There are some tales I’ll never get tired of reading: that of the mermaid princess, the heartbroken beast, the girl in disguise who saves her kingdom. It doesn’t matter if a story has been told, in some guise, a hundred times: what matters is how the author turns that story into their own. Below are sixteen new and forthcoming books that take their first spark of inspiration from classic stories, and transmute those earlier works into something new. These books are breathing new life into old tales. Once upon a time, there was a twist.
Smoke in the Sun, by Renée Ahdieh
The sequel to Flame in the Mist brings an end to brave, resourceful Mariko’s journey. Loosely based on the epic story of Mulan and the 47 Ronin, the book is set in feudal Japan. Following the events of book one, Mariko is somewhere she never thought she’d be: planning a wedding that will allow her to infiltrate the emperor’s court and save her love from execution. But life in the imperial court is deceptive, full of secrets and lies that threaten to ruin Mariko and bring down the empire.
Blood and Sand, by C.V. Wyk
All legends need an origin story. In Blood and Sand, Wyk tells the story of a teenaged warrior girl and a handsome gladiator “who gave rise to the legend of Spartacus.” Yes, that Spartacus. What begins with a tentative bond between two young people enslaved by the Republic of Rome becomes something stronger, something that can spark a rebellion. True to its name, Blood and Sand promises to be a fierce battle that challenges the might of an empire.
Shadowsong,by S. Jae-Jones
In the New York Times bestselling Wintersong, we are introduced to the world of the Goblin King. In a book that’s partly a retelling of David Bowie’s Labyrinth and “Goblin Market“ by Christina Rossetti, Jae-Jones puts her own spin on a grand tale of love and sacrifice. In Shadowsong, Leisl faces a terrible choice.With the wall between the worlds falling apart, she must return to the Underground and grapple with the fact that the fate of both realms is in her hands. Shadowsong is the thrilling conclusion to the Wintersong duology.
The Traitor Prince, by C.J. Redwine
Bestselling author Redwine returns to the world of Ravenspire with The Traitor Prince, inspired by The Prince and the Pauper and the fairy tale “The False Prince.” Javan Najafai is the crown prince of Akram, only no one believes it to be true. After dodging an assassination by the impostor attempting to usurp his place, Javan is thrown into a terrifying prison where he has to fight for his survival—and where fighting is his only avenue toward getting an audience with his father the king. When he meets the mysterious Sajda, he knows she’s the only one to believe him, but Sajda holds secrets of her own.
Heart of Iron, by Ashley Poston
Have you heard? Seventeen-year-old Ana is an orphan, scoundrel, and outlaw. The sentient droid who found her as a child is dying, and she’ll do anything to save him. But when her plan is disrupted by a spoiled Ironblood, Ana can add “fugitive” to her list of qualities. Forced to run to lost corners of the galaxy, Ana must confront her past and unravel secrets that lead to impossible choices. This retelling of Anastasia in space is perfect for fans of Firefly.
Lizzie, by Dawn Ius
Perhaps the most terrifying retelling on this list, Lizzie is a modern take on one of true crime’s most gruesome mysteries. The real Lizzie Borden was tried and acquitted for the axe murders of her father and stepmother in the late 1800s, while Ius’s Lizzie is a teen living under the rule of tyrannical parents. When a charming new maid joins the family’s B&B staff, Lizzie decides to take control of her own life, and not even her parents can get in the way.
Winterglass, by Lexa Hillyer
Lexa Hillyer is back with the sequel to Spindle Fire, set in a lush and imaginative fantasy world loosely inspired by the fairytales we know and love. In Winterglass, one sister plots to kill the faerie queen, while the other discovers a glass slipper that reveals her true lineage. Both fight for love and loyalty, facing the threat of losing each other forever.
Brightly Burning, by Alexa Donne
In her debut novel, pitched as Jane Eyre in space, Donne sets Victorian England against the backdrop of the galaxy. Stella Ainsley leaves poverty behind when she quits her engineering job to become a governess on private ship the Rochester. The ship is certainly primitive ship, but Stella discovers that it might be haunted, too—not to mention, she’s now involved in a conspiracy to betray the interstellar fleet. Part mystery, part romance, Stella embarks on a journey that reimagines a classic among the stars.
