Who doesn’t love a good retelling? I, for one, absolutely adore them (when they’re done well, obviously). So I thought, why not share my love of retellings by offering some recommendations?
Below you’ll find a list of ones I’ve really enjoyed, and I’ve tried to sort them as best I can. I’ve also included (further down) ones that are on my TBR (and have been for an embarrassingly long amount of time), and some others further below that sound a m a z i n g that are due to be released later this year — or sometime next year — so be sure to keep them on your radar!
The Little Mermaid Retellings
“Never had she danced so beautifully; the sharp knives cut her feet, but she did not feel it, for the pain in her heart was far greater.”
– Hans Christian Andersen, The Little Mermaid
To Kill A Kingdom by Alexandra Christo
To Kill a Kingdom is a bloodthirsty and dark Little Mermaid retelling. Lira is a princess and in line to take the Sea Queen’s throne. She is a siren, and every year a siren takes a heart on her birthday. In a twist of fate, she is forced to kill a mermaid, protecting the heart of a prince. Her punishment? she is turned into something that Sirens hate above all – a human. I loved this book, purely for showing how vicious and brutal sirens can be, clawing hearts out with their bare hands. But, To Kill a Kingdom kept delivering. Pirates! Adventure! Sirens! Mermaids! Chapter after chapter we got more action, more magic, more swashbuckling adventure, more deadly sea creatures, more slow-burn romance.
The Seafarer’s Kiss by Julia Ember
The Seafarer’s Kiss is a retelling of The Little Mermaid, but not how you would expect. Instead of a retelling of Ariel’s story, we have a retelling of Ursula’s AND it has an f/f romance. The story follows Ersel, a mermaid who just wants to be free to explore the ocean and to also explore the land. She befriends a shield-maiden, Ragna, stuck on a glacier. The two are caught together by Ersel’s childhood friend and she is given an ultimatum. In order to escape her fate, she makes a deal with Loki. But instead of the legs she wanted, she ends up with eight tentacle legs. What also makes this retelling great is that it has an awesome mix of Norse Mythology too. So yeah, if you are looking for a f/f retelling of The Little Mermaid, then this one is for you.
Sea Witch by Sarah Henning
So you know what is even better than a retelling? A villain origin story. Sea Witch is another The Little Mermaid retelling that again focuses on Ursula. Sea Witch follows Evie, who when her best friend Anna drowned, shewas labelled an outcast and a witch. When, years later, a girl resembling Anna appears on shore, Evie is sure it’s her best friend, no matter how much she denies it. Soon, Evie discovers that her new friend cannot stay on land without her help, she goes above and beyond to save her and her humanity. But too late, Evie discovers the price of her magic, and the truth of the bargain she has struck. Set in an atmospheric 19th Century Denmark coastal village, and very much rooted in Danish history, Sea Witch is a dark, gritty retelling. It is very romance heavy, but it is also a tale of friendship, and a dark and twisted tale of revenge, love, and grief.
“Lord, what fools these mortals be!”
– Puck in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Foul is Fair by Hannah Capin
Foul is Fair is a modern retelling of Lady Macbeth. Foul is Fair follows Jade, after she was brutally raped at a party. Jade and her friends swear to get revenge on the boys who were involved. She transfers to St Andrew’s Prep and reinvents herself. She inserts herself into their lives and plots to destroy each and every one of them. Golden boys beware: something wicked this way comes. Foul is Fair was powerful, angry, and vicious – a story about taking back control and getting vengeance no matter the cost. It is an addictive and dramatic read about revenge and justice in a charming but unapologetic way.
As I Descended by Robin Talley
As I Descended is a eerie, atmospheric modern-day retelling of Macbeth, featuring Maria as Macbeth and Lily as Lady Macbeth set in an elite boarding. Macbeth retelling, but make is sapphic. Maria and Lily are willing to do whatever it takes to dethrone Delilah and win the Kingsley Prize, which would give them a full scholarship to their choice of college, including harness the darkness that haunts Acheron Academy, a former plantation. As things take a perilously dark turn, Maria and Lily must decide where to draw the line on their ambition. The story itself is intricate, suspenseful, dark and creepy with an epic conclusion.
