The best retellings that combine fairy tales and present new perspectives (especially when it comes to villains)

Who am I?

I developed an interest in classical literature while at university, folklore in particular. It’s fascinating how fairy tales originated in oral form before being written and rewritten all over the world for generations, and as such, many of them don’t have a single founding author. But each adaption generally maintains the basic plot points of the original tale, and it’s interesting to see how time, culture, and perspective affect a retelling. There’s always room for interpretation, especially when the traditional narratives often involve exhausted themes and stereotypes, and so with my latest novel, I didn’t hold back when it came to the creative possibilities of more than one fairy tale. 


I wrote...

The Girl with Many Names

By S. Knight,

Book cover of The Girl with Many Names

What is my book about?

The Girl with Many Names is a dark retelling that combines myth and fairy tale into a single chronological narrative, exposing the many faces of the once nameless villain. Born with magic in a realm intolerant of sorcery, this antihero endures ridicule and misfortune at every turn, thus muddying the line dividing justice and vengeance. As the truth of her past begins to reveal itself, she struggles to disprove the villainous reputation thrust upon her, an endeavor that threatens the restraint on her growing powers. But an obscure prophecy seems to dictate her fate, triggering a chain of events that will culminate in the ultimate confrontation with a fated adversary. 

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is readers supported. When you buy through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

Spinning Silver

By Naomi Novik,

Book cover of Spinning Silver

Why this book?

Rumpelstiltskin and Beauty and the Beast in a realm of Slavic folklore. This little gem manages to spin these tales in a new light, while seamlessly weaving them together into a beautiful tapestry that creates the illusion that they were always one story. I appreciated that the protagonist wasn’t your average damsel in distress, nor was she some passive princess strung along throughout the narrative through chance and misfortune; Miryem is a well-rounded character, