19 Captivating Fairy Tale Retellings for Adults
I have such a weak spot for fairy tale retellings. If a book says it’s a retelling, you can bet I’ll be purchasing it.
Whether it’s a Beauty and the Beast retelling, a new twist on Peter Pan, or a sci-fi version of Cinderella, you’ll find it on the list below.
But when it comes to the best fairy tale retellings, A Court of Thorns and Roses, Spinning Silver, and Kaikeyi are probably our favorites. Check out those and more below.
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Beauty and the Beast Retellings
Nocturne by Alyssa Wees
I absolutely adored this book that is pure magic at its best. What starts as a historical fiction set in Chicago in the 1930s transforms into a beautiful fantasy about a ballerina, her violin, and the kingdom of death.
When Grace becomes the prima ballerina at The Near North Ballet Company, she is overjoyed that her dream has come true. In accepting this position, she has become a patron of master LaRosa and must move into his mansion.
This Beauty and the Beast retelling is perfect for a list of books like ACOTAR. It is beautiful and absolutely heartbreaking. The writing is lyrical and I savored every minute. It is perfect for anyone who loves to read books like The Night Circus. You will obsess over this haunting pick from ultimate beach reads 2023.
A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
This book has a cult-like following for a reason. The first book in the series is a loose fairy tale retelling of Beauty and the Beast set in the world of Prythian. Magical creatures, humans, and fae are all prominent in the book.
This is a fast-paced, addicting, fantasy romance series. A love triangle develops by the end of the story and book two is jaw-dropping! This is on its way to becoming a classic from the list of enemies-to-lovers books. You will want to binge this series in one week. We could not leave this epic romance off a list of the best romance novels of all time.
If you loved ACOTAR, check out this list of books just like it. Or head over to our guide on all of Sarah J. Maas’s books.
By the Book by Jasmine Guillory
Isabelle was overjoyed when she landed her dream job in publishing as an editorial assistant. She is also the only Black employee. She has been waiting for a promotion for two years and decides she will earn that by going to the mansion of a celebrity with an overdue memoir. All she has to do is give him the right pep talk to encourage him to write the book.
This task is not as easy as it seems. Beau is standoffish, stubborn, and difficult. Soon Izzy finds herself living in his house, helping him with the book and maybe finding something that she needs as well- the confidence to ask for what she wants. You’ll love this fairy tale retelling of beauty and the beast! And this book is a perfect pick for our list of ultimate beach reads 2023.
Uprooted by Naomi Novik
Wow! This book is an absolutely epic adult fairy tale. It is complex and so unlike any traditional American fairy tale retelling. An enchanted wood, magic, and mythical creatures grab you and pull you in. This is not a typical damsel-in-distress tale so do not let it fool you.
Agnieszka lives next to a wood filled with dark powers. The village depends on the Dragon to protect them from these dark powers. In exchange, one woman from the village must go and serve him every ten years. To everyone’s surprise, he chooses Agnieszka.
I don’t want to say more about this book and ruin its magic. But, if you love fairy tale retellings or are looking for books like ACOTAR, this is a perfect pick.
Romancing The Duke by Tessa Dare
Tessa Dare’s stories are some of my favorite romances. She always finds ways to inject humor into her books. This particular book is the first in a series in which a man dies and leaves a castle to each of our heroines, who are known spinsters.
In this story, Izzy wants to be a writer so retreats to her castle to write her novels. Meanwhile, Ransom shows up to the castle he still believes is rightfully his. Hilarity and romance ensue. I loved this romantic fairy tale retelling based on Beauty and the Beast.
We have more Beauty and The Beast Retellings on our list of books like A Court of Thorns and Roses.
Cinder by Melissa Meyer
This 4 book series is set in the future in a time of disease and war. This series is part twisted fairy tale, part dystopia, and part sci-fi fantasy.
Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, and Rapunzel are re-imagined as you have never seen them before. All of them are smart and strong women far from the helpless damsels in distress we know them to be.
The first book introduces us to Cinder. She is a cyborg (part human, part machine) who lives with her……..you guessed it….. two step-sisters and stepmother.
If you’ve read and loved Cinder, check out this list of books just like it!
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
This epic book series from Sarah J. Maas was started when Sarah was still a teenager! It’s all about Celaena, an imprisoned assassin who is offered freedom by acting as the champion for Prince Dorian.
As she prepared to earn her freedom in the competition, she begins training sessions with the captain of the guard. As she tried to acclimate to court life, the prince is drawn to her, and a love-triangle forms.
The series gets better and better with each book! A total must-read for ACOTAR fans and a must-read if you love fae books. Or head over to our guide on all of Sarah J. Maas’s books.
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
This book is a fairy tale retelling of Cinderella. A fairy named Lucinda puts a curse on Ella that requires her to do whatever anyone tells her to do. Lucinda thought that she was helping Ella’s mother because she would not stop crying.
As Ella gets older, she being to attend a boarding school where she tried to make friends. She realizes, she needs to rid herself of this gift so that she can stop doing the horrible things that other people make her do.
This is one of the middle-grade fairy tale retellings that my daughter reads over and over again.
Peter Pan Retellings
Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Berry
This Peter Pan retelling finds Peter aboard a ship of sailors. He and a bunch of other orphans aboard the ship have to protect a treasure locked in a chest hidden on the ship from pirate captain Black Stache.