Nothing Happened, by Molly Booth
Remember when ’90s movies like 10 Things I Hate About You gave Shakespeare a modern twist? Booth channels that vibe in Nothing Happened, a summer camp–set Much Ado About Nothing. The drama unfolds around long-time counselors Bee and Ben and their maybe-sort-of-could-be romance that may or may not have happened last summer. A large cast of characters brings this summer-loving comedy of errors to a head at a Fourth of July party, where it will be decided if all ends in love or in heartbreak.
Bright Burns the Night, by Sara B. Larson
In the sequel to Dark Breaks the Dawn, Larson concludes her girl-power retelling of Swan Lake. After a defeat at the hands of King Lorcan, Queen Evelayn has been kept in her swan form, and the balance of Dark and Light has caused winter to descend on the kingdom. Once a year Lorcan allows the queen to become human for a day, in order to offer her a truce, and every year the queen refuses. But when an ancient power threatens everything they love, Evelayn’s reality shatters and she must depend on her enemy. Can this uneasy alliance turn into friendship, or even love?
Sweet Black Waves by Kristina Pérez
If you’re a fan of Arthurian sagas, but are tired of Arthur and Gwen getting all the attention, this book is for you. Debut author Pérez creates a luxe, magic-filled retelling of the star-crossed tale of Tristan and Iseult. The star of her story is Iseult’s lady-in-waiting, Branwen. When Branwen saves the life of her enemy, it awakens in her an ancient healing magic. With her mind and heart set on peace between eternally warring peoples, Branwen’s greatest rivals in bringing it about might be her best friend and the only man she has ever loved.
Sea Witch, by Sarah Henning
Witches have been having a YA moment, and this take on them is one of my most anticipated releases of the year. Henning’s debut tells the origin story of one of the greatest villanesses ever, starting with a tale of two friends who’ve been torn apart. Evie mourns the disappearance of Anna…until one day Anna returns from the sea, and both girls catch the eye of two princes. Anna can’t stay on land, or on two legs, without Evie’s magic—but magic can be cruel, and Evie discovers that in helping her friend, she may be sacrificing more than bargained for.
The Forest Queen, by Betsy Cornwell
The genderbent Robin Hood retelling you’ve been waiting for is here. When sixteen-year-old Sylvie’s brother takes over the family lands, Sylvie feels powerless to stop his abuse of the local people. Instead, she runs away to the woods with her best friend, and loyal villagers follow them, creating a new community devoted to fighting against the corrupt king and his noblemen.
A Blade So Black, by L.L. McKinney
Never has there ever been a retelling of Alice in Wonderland quite like this. This Alice is a badass, trained at fighting Nightmare creatures from the dark dream world known as Wonderland—but she’s also still a teen with a curfew. In the real world, Alice’s battles are of the more usual variety: keeping up her GPA, a high-maintenance BFF, an overprotective mom. But fighting the Nightmares is becoming a full-time job, and when her mentor is poisoned, Alice must journeys deeper into Wonderland than ever before, risking “losing her head…literally.”
Blanca & Roja, by Anna-Marie McLemore
Anna-Marie McLemore is the critically acclaimed author of When the Moon Was Ours and, most recently, Wild Beauty. In Blanca & Roja, she tells the story of sisters Blanca and Roja del Cisne, best friends and fierce rivals pitted against each other from day one by a curse. Forced into a game that will leave one of them to carry out life as a swan, the del Cisne sisters must risk everything to change their fates. The story has elements of both Swan Lake and classic fairy tale “Snow White and Rose Red.”
Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix, by Julie C. Dao
There have been many Snow White retellings over the years, but not like this one. Dao’s debut, Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, was a standout book of 2017. In the sequel and conclusion to the duology, we meet Jade, princess in exile. She was sent to live in a monastery by her fierce and ruthless stepmother, Xifeng, empress of Feng Lu. Jade doesn’t want to rule, but she’s the only one who can end Xifeng’s reign. And so she embarks on a quest to raise the Dragon Lords, and risks losing herself to the same darkness that consumed her stepmother.