Summer is the perfect time to escape, and what better way to do so than by diving into a magical world? These retellings of classic fairy tales — from Cinderella to The Little Mermaid — weave scintillating twists into our favorite childhood tales. With romance, deception and insightful commentary on timely issues, these fairy tales for adults go far beyond the tales we know and love.
A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer
Based on: Beauty and the Beast
A powerful curse is placed on Prince Rhen, heir to Emberfall, dooming him to life as a beast, isolated from his family and his kingdom. His only hope of escape is to find someone to love him. When Harper stumbles into his enchanted world, Rhen regains hope and finds himself falling for her. But will she be able to see the real him in time to break the curse and save Emberfall? If you’re a Beauty and the Beast fan, you’ll love this tender rendition, which will have you falling hard for Prince Rhen. Maybe you could break the curse!
Sherwood by Meagan Spooner
Based on: Robin Hood
In what Amie Kaufman calls “a kickass, gender-flipped, feminist retelling” of Robin Hood, the people of Locksley are lost after Robin dies. What’s worse? The oh-so-terrible Guy of Gisborne is jumping to fill his role as protector, and take Marian as his wife… but not if she has anything to do with it. Forced with a choice, Marian decides that sometimes you have to become your own hero.
The Warrior Maiden by Melanie Dickerson
Based on: Mulan
This novel takes the story of Mulan into 15th-century Lithuania, where Mulan, disguised as a man, has just joined the German duke’s son, Wolfgang, to train for an upcoming battle in which Mulan may finally have the chance to prove herself to her misogynistic town. The problem (besides the whole hiding her identity thing), is that the two can’t stand each other. But as time goes on, they find themselves sharing secrets and growing closer. When Mulan receives word of tragedy back home, she has to decide if she will expose her true identity in order to fight for her family, her kingdom and Wolfgang.
The Princess and the Fangirl by Ashley Poston
Based on: The Prince and the Pauper
This one is for us fangirls out there. Imogen Lovelace is on a mission to save her favorite TV show character, Princess Amara, from being written off Starfield. But Jessica Stone, the actress who plays Princess Amara, can’t wait to finally be free of her duties. So the two have nothing in common… except that they look exactly alike, causing a case of mistaken identity and a catastrophic chain of events that jeopardizes the entire TV show and sets Imogen and Jessica on a mission to save Starfield and find their own happily ever after.
All the Ever Afters: The Untold Story of Cinderella’s Stepmother by Danielle Teller
Based on: Cinderella
Ever wondered what life was like for the evil stepmother in Cinderella? This lyrical novel tells the story of Agnes. At just 10 years old, Agnes escapes a life of servitude, hoping to create a brighter future. But when she finds herself penniless and expecting a child, she’s forced to return to the manor as caretaker to infant Ella. Jealous of Ella’s comfortable life in comparison to her own daughter’s struggle, Agnes finds it hard to love the child, especially after she becomes her stepmother. This beautiful retelling shines light on the unfairness of life and the complexities of love. It will leave you thoroughly spellbound.
The Surface Breaks: A Reimagining of The Little Mermaid by Louise O’Neill
Based on: The Little Mermaid
In the waters off the luscious Irish coast, mermaid Gaia lives entrapped by her father. When she reaches her breaking point and swims to the surface, she’s met by a handsome human boy. Despite their differences, Gaia feels immediately understood by him and longs to join his world. But how much is she willing to sacrifice for her freedom?
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
Based on: West-African Folklore
Zélie Adebola remembers. She remembers when the monarchy stole her magic, killed her mother and tried to bury her as if she never existed. She remembers – and she won’t let them get away with it. But will she let the ferocity of her vengeance overtake her spirit? Teeming with fantastical world building and a fierce heroine, this West-African folklore inspired series will have you enchanted from start to finish.
A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
Based on: Beauty and the Beast
Nineteen-year-old Feyre’s life changes when she kills a wolf in the woods, and a terrifying creature demands retribution. She is taken to a magical land she thought only existed in legends and discovers her captor is a faerie, Tamlin. As she adapts to her new home, her feelings for Tamlin transform from hostility to passion, but an ancient evil threatens his world. In this seductive and breathtaking book by bestselling author Sarah J. Maas, romance, adventure, and faerie lore combine to create an unforgettable read.
Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi
Based on: Hansel and Gretel
Helen Oyeyemi’s novel delves into a charming story of an unexpected family inheritance in the form of a gingerbread recipe. Harriet and her daughter Perdita live in a peculiar seventh-floor apartment with talking plants and make gingerbread that is only popular in a distant land called Druhástrana. Harriet’s friend Gretel Kercheval, the biggest fan of their gingerbread, played a part in Harriet’s life events. Decades later, Perdita sets out to find Gretel and the novel unravels the Lee family’s tale of envy, ambition, wealth, and gingerbread’s constant value.
Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno Garcia
Based on: Mexican Folklore
Casiopea Tun is too preoccupied with cleaning her wealthy grandfather’s house to enjoy the Jazz Age. Nevertheless, she longs for a life of her own, away from her dusty small town in southern Mexico. When she stumbles upon a mysterious wooden box in her grandfather’s room, she inadvertently unleashes the spirit of the Mayan god of death. He enlists her help in reclaiming his throne, plunging her on a perilous adventure from the jungles of Yucatán to the underworld of the Mayan civilization.
Darling Girl by Liz Michalski
Based on: Peter Pan
Holly Darling’s life is on the upswing until she learns that her comatose daughter, Eden, has gone missing from the estate where she has been confined for nearly a decade. She believes that Peter Pan, who is not just a character in a story, but a real and dangerous person, is responsible for her daughter’s disappearance. Holly is determined to locate Eden and protect her son Jack from a web of family secrets. However, with no one to turn to for help, Holly must navigate the dark underpinnings of fairy tales, grief, aging, sacrifice, and motherhood to find her daughter and save her family. Darling Girl brings the timeless magic of Peter Pan to the present, examining just how far we are willing to go to safeguard the ones we cherish.
Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
Based on: Rumpelstiltskin
Miryem is part of a family of moneylenders who have fallen on hard times due to her father’s inability to collect debts. Taking matters into her own hands, Miryem hardens her heart and gains a reputation for turning silver into gold. Her boast catches the attention of the king of the Staryk, who are eerie, fey creatures made of ice. Miryem, with two unlikely allies, must face an impossible challenge and uncover a dangerous secret that puts both human and Staryk lands in peril.
*Disclosure: The links above are affiliate links. These picks are editorially selected, but if you purchase, She Reads may get something in return. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.