've put together a book list filled with reimagined fairy tales.
Some of the stories on this list are innovative retellings. Some stories are told using the bare bones of a familiar tale to create something different. Some are new stories populated by well-loved characters.
We hope you enjoy our recommendations!
A Note: Content warnings have been provided where appropriate. Highlight the "invisible" text beside the content warning label to see. Content warnings are not value statements about the books or judgements about the inclusion of any particular content. They are there to give you a heads up on what to be prepared for so you can choose if and/or when a book is right for you.
1) THE BIG OVER EASY by Jasper Fforde
Reference Material: Multiple nursery rhyme and fairy tale characters
Humpty Stuyvesant Van Dumpty III is dead, found shattered beneath a wall in a shabby part of town. Detective Jack Spratt and his new partner Mary Mary are called in to investigate. Before long Jack and Mary are grappling with a sinister plot involving money laundering, broken marriages, mafioso Giorgio Porgia, and the competitive world of commercial foot care.
Genre(s): mystery, fantasy, satire
Content Warnings: suicide, violence
2) CINDER by Marissa Meyer
Reference Material: Cinderella
It is years into the future and a deadly plague devastates the population. Cinder is a gifted mechanic in New Beijing; she is also a cyborg and therefore a second-class citizen. Reviled by her stepmother and blamed when her stepsister becomes ill, she is sold to the government for plague research. This sets off a chain of events that thrusts Cinder into a dangerous world filled with political intrigue, life-altering secrets, and the threat of intergalactic war.
This is the first in a (fully published) series that centers around several other characters from well-known fairy tales, including Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Snow White.
Genre(s): sci-fi, young adult
Content Warnings: abuse, mind control, suicide, non-consensual medical experimentation, transphobic joke, discrimination
3) FOREST OF A THOUSAND LANTERNS by Julie C. Dao
Reference Material: Snow White
Xifeng's aunt tells her that the stars say she is destined for greatness. She is to become the Empress. But her path will be difficult. Xifeng must draw on her wit, her ambition, and the dark magic running through her veins to reach the top. Will the cost of greatness be too high?
From the publisher: "An East Asian fantasy reimagining of The Evil Queen legend about one peasant girl's quest to become Empress – and the darkness she must unleash to achieve her destiny."
Genre(s): fantasy, young adult
Content Warnings: child abuse, mild gore, cannibalism, torture, ableism
4) SPINNING SILVER by Naomi Novik
Reference Material: Rumpelstiltskin
Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders, and when her father repeatedly fails to collect his debts, she takes matters into her own hands to save her family from poverty. She soon gains a reputation for turning silver into gold and attracts the attention of the king of the Staryk – fey creatures of ice and snow. Facing an impossible challenge from the Staryk king, Miryem, along with two unlikely allies, must use her wits and intuition to save herself and her world.
Content Warnings: abuse, alcoholism, antisemitism, reference to sexual assault
5) THE GIRLS AT THE KINGFISHER CLUB by Genevieve Valentine
Reference Material: The Twelve Dancing Princesses
A reimagining of 'The Twelve Dancing Princesses' set in Manhattan during the Roaring Twenties.
Jo Hamilton and her eleven younger sisters are hidden away from the world, ruled over by their father who wants them to be neither seen nor heard. Their only contact with the outside world comes from their secret nighttime excursions to speakeasies and dancehalls hidden throughout the city. Jo "the General" sets the rules: don't give out your name, don't get romantically attached, know where the exits are, and always be ready to run. When their father decides to start marrying them off, the sisters have to figure out how to survive.
Genre(s): historical fiction
6) THORN by Intisar Khanani
Reference Material: The Goose Girl
Princess Alyrra longs to escape her cruel family and the confines of her royal life. When she is betrothed to the powerful prince Kestrin she has little choice but to go along, still unable to live a life of her choosing. On the journey to join her betrothed, a sorceress swaps Alyrra's body with that of an accompanying noble girl, inadvertently giving Alyrra the freedom she had longed for. Taking on the role of a goose girl when she arrives at the palace, she builds a new life. But the more Alyrra learns of this new kingdom, the more she knows she can't remain the goose girl forever. Caught between two worlds Alyrra must decide who she is, and what she stands for.
Genre(s): fantasy, young adult
Content Warnings: abuse, reference to sexual assault
7) DAUGHTER OF THE FOREST by Juliet Marillier
Reference Material: The Six Swans
Sorcha is the seventh child and only daughter of Lord Colum of Sevenwaters. Her mother did not survive her birth and her father turns to war to distract from his grief. It falls to her six brothers to care for her, so they do, growing strong in their love for one another. One day her father returns home with a new wife named Oonagh, an evil sorceress who wants to be rid of all seven children so her own future children can inherit. When Oonagh turns the six brothers into swans, Sorcha escapes into the forest. There she meets the Lady of the Forest who tells her that her brothers can be rescued. She must weave six shirts out of starwort and throw them over her brothers’ heads, but she must stay silent until the task is finished. If she speaks before she completes the task, she will lose her brothers forever.
This is the first book in the Seven Waters series but is a complete story that can be read as a stand alone novel.
Content Warnings: animal abuse, rape (graphic)
8) IN THE VANISHERS' PALACE by Aliette de Bodard
Reference Material: Beauty and the Beast
From the publisher: "When failed scholar Yên is sold to Vu Côn, one of the last dragons walking the earth, she expects to be tortured or killed for Vu Côn's amusement.
But Vu Côn, it turns out, has a use for Yên: she needs a scholar to tutor her two unruly children. She takes Yên back to her home, a vast, vertiginous palace-prison where every door can lead to death. Vu Côn seems stern and unbending, but as the days pass Yên comes to see her kinder and caring side. She finds herself dangerously attracted to the dragon who is her master and jailer. In the end, Yên will have to decide where her own happiness lies—and whether it will survive the revelation of Vu Côn's dark, unspeakable secrets..."
Content Warnings: abuse, violence
9) THE GIRL IN RED by Christina Henry
Reference Material: Red Riding Hood
From the publisher: "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 serve as breeding grounds for death, destruction, and disease. She is just a woman trying not to get killed in a world that doesn't look anything like the one she grew up in, the one that was perfectly sane and normal and boring until three months ago."
Genre(s): horror, sci-fi
Content Warnings: abuse, graphic violence, racism, ableism, reference to sexual assault
10) THE BEAR AND THE NIGHTINGALE by Katherine Arden
Reference Material: Russian fairy tales and folklore
Vasya and her family live in a small, forested village to the north of Moscow. Vasya grows up on tales and of the old Russian gods and folkloric creatures. And for Vasya, these tales are more than just stories; she can see the spirits that guard her home, her town, and its people.
When her father goes to Moscow to find a husband for her sister, he also finds himself a new wife. Vasya's new stepmother deeply fears the old beliefs and, with the help of the new village priest, encourages the villagers to stop paying tithes to the spirits. As crops begin to fail, villagers freeze, and evil creatures rise, she realizes she will have to rely on the powers she has long concealed to protect her village, even as her beliefs clash with those around her.
This is the first book in the (fully published) Winternight Trilogy.
Genre(s): historical fantasy
Content Warnings: sexual assault, violence
11) DEATHLESS by Catherynne M. Valente
Reference Material: Koschei the Deathless, Baba Yaga
From the publisher "A handsome young man arrives in St Petersburg at the house of Marya Morevna. He is Koschei, the Tsar of Life, and he is Marya's fate. For years she follows him in love and in war, and bears the scars. But eventually Marya returns to her birthplace - only to discover a starveling city, haunted by death."
Genre(s): historical fantasy
Content Warnings: horrors of war, abuse
12) REDEMPTION IN INDIGO by Karen Lord
Reference Material: Senegalese folktales
From the publisher "Paama's husband is a fool and a glutton. Bad enough that he followed her to her parents' home in the village of Makendha, now he's disgraced himself by murdering livestock and stealing corn. When Paama leaves him for good, she attracts the attention of the undying ones – the djombi – who present her with a gift: The Chaos Stick, which allows her to manipulate the subtle forces of the world. Unfortunately, not all the djombi are happy about this gift: the Indigo Lord believes this power should be his and his alone, and he sets about trying to persuade Paama to return the Chaos Stick. Chaos is about to reign supreme..."
Genre(s): fantasy, magical realism