Guest Post: Favorite Fairy Tale Retellings

 You’ve seen me write about my favorite fairy tale retellings many times, but today I’m happy to present someone else’s opinion!  Today we have a guest post from Katy, who writes at A Library Mama.  Some of these are favorites of mine as well, and some are ones I am definitely going to have to explore!  Links go to Katy’s reviews, if you want to find out more.


Fairy tales made into novels are some of my favorite types of books ever, and I promised Cheryl this list oh, months and months ago. I’m finally doing it in honor of the Once Upon a Time challenge (hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings.)

These are not by any means the only fairy tale retellings I have read and loved – but in the interests of keeping it manageable, I’ve limited myself to an even dozen. I hope you enjoy!

Beauty by Robin McKinley. (1978, Middle Grade)

This is the book that started it all, first checked out regularly from the library, then bought with Christmas money so that I could carry it in my suitcase when traveling. This retelling of Beauty and the Beast started both my adoration of Robin McKinley and my search for great fairy tale retellings.

Tam Lin by Pamela Dean. (1991, Adult. “New Adult” might be perfect)

This was the first book I found in the Fairy Tale Series, edited by Terri Windling, though I went on to track down the others as well. I was in college when I discovered it, and despite the marked difference in technology between my college and the college of the story, the college life is so vividly described that it took me quite a while to realize that it was set in the 1960s rather than the present. The magic weaves its way into the story subtly at first, gradually coming to a crescendo.

Jack the Giant Killer by Charles deLint (1987, Adult)

Jacky is stumbling through the streets of Ottawa, reeling from a tough break-up, when she finds that grief and alcohol have blurred the edges of reality so that she can now see its faerie denizens – and the growing conflict between the Seelie and Unseelie courts. This is another Fairy Tales series entry, and my introduction to deLint, as well as a great story in its own right.

Snow White and Rose Red by Patricia Wrede (1989, Adult)

The author of the beloved Enchanted Forest Chronicles doesn’t disappoint in this Elizabethan retelling of the story, featuring a manipulative John Dee. Also part of the Fairy Tale series.

Kate Crackernuts by Katharine Mary Briggs (1963, Middle Grade)

Kate Crackernuts (the original, traditional) is a wonderful story of stepsisters who are loyal to each other even when the stepmother thinks they should be enemies. This lovely retelling moves the whole story to the Scottish Highlands. I got a dusty old copy through interlibrary loan to read it, but it’s now happily available in paperback as well.

Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley (1997, Teen)

It’s Beauty and the Beast again, but different – I’ve read both of these retellings multiple times. Beauty feels more down-to-earth, and has more about Beauty’s love of books and her relationship with her horse. Though of course there’s magic in both stories, the magic here feels more fantastical, and there is a lot more about the magic of roses in particular.

Zel by Donna Jo Napoli (1996, Middle Grade)

A mystical, reflective retelling of Rapunzel, told from the points of view of Rapunzel, the witch, and the prince. I fell in love with it in library school.

Goose Girl by Shannon Hale (2003, Middle Grade/Teen)

The book that first brought Shannon Hale to my attention, the story of Princess Anidori’s struggle to survive and reinvent herself after she’s betrayed grabbed me and wouldn’t let me go.

East by Edith Pattou (2003, Teen)

“East of the Sun, West of the Moon” set in rural Norway. When Rose discovers that, contrary to what she’s been told, she was born facing north, the direction of adventurers, she is both outraged and excited. Then, an enormous white bear offers to save her sister’s life and her family’s fortune if she will come with him. Strong characters and a strong sense of setting make for a wonderful retelling.

Ash by Malinda Lo (2009, Teen)

A Cinderella that puts the chancy Fair Folk back into the fairy tale, and takes the assumptions that a heterosexual romance is the path to happiness out. It’s all done in the context of an utterly compelling story.

Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier (2007, Teen)

A beautiful and terrifying, if not straightforward, “Twelve Dancing Princesses.” This particular fairy tale is one where I tracked down every novel retelling I could find – I’ve picked this one as my favorite for this list, but there were so many other good ones, too!

Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu (2011, Middle Grade)

Confession: Hans Christian Andersen is not my favorite. It’s greatly to Ursu’s credit that she turned “The Snow Queen,” a quite disturbing story, into a novel that I really enjoyed. Breadcrumbs has a modern-to-magic setting that works very well, and deals well with deep issues of identity and friendship.


Thanks for sharing so many great titles, Katy!  Personally, I’m thrilled by a “Jack the Giant Killer” retelling from Charles deLint!  Anyone else see something they want to pick up?

And don’t forget, you can also enter to win a signed copy of my fairy tale-inspired novel, The Wanderers!  See Katy’s lovely review here, and include #WanderersGiveAway in your comment to enter. Contest open until April 30th, and you can comment around my blog and enter as many times as you like!

6 thoughts on “Guest Post: Favorite Fairy Tale Retellings

  1. Lory @ Emerald City Book Review

    Love this list — I have a special fondness for Tam Lin as I went to the college (Carleton) that is the original for the one in the story. I’m happy when others discover it!

  2. Well, several of these just went on one or another of my to-read lists! I adore both Robin McKinley retellings of Beauty and the Beast (but Katy, where is Spindle’s End?!) I enjoyed Snow White and Rose Red, but it’s been years, so I really need to reread it. Ditto Wildwood Dancing. And East has been on my to-read list for a while now, as has The Goose Girl. I’ve just added Breadcrumbs, Jack the Giant-Killer, Zel, and, tentatively, Tam Lin. Great list!

    BTW, in addition to Spindle’s End, I recommend Dennis McKiernan’s Once Upon a Winter’s Night, a retelling of East of the Sun, West of the Moon for adults. Oh, and I highly recommend The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope… another loose retelling of Tam Lin, this one set in Tudor England (YA). And of course, Jessica Day George’s lovely Princess of the Midnight Ball.

  3. I love many of these books too — especially the 2 McKinley ones (though I still love Beauty best). I hadn’t heard of “East”, though, and since East of the Sun, West of the Moon is one of my fave fairy tales, I will be searching it out soon!

  4. Wow, I thought I liked fairy tales retold, Katy really loves them! This is a great piece. I hadn’t realised that McKinley had done another Beauty and the Beast. I will definitely read this as I’d like to compare the two.
    Lynn 😀

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