5 Awesome Fairy Tale Retelling Series
Updated: Jun 6
We all loved fairy tales as kids, didn’t we? The “happily ever after” of the poor girl with the wicked stepfamily, the beautiful sleeping princess who’s woken by “true love’s kiss”, the little abandoned duck who turns out to be a swan…
I certainly did. I loved the “true love” and the “good people get rewarded” stuff very much. I watched all the Disney fairy tale movies. I still do. Somehow, the charm of those age-old stories is still the same in my head, even though there’s so much wrong with the ideas they engrave into our minds that we can’t even begin to list them.
The passive heroines who never do anything except get rescued, the “love at first sight” ideal, the lack of depth in characters… I could go on forever and ever...
But they’re still attractive. We all know they fill kids' heads with the wrong ideas but do we replace them with other, better bedtime stories? Of course not. They’re too attractive.
And that very attraction has led people through the years to adapt them into whole new stories. From the cute and fun Tangled to the darker Maleficent; from the fun "A Cinderella Story" movies to not-fun movies like Beastly; the number of fairy tale retellings that people have made is too many to count.
And it would seem that after all this, people would be exhausted trying to come up with new twists to those tales. But no.
It amazes me just how creative people can get, coming up newer and newer ideas to make age-old stories their own. There are so many authors writing for this genre that it boggles the mind.
And since modern authors try to give the fairy tales a feminist, or at least a more rational twist, I like reading them.
I have a list of favourites, of course. There are those authors who stick out; ones whose stories are unique enough that I read them even though they're based on cliché stories.
They’re the ones who talk of adventure and strong heroines and the slow and enduring kind of love that the characters had to work hard for. Ones who catch my attention and refuse to let go. Ones who take me to another world and keep me there without making me feel silly for liking them.
I just recently started reading books in the Fairy Tale Retellings genre, and I can’t promise a comprehensive list. What I'll give you is some series that’ll lift your mood when you’re down and transport you into a world of adventure and happy endings (because what's a fairy tale without a "happily ever after"?
So, here’s a list of the light fairy tale retellings I read and liked…
1. The Four Kingdoms series by Melanie Cellier
This is the first series I read in the genre, and I absolutely loved it! There are five books in this series, each based on a popular fairy tale. But each book has a strong, smart heroine and an exciting adventure that’s unrelated to the fairy tale. And best of all? Every book in the series takes you to a world of princes and fairies and romance without making you question your brain cell count. I recommend The Four Kingdoms to anyone who wants a light read with a bit of romance and lots of adventure. The author has also written a sequel series to this: Beyond The Four Kingdoms, which is equally good.
2. Timeless Fairy Tales series by K.M. Shea
You can’t Google fairy tale retellings without coming across this series at least once. It’s a long series of 12 books, so read this only if you have the patience for long series. I loved the storyline of each book in this series. The author gives a unique twist on most of the fairy tales she uses, like an awesome stepmother in Snow White (who would have thought of that!) or a nice Rumpelstiltskin. The writing is not really engaging, and there were many places where I, a naïve reader, could think of improvements. But the stories are so unique that just the plots get you through them. I recommend Timeless Fairy Tales to anyone who has the patience to read a 12-book series and doesn’t mind plot holes (because there are some glaring plot holes in some of the books).
3. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
Any list of fairy tale retellings would be incomplete without a mention of this masterpiece. Gail Carson Levine is a brilliant writer and probably one of the first to enter the genre. The book is on the older side, but old books are awesome (just look at how popular Shakespeare is, still). This Cinderella retelling is funny, adventurous and just plain awesome, complete with a spunky heroine and a meddling, useless fairy godmother. If want to read something unique and fun and don’t mind that its story is very close to the original Cinderella, Ella Enchanted is the book for you.
4. The Snow Queen duology by K.M. Shea
Loosely based on the “Snow Queen” fairy tale, this two-book series is one of K.M. Shea’s better works. It’s a bit more serious than The Timeless Fairy Tales, but it’s set in the same world, some 100 years before. The books are short and feature the classic enemies-turned-lovers theme, but the author makes it look natural, so it doesn’t feel like you’ve walked into a cliché. I liked the writing in these two books much more than that in The Timeless Fairy Tales, so I recommend The Snow Queen duology to people who like fantasy and want a couple of short, fun reads to pass their time.
5. Beyond the Tales by Tricia Mingerink
I leave this series for last only because it’s so awesome. The author somehow makes the stories closely resemble the fairy tales she bases them on, while still making them so different that you’ll wonder where the twist happened. Each story has multiple narrators, and the author gives each of them a unique voice. She’s only written two books in this series till now, but she’s set the scene for at least three more in them. Her language is a little sophisticated, though, so it’s definitely not a book for beginner readers! I recommend Beyond the Tales to anyone who likes fantasy (even if you don’t like fairy tales) and doesn’t mind some complicated words in books.
These are all the fairy tale retellings I’ve read in the past year or so. There are so many of them that I thought I’d condense it all in a listicle, but of course, I haven’t done justice to any of the individual books.
Read them if my list makes you curious, but if not, well, stay tuned for detailed reviews on each of these books!
Have you read any of these? Let me know in the comments!