We all have those stories that we know and love. Maybe our parents read them to us at bedtime, maybe we saw the Disney movie adaption (about 50 times), or maybe we still pull out our dog-eared copies every time we want to sink into something familiar.
These are the stories that resonate across generations within a culture. The ones that soak into our common vernacular and become easy references whenever we talk about triumphs, failures, heroism, morality, bravery, and true love.
But while familiar can be wonderful, sometimes we just want … a twist. A new take on an old tale. We think we’ve got just the thing. Read on for eight fantasy retellings that take your favorite stories and cast them in an entirely new and fantastical light.
A fantasy novel by Sarah J. Maas, A Court of Thorns and Roses takes themes from Beauty and the Beast and twists them into something entirely new and unexpected. Feyre is a huntress, but when she kills the wrong wolf, she is taken from her family and into the fae realm to pay the price. Only, the fae have secrets and problems of their own. Complete with curses, wicked rulers, dangerous bargains, and monsters, this story explores just how much one would sacrifice for love.
This retelling of The Little Mermaid centers around Princess Lira, a siren who is transformed into a human after she kills one of their own. Her only way out is to steal the heart of a prince — or stay human forever. But when she joins forces with siren-hunting Prince Eilan to take down the Sea Queen, unexpected feelings take root that threaten to ruin everything.
If the name didn’t give it away already, Cinder takes inspiration from Cinderella. But while the bones of the folk tale are there, Meyer blends sci-fi and fantasy to create a unique and vivid setting and story. Cinder is a gifted mechanic, a stepdaughter and stepsister, and … a cyborg. In New Beijing, that makes her a second-class citizen. When her path crosses with that of Prince Kai, she finds herself not only falling for someone she can never have, but also stuck in the middle of an intergalactic struggle with an alien race while a plague burns through the city.
While Cinder is the first book in the Lunar Chronicles, Scarlet is the second. True to her theme, Meyer delivers a clever retelling of Little Red Riding Hood. When Scarlet’s grandmother goes missing, she’s drawn to a street fighter named Wolf who might have information about her whereabouts. As they unravel the mystery of her grandmother’s disappearance, their paths cross with Cinder — sweeping them into the intergalactic power struggle that puts Prince Kai’s future in peril.
While it pulls from tales of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, Legendborn also explores themes of self-discovery, race, ancestry, trauma, and grief to create a multi-layered fantasy novel unlike any other. Legendborn tells the story of Bree, a 16-year-old girl still reeling from her mother’s death when she decides to enroll in a program for gifted high-schoolers at UNC-Chapel Hill. Only, on her first night, she witnesses a demon attack. As she tries to hunt down the truth about both the attack and her mother’s death, she infiltrates a secret society of Legendborn, descendants of King Arthur and his knights. A magical war is coming, and she must decide whose side she’s on.
In this dark Romeo and Juliet retelling, the year is 1926. Shanghai is being ravaged by a blood feud between two gangs, each seeking ultimate power. Juliette Cai has returned to take her place in the Scarlet Gang. Their enemy? The White Flowers, led by her ex-lover Roma Montagov. But when a contagion starts affecting both sides, causing people to rip out their own throats, Juliette and Roma must join forces to save the city before there is nothing left to rule.
Drawing fascinating parallels to Grimm’s Fairy Tales, The Hazel Wood explores what happens when fairytales spill over into the real world — and what happens when they’re much darker and more dangerous, without a moral in sight. Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother spend their lives moving from place to place, trying to outrun their bad luck. Alice’s grandmother, an author who wrote a book of dark fairytales and gained a cult-like following, is a recluse who never leaves her sprawling estate. When her grandmother dies, Alice’s mother is kidnapped by someone claiming to be from the grandmother’s fairytale world. Alice must team up with a superfan of her grandmother’s work to find her mother — even if that means leaving this world behind.
An urban fantasy play on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland — but full of monsters, weapons, and romance — A Blade So Black takes us down a rabbit hole for an entirely new experience. Alice is a young Black girl living in Atlanta trying to juggle friends, family, and her grades. But she’s also fighting the Nightmares, wielding magic weapons and vanquishing monsters in the dark dream realm known as Wonderland. When her mentor is poisoned, she has to dive even deeper into Wonderland to find the cure, risking everything along the way.
About the Author: Kelsey Fritts
Kelsey is a writer, editor, anthropologist, and bookworm. She's also the author of two young adult fantasy novels. When she's not out exploring in nature or playing with her ridiculously spoiled dog, you can find Kelsey curled up with a mug of hot cocoa and a novel—likely one by Laini Taylor, Leigh Bardugo, N.K. Jemisin, Margaret Atwood, or Ursula K. Le Guin.