I’ll admit it: I’ve got a slight obsession with fairy tales. One of the main reasons I read YA (besides it being AWESOME) is for all of the clever fairy tale retellings. Still, with every true love comes an almost-insurmountable challenge, and mine is finding retellings that aren’t all based on Cinderella—there are a million brilliant ways to reimagine glass slippers, but I can’t always be reading about shoes. Luckily for me, there’s a vast world of fairy tales out there, and some excellent YA authors are taking it upon themselves to explore the fringes. So, while I wait for someone to rewrite the excellence that is Princess Vasilisa, here are some retellings of lesser-known tales you MUST read:
Spinning Starlight by R.C. Lewis
Meet Liddi, a 16-year-old heiress whose father runs the most powerful tech company in the galaxy. Her life is hard enough with the media hounding her constantly, but things get a lot worse when armed men show up at her door, trap her brothers in the conduit between worlds, and implant a monitor in her throat to keep her from telling anyone what happened. Unable to speak, she heads off to the eighth planet, hoping to find someone capable of helping to bring her brothers home. It’s a retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s “Wild Swans,” but with space stuff and an absolutely gorgeous cover.
Entwined by Heather Dixon
In this lovely retelling of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses,” Azalea and her 11 sisters are willing to do anything to keep their mother’s memory alive through dance—even if it means making a deal with the Keeper to enter the enchanted realm beneath the castle. But while her sisters are enjoying their chance to spin and twirl, Azalea knows she has to keep a close eye on the sinister world around them. With the king trying to marry them off and the Keeper trying to, well, keep them, things might just get a little tangled up. Entwined is funny, charming, and creepy in a good way; it’s basically the perfect fairy-tale retelling.
Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale
Dashti isn’t too upset when she finds herself locked up with Lady Saren for seven years. After all, food is hard to come by, and even in a tower, royalty is sure to be well-fed. But seven years is a long time, and when Lady Saren’s suitors stop visiting, the girls must break themselves out of the tower. Based on the fairly obscure “Maid Maleen,” by the Brothers Grimm, Book of a Thousand Days is an excellent tale of the friendship between two girls and the power of writing. Bonus: big-time character development!
Goose Chase by Patrice Kindl
Look past the dated cover and get ready for a hilarious take on the “Goose Girl” fairy tale that will totally win you over. Alexandria Aurora Fortunato is just a poor goose girl, but when a
completely unhelpful mysterious old woman gifts her hair that sheds gold dust and tears that turn to diamonds, she’s suddenly the most sought-after maiden in the land. Locked up by two suitors until she chooses between them, Alexandria escapes with the help of her geese, only to find herself stranded in problem after problem. Never have twelve geese been more annoying, more beloved—or more comedic.
Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George
It’s hard to feel attached to your family when they haven’t even bothered to name you properly, so it’s no surprise when Lass agrees to travel across the frozen country with a mysterious, probably anything-but-ordinary polar bear. As she learns more about the troublesome spell that’s trapping her bear friend, Lass grows determined to take down the troll queen responsible, even if it means asking for help from the four winds and completing a series of ridiculously impossible tasks. Based on the Norwegian “East O’ the Sun, West O’ the Moon,” this retelling will make you want to pack up and head off to the Arctic North in search of your very own polar bear to rescue.
The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest by Melanie Dickerson
Odette, daughter of a local wealthy merchant, thinks she’s helping her people by poaching and selling her kills to feed the poor. What she doesn’t expect is a ring of black market poachers raising the prices and making a fortune off of her Robin Hood-esque attempts. Of course, she also doesn’t expect to fall in love with the man whose job it is to stop her illegal activities. Featuring yet another awesome heroine wielding a bow and arrow, it’s a retelling of “The Swan Princess” you’ll be loving far longer than forever.
Crown of Ice by Vicki L. Weavil
Thyra, the Snow Queen, has to put the pieces of an ice mirror back together before her eighteenth birthday or suffer a terrible fate. With ice for a heart, she’s not troubled by anything like feelings, so she kidnaps the mathematically gifted Kai to help with her task. Unfortunately, Thyra has underestimated Kai’s childhood friend, Gerda, who’s determined to rescue Kai no matter what it takes. Like Disney’s Frozen, Crown of Ice is based on Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen,” except this retelling stays a bit closer to the original…and there’s no singing snowman.
What’s your favorite fairy tale retelling?