This YA Friday was written by guest blogger, TeenHQ Intern Beth
Is there anything more enchanting than a fairytale? With their gorgeous settings, whimsical characters, and heart-wrenching tales of true love, I can’t help but be charmed by these fantastical stories. In the October spirit of magic, here’s a list of my top 10 young adult fantasy novels, adapted from fairytales from around the world.
Bippity Boppity Boo
Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Cinder is the first installment of the Lunar Chronicles series, which follows a ragtag group of fairytale characters in a futuristic dystopia. Cinder, the titular character of the first novel and our main protagonist, is a talented mechanic in New Beijing, but her status as a cyborg makes her an outcast. Treated cruelly by her stepmother and stepsisters, all she wants is to keep her head down until she can save up enough money to leave the Eastern Commonwealth with her trusty android sidekick, Iko. But with a dangerous plague, an evil queen, and a charming prince in the picture, she’ll have to choose between running away and facing her destiny. Cinder is a delightfully clever novel, and readers will want to follow it up with the other main books in the series: Scarlet (based on Little Red Riding Hood), Cress (based on Rapunzel), and Winter (based on Snow White). For extra fan trivia, I also recommend the series novella, Fairest, and short story collection, Stars Above.
Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
Loosely inspired by “Rumpelstiltskin,” “Beauty and the Beast,” and Greek mythology, Cruel Beauty is ambitious, intense, suspenseful, and romantic. This Gothic retelling follows Nyx, a young woman who has been promised as a wife to the demon known as the Gentle Lord, who rules her world through trickery and cruelty. She has spent her life training to kill him and liberate her homeland from his tyranny. Yet as she spends more time in his maze of a castle, uncovering his secrets, she discovers two things: firstly, the truth of her world’s fate is not all that it appears to be, and secondly, her husband is not the monster she expected. As the two draw closer, Nyx is faced with a terrible choice: fail to fulfill her duty, condemning her world to a terrible fate, or kill the man she has, reluctantly, fallen in love with.
The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman
The Sleeper and the Spindle is a retelling of both “Sleeping Beauty” and “Snow White,” written by renowned author Neil Gaiman and illustrated by the talented Chris Riddell. This dark fantasy novel features a warrior queen who, alongside a group of dwarves, sets off to rescue an enchanted princess. While traditional fairytales have relegated women to passive roles, Gaiman’s retelling boldly focuses on the lives of women – the queen, not the prince, kisses the princess awake. I highly recommend this short novella for anyone in need of a quick fairytale fix or for anyone who enjoys a twist ending.
The Seafarer’s Kiss by Julia Ember
This “Little Mermaid”-inspired tale follows protagonist Ersel, a nineteen-year-old mermaid who is discontent with life under the sea. She dreams of life beyond the ice shelf, and is fascinated by the human objects she finds and collects. When Ersel finds a young Viking woman, Ragna, trapped on glacier, she offers her a deal: information about humans in exchange for food. Yet when the two fall in forbidden love, a fellow mermaid threatens to expose Ersel’s dangerous secret. Desperate to stay with Ragna, Ersel strikes a deal with Loki, the Norse god of lies. His trickery results in Ersel being banished to a harsh underwater wasteland. If Ersel is ever to return home and be reunited with the human she loves, she must first find a way to outsmart the treacherous Loki.
Blanca and Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore
Inspired by “Swan Lake” and “Snow-White and Rose-Red” (not to be confused with “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves”), Blanca and Roja is a beautiful, atmospheric tale that centers on the bond between two sisters. Burdened by a terrible curse, each generation in their family sees the birth of two girls, though when they turn fifteen, one daughter is taken into the woods and transformed into a swan. But instead of becoming rivals, this generation’s sisters – Blanca and Roja – decide to work together to outsmart the swans. Along the way, they become friends with two local boys, each of whom faces a similar struggle of finding their own place in the world. Blanca and Roja is a breathtaking story about identity, self-discovery, and love.
Ash by Malinda Lo
This “Cinderella”-inspired fairytale is daring, intense, and highly original. Malinda Lo makes bold changes to the original tale, which makes for a refreshing change of pace. After the tragic death of her father, our protagonist, Ash, is an orphan left in the care of her cruel stepmother. Her only comfort comes from the fairytales her mother used to tell her, as she desperately hopes for the day the fairies will come and rescue her. Her dream comes true – Sidhean, a fairy, falls in love with her. Yet when Ash meets Kaisa, the King’s Huntress, she starts to wonder if perhaps she would prefer to stay behind with her. Ash must choose between the childhood fairytale she thought she wanted, and the true love she thought she’d never have.
Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly
Another “Cinderella” retelling, Stepsister follows the story of Isabella, the ugly stepsister who, according to the original tale, cut off her own toes to fit into Cinderella’s glass slippers in an attempt to trick the prince into marrying her. When the truth is discovered, Isabella is publicly shamed and reviled throughout the kingdom. Meanwhile, the Three Fates battle with Chance to determine Isabella’s future. This dark, character-driven novel explores the nature of beauty, relationships between women, and personal identity.
The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor
This quirky, meta retelling of Alice in Wonderland turns our expectations upside down. Alyss Heart is not a scared young English girl, but the heir to the throne of Wonderland, forced to flee to our world to escape her mutinous Aunt Redd. Lost in Victorian London, Alyss befriends aspiring author Lewis Carrol, but he betrays her when he gets her story all mixed up, even spelling her name incorrectly! Meanwhile, Royal Bodyguard Hatter Madigan is tearing the world apart looking for his lost princess. Sooner or later, Alyss and Redd will have to face each other, and only one will survive the battle to become Queen of Hearts.
The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh
Inspired by “The Arabian Nights” – the fairytale that brought us “Aladdin” – The Wrath and the Dawn takes place in a dangerous kingdom that is ruled by the young and cruel King Khalid. Every day, he takes a new bride, only to execute her the next morning. After Shahrzad’s best friend becomes his latest victim, she boldly volunteers to be his next wife. Seeking revenge, she beguiles him with enchanting stories, though she always ends each night on a cliffhanger. In order to satisfy his curiosity, Khalid allows her to survive another day. As the days pass, Shahrzad increasingly finds herself drawn to him, and becomes determined to uncover the truth of the murdered women. In this dangerous world of magic, love, and betrayal, nothing is as it seems.
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
A pioneer in the young adult fantasy genre, no list of fairytale retellings would be complete without Gail Carson Levine. Ella Enchanted, her most famous novel, is the definition of an “oldy but a goody,” and is one of the most unique, profound, and picturesque fantasy novels I’ve ever read. Ella is born in a magical land where babies are blessed with special gifts by their fairy godmothers, such as beauty, grace, or kindness. However, Ella’s fairy godmother, Lucinda, foolishly curses her with the “gift” of obedience, which forces her to obey any command she is given. When her parents die and she is left in the care of a cruel stepmother and stepsister, she becomes determined to find Lucinda and convince her to undo the curse. During her quest for freedom, she battles ogres, befriends elves, and falls in love with a prince. After reading the book, also check out the library’s DVD copy of the 2004 film adaptation, starring Anne Hathaway in her breakout role.