Golden Retold-ens: 18 Best Books Based on Fairy Tales

The new trailer for the live-action version of “Beauty and the Beast” has us hearkening back to the animated classic and our first introduction to our beloved, book-ensconced Belle.

So while we wait for a deeper glimpse into the fantastic library scenery of this new adaptation, we can also look to our own shelves for fairy-tale retellings that resonate with the thrill of timeless stories.

Read on for our picks of novels new and old inspired by classic folk and fairy tales.


Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay. A fantasy retelling of Beauty and the Beast in which the Beauty becomes the Beast. Though it’s a couple of years old now, this one went straight on the to-read list around here.


Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George. A retelling of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” by the writer of the enjoyable and original Dragon Slippers.


East by Edith Pattou. A retelling of “East of the Sun and West of the Moon.” Had enough of the Disney repertoire? Then expand into Norwegian territory with this Scandinavian tale.


Mechanica by Betsy Cornwell. A “Cinderella” story with a tinkerer heroine!


Strands of Bronze and Gold by Jane Nickerson. The fact that fairy tales have been heavily “Bowdlerized” over the centuries is no longer a surprise, but sometimes a lesser-known story comes back, in this case as a suspenseful mystery, and you can see why it never resurfaced as a children’s story. In “Bluebeard,” an aristocrat keeps the bodies of his murdered wives locked in a forbidden room. In Nickerson’s gothic, antebellum retelling, the setting is almost another character.


A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth Bunce. Could the “Rumplestiltskin” story benefit from elements of ghost story, mystery, and romance? This rich retelling proves that it could.


Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine. Adds a clever twist to “Cinderella” and goes on its delightful and charming way from there.


Cinder by Marissa Meyer. A cyborg “Cinderella” in a world with enough intergalactic intrigue to justify three more books, also based on fairy tales.


Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale. A lesser-known tale (“Maid Maleen”) set in an uncommon place (the steppes of central Asia); trust Shannon Hale to draw you into such a captivating work.


Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier. For those who have yet to read Marillier, perhaps “Twelve Dancing Princesses” is the most fitting introduction to her enchanting writing. Princesses being irresistibly transported into a parallel world by the craft of subtle and powerful magic matches the reader’s experience nicely.


Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge. “Beauty and the Beast” with Beauty as a conflicted sleeper assassin and lots of tumultuous romance.


Enchantment by Orson Scott Card. A graduate Russian-folklore scholar and track athlete gets magicked back in time by a “Sleeping Beauty” spell.


The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale. A retelling of “The Goose Girl.” The embellishment here is simply good characterization and a well-told coming-of-age story.


Briar Rose by Jane Yolen. A book that could also go on our blog post of genocide/mass-violence YA literature. The story of a granddaughter discovering the personal truth behind her grandmother’s version of “Sleeping Beauty,” which centers around a WWII extermination camp.


The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh. Based on “1,001 Arabian Nights,” this adventure includes plenty of romance and has a newly released sequel, The Rose and the Dagger.


Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay. Sleeping Beauty sacrificed her life to give her daughter magical powers. Now her daughter, Aurora, is a warrior princess fighting to reclaim her throne.


The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Koury. A romantic, action-packed take on the Aladdin tale.


The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan. A haunting story based on the “Seal Wife” tales of British Islands folklore.

Though all books come to an end, there are always more, so you really can read happily ever after!



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