Speak Easy, Speak Love by McKelle George
Speak Easy, Speak Love is a retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing set in the 1920s during the prohibition era. After getting kicked out of her boarding school, Beatrice is sent to her Uncle’s place in Long Island; Hey Nonny Nonny. Speak Easy, Speak Love follows the lives of the residents of Hey Nonny Nonny – Hero, Beatrice, Prince, Benedick, and Maggie as they navigate their dreams and wishes, love, prohibition, and the mafia. McKelle George incorporated much of the most memorable aspects of the 1920s (and the most romanticized) – Prohibition, speakeasies, the Italian mafia, the suffrage movement, jazz, and flappers. It was definitely an intriguing and charming setting, and it featured plently of intriguing and charming characters.
So she enticed
and won our battle-hardened spirits over.
– Homer, The Odyssey
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Are you a fan of Greek mythology? Then Madeline Miller’s work is a must-read. The Song of Achilles is such an exquisite and moving piece of work, written in such a lyrical prose that it’s almost addictive to read. The Song of Achilles is a retelling of the Iliad, and focuses on the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus. The relationship between Achilles and Patroclus is special and is something to be deeply admired. It is a slow and beautiful story of two boys falling in love. Whilst I expected the ending, it still hit me like a wall of daggers. Have tissues on hand.
Circe by Madeline Miller
Madeline Miller is an accomplished storyteller and she has an almost magical way with words. Circe is a force to be reckoned with. Circe is a lesser nymph and grew up surrounded by those who showed her little affection and a lot of disdain and in the shadow of her father, brothers and sister. Seeing the myths and legends unfold from Circe’s perspective was probably quite distant but at the same times quite epic, especially showing how much she nurtured the Gods and heroes and saw nothing in return. One of the most impressive things though, was how Madeline Miller managed to capture her growth throughout the novel — from a naive nymph wishing to impress upon her father, to an accomplished Goddess and witch in her own right and its ardent feminist undertones. You do not want to miss this one.
Pride and Prejudice retellings
There are few people whom I really love, and still fewer of whom I think well. The more I see of the world, the more am I dissatisfied with it; and every day confirms my belief of the inconsistency of all human characters, and of the little dependence that can be placed on the appearance of merit or sense.
– Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
Pride by Ibi Zoboi
Zuri Benitez has pride – Brooklyn pride, family pride, Afro-Latina pride. But pride is not enough to save Zuri’s neighbourhood from gentrification. When the Darcy family move in opposite, unmistakeably wealthy, Zuri wants nothing to do with their two sons. At first, Zuri can’t stand Darius, but soon their dislike turns into something more. With four sisters pulling her in different directions, a cute neighbourhood boy, looming college applications, Zuri has to fight for her place in her corner of the world. If you’re looking for a modernized retelling of Pride & Prejudice, look no further. With a vibrant cast of characters, relevant messages, and also steeped in culture, Pride is a book not to be missed. And also, if you’re totally weak for the enemies-to-lovers trope, you’re going to love this one.
Sticks & Stones by Santana Blair
Sticks & Stones follows Elijah and Darcie through their first not-so-smooth encounter, to their first kiss, and their first I-love-yous. For anyone who has a thing for hate-to-love romances (like me, so that was another huge positive), this one is swoon-worthy, sweet, respectful and just downright adorable. If you’re looking for a contemporary modernized Pride and Prejudice retelling, you should start here. It features two characters of colour as the protagonists — Elijah is Latino and Darcie is African-American. Sticks & Stones is sweet, romantic, and utterly unputdownable.
Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.