Think of this as the origin story of Tinkerbell, her fairy dust, and how Peter gained his ability to fly. It’s one of our favorite fairy tale retellings.
Darling Girl: A Novel of Peter Pan by Liz Michalski
This classic retelling of Peter Pan is anything but innocent and whimsical. In this adult fantasy novel, Holly Darling, the Granddaughter of Wendy, runs a very successful skincare company. She is a single parent to Jack after a terrible accident killed her husband and Jack’s twin.
When she gets a call that her daughter Eden is missing from the home where she has been hidden away in a coma for a decade, she knows that Peter Pan is the one responsible.
Peter Pan is dark, sinister and grown-up. Holly must get Christopher Cooke to help her find her daughter and defeat Peter.
Lost in the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas
I loved this unique Peter Pan story that had me thinking about the true meaning of Neverland and the stories of the lost boys. Wendy Darling and her parents have never been able to move on after her brothers disappeared mysteriously five years ago.
Wendy has no memories of the 6 months she was gone and no explanation for why she came home and her brothers didn’t. Now, as children start to go missing again, it feels too similar to be a coincidence. This is a smart, well-written, well-thought-out, twisted Peter Pan story. This pick is perfect for a fairy tale retelling list.
Sleeping Beauty Retellings
Briar Rose by Jane Yolen
This historical fiction book for teens was such an unexpected beauty for me. Books about the Holocaust are most often inherently extremely heavy. I love the way this book is a fairy tale retelling of Briar Rose (AKA Sleeping Beauty) that turns it into a story about the Holocaust.
It does not trivialize the atrocities of that time but rather, it makes the subject more approachable to a younger audience. Beautifully written and well done. This is one of the books for a 13-year-old that adults will love and a must-read from WWII books for kids!
A Spindle Splinter by Alex E. Harrow
This is the story of sleeping beauty like you have never read it before. Zinnia is turning 21 and it is the last birthday that she will have. She has a rare medical condition in which nobody has ever lived past twenty-one. Zinnia has always thought that she is a modern sleeping beauty.
Charm, Zinnia’s best friend, wants to make the last birthday special but, when Zinnia pricks her finger on the spinning wheel, she finds herself in another dimension with another sleeping beauty.
This modern Sleeping Beauty gives power back to the women whose lives are stolen. It is one of the quicker fairy tale retellings and one that I absolutely loved because the women are no longer helpless.
Other Fairy Tale Retellings
Kaikeyi by Vaishnavi Patel
I love a good mythology retelling, but usually, I read Greek mythology. Kaikeyi is a retelling of a story well-known in the Hindu religion.
While I can’t attest to the accuracy of the tale, I can say that I was utterly captivated by the story of Kaikeyi’s life. I learned that she is a villain in Hindu but I found Patel’s narrative so compelling that I felt for Kaikeyi and supported all of her decisions.
If you are a fan of Ariadne, Circe, or other fairy tale retellings, you must pick up this book. It’s wonderful.
The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
This YA fantasy book which is based on Russian folklore was a slow build. I wasn’t sure about it until about halfway through when I couldn’t put it down. In fact, I went out to buy the sequel (The Girl in the Tower) immediately because I needed to find out what happens.
Vasya lives with her family on the edge of a Russian forest where they hear stories of the Blue-eyed winter demon and honor household spirits. When Vasya’s dad brings home a new stepmother who forbids these practices, misfortunes follow. Vasya now must use the gifts that she has kept hidden all these years.
Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire
Everyone knows the Wicked Witch of the West but not everyone knows how she became that way. She wasn’t always bad. This is the story of a girl that would grow up to become one of the most hated villains in history.
This is the story that inspired the hit broadway musical! Its one of the OG fairy tale retellings.
Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
I adored this book by Novik. I loved the strong female characters, the story, and the writing. This book is a classic retelling of Rumplestiltskin that is complex and wonderful and the ending had me in tears.
Miryem’s family are moneylenders but her family is in poverty because her father does not collect his debts. In an effort to save her family, Miryem begins collecting the debts herself and soon a rumor begins that she can turn silver into gold. Soon, these rumors spread to the king of Staryk, and Miryem’s life changes forever when he comes to see if the rumors are true.
Heartless by Marissa Meyer
Marissa Meyer is the queen of the twisted fairy tale retelling. This story tells us about the famous queen in Alice’s wonderland who is always yelling “off with his head!”. It is original, well thought out, and fun to read.
Like other fairy tale retellings, this is one of the best books like the Lunar Chronicles series.
For more books like these, check out our list of 26 Adult Retellings of Disney Classics.
King Arthur Retellings
Half Sick of Shadows by Laura Sebastian
Lady Elaine tells this retelling of Arthurian legend. I loved hearing this tale retold because I’ve long been a fan of The Mists of Avalon, The Sword and the Stone, Camelot, and the like.
I loved this feminist classic retelling that showed a weaker Arthur supported by the strong, magic-bearing women of the story. Gwen, Morgana, and Elaine’s friendship was the highlight of the story for me.
The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
This is a fairy tale retelling of the story of King Arthur, featuring the Lady of the Lake, Paganism vs. Christianity, and an epic struggle for power.
Merlin and the Lady of the Lake practice pagan witchcraft, as they try to keep the old ways alive against the new religion gaining popularity, the choices they make for Arthur’s kingdom inspire the tale we know so well.
The mini-series adaptation of this book is wonderful too and well worth the watch!