― G.K. Chesterton
The Girl in Red by Christina Henry
It’s not safe for anyone in the woods since the Crisis came. Red is just a woman trying to survive in a world that doesn’t look like the one she grew up in. There are worse things in the woods than those who stalk their prey at night — sometimes there are men, ones with weak wills and dark intents. And sometimes there are something even worse than them. Red doesn’t think of herself as a killer, but she’s just trying to survive. After all, she’s just a woman alone in the woods. A Little Red Riding Hood retelling in a post-apocalyptic setting? Amazing. It’s intense, immersive, and it goes at full pace throughout the entire novel there’s not even time to breathe.
Hunted by Meagan Spooner
Yeva is the daughter of a wealthy merchant, whose father taught her everything he knew about hunting as a child. She longs to be out in the wild, bow in hand, hunting. When her father loses his fortune he takes Yeva and her sisters to his old hunting cabin in the woods. When he goes missing on a hunt, Yeva sets out to find him with one mission in mind: kill the Beast that took her father from her. Instead, she ends up his prisoner and the beast uses her as bait to lure skilled hunters who he needs to break his curse. Hunted is a fantastic, dark, atmospheric retelling of Beauty and the Beast. It’s definitely an original take on the fairy-tale, using Russian folklore to put a unique spin on the story.
Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust
There was and there was not, as all stories begin, a princess cursed to be poisonous to the touch. Soraya has been hidden away from the world, safe only when she is in her gardens tending to her roses. She is not allowed outside her room, but has become accustomed to sneaking out anyway. When a demon is caught who may hold the answers to breaking her curse. Girl, Serpent, Thorn is a Persian inspired fairy tale about a princess who was cursed to be poisonous to the touch. It is a story brimming with intrigue, lies, betrayal, power, and monsters. It features a slow-burn f/f romance between two morally grey characters. It’s a brilliant sapphic fairytale that you need in your life.
Old British Legends & Epic retellings
In the midst of the lake Arthur was ware of an arm clothed in white samite, that held a fair sword in that hand.
― Sir Thomas Malory, Le Morte d’Arthur
Seven Endless Forests by April Genevieve Tucholke
After a devastating plague that swept through Torvi’s home, the only person she has left is her sister Morgunn. When Morgunn is taken by Uther, a flame-loving wolf-prief who leads a pack of wild starved girls, Torvi leaves the only home she has ever known on a quest to get her sister back. Joined by a druid and a band of Elsh artists known as the Butcher Bards, each with their own quests, they set out on their journey and along the way they face deadly dark magic, merry travellers, and murderous wolf-priests. Seven Endless Forests is a Arthurian retelling – it features a quest to pull a sword from the stone. The world that Tucholke has created is so brilliantly vivid full of culture, mythology, and brilliant tales of quests and heroics with a dynamic cast of characters.
The Boneless Mercies by April Genevieve Tucholke
The Boneless Mercies follows a group of women – Frey, Juniper, Runa, Ovie -who are Boneless Mercies, also known as Death Traders. They are hired to kill quickly, quietly, and mercifully. It is a job only performed by women. However, the girls have had enough of a job full of death and start on a journey to find glory in slaying a beast. However, they find that death will not let go of them so easily. The Boneless Mercies is a Beowulf retelling – a wild ride from start to finish full of magic, witches, warriors, myths, and adventure. It is full of fierce, glorious, axe-wielding women in a Norse inspired world. You don’t want to miss this retelling.
Once & Future by Amy Roes Capetta and Cori McCarthy
When Ari pulls Excalibur from an old tree on Old Earth, she starts a cycle that has been repeating for centuries. She is deemed to be the 42nd reincarnation of the legendary King Arthur. Merlin, who has been ageing backwards and has only one cycle left, needs to train Ari up so she is ready to lead humanity against its greatest threat. But, Arthur’s reincarnations always end up repeating the same doomed cycle – pull Excalibur, fall in love with Guinevere-only to end up broken-hearted- and then killed by the enchantress Morgana. Ari is different, and in her, Merlin sees a chance to finally put the cycle to rest. Once & Future is a queer Arthurian retelling set in space – a story about fighting oppression and injustice.
Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered, I have fought my way here to the castle beyond the Goblin City to take back the child that you have stolen. For my will is as strong as yours, and my kingdom is as great… You have no power over me.
– Sarah from Labyrinth
Wintersong by S. Jae Jones
Wintersong is both a Labyrinth and ‘Goblin Market‘ retelling. Wintersong follows Liesl after her sister is taken by the Goblin King, to be his bride. Liesl has no choice but to make the journey underground in order to save her. She is soon drawn to the captivating and dangerous world she finds, and also the mysterious man who rules it. She is soon faced with an impossible decision, with little time to make it. She must discover who she is before her fate is sealed. Wintersong is a dark, atmospheric, and enticing read. S. Jae Jones is a gifted storteller – her writing poetic and enchanting. If you love the movie, then I’m sure this one will be a hit.
Retellings on my TBR
- A Blade So Black by L.L. McKinney – an Alice in Wonderland retelling meets Buffy The Vampire Slayer? How can you say no.
- Dark and Deepest Red by Anna-Marie McLemore – inspired by The Red Shoes fairytale, about a pair of red shoes who make her dance uncontrollably. McLemore is a must read for fairytale lovers and their writing is hypnotic and magical.
- Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron – a Cinderella retelling, obviously, but it has a black lesbian m/c!
- The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White – another Arthurian retelling but focuses on the wonderful Guinevere.
- Thorn by Intisar Khanani – I don’t think I’ve ever read a Goose Girl retelling. I’ve heard such great things about this one and it is by a muslim author!
- The Winter Duke by Claire Eliza Bartlett – Anastasia meets Sleeping Beauty?? And it’s sapphic?? Yes please.
- Peter Darling by Austin Chant – if you haven’t guessed already, it’s a Peter Pan retelling with a gay trans m/c. This has been sat on my kindle for so long – I will pick it up soon.
- Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia – apparently full of Mexican folklore, with a dash of Cinderella and Hades and Persephone.
- Blanca & Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore – another McLemore novel that I’m sure will not dissapoint. A retelling of Swan Lake and Snow-White and Rose-Red.
- House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin. A. Craig – ‘In a manor by the sea, twelve sisters are cursed.‘- retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses anyone?
- Scavenge the Stars by Tara Sim – a diverse, gender-bent retelling of Dumas’s The Count of Monte Cristo.
- The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White – a retelling of Victor Frankenstein and his monster creation.
- Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust – a sapphic retelling of Snow White.
Upcoming Retellings I’m Excited For
- Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles – Moulin Rougue meets Phantom of the Opera – a deadly combination, I’m sure. Aug 25th.
- These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong – A Romeo and Juliet retelling set in 1920s Shanghai. Nov 17th.
- Ruinsong by Julia Ember – a sapphic Phantom of the Opera retelling. Nov 24th.
- Confessions in B-Flat by Donna Hill – a retelling of Romeo and Juliet in Harlem during the 1960s civil rights movements!! Oct 27th.
- Smash It by Francina Simone – an Othello with a Black m/c. Sept 22nd.
- The Mirror Season by Anna-Marie McLemore – a Snow Queen retelling. March 16th 2021.
- Burning Roses by S.L. Huang – sapphic retelling of Snow-White and Rose-Red. Sept 29th.
- A Curse of Roses by Diana Pinguicha – a f/f retelling of Portuguese miracle of the same name. Dec 1st.
- Medusa by Jessie Burton – a Medusa retelling!! Oct.
- Trouble Girls by Julia Lynn Rubin – omg a queer Thelma & Louise retelling. 2021.
- Doomed by Laura Phl – not quite sure what this is a retelling of quite yet, but apparently there are 4 different fairytale retellings in this one. 2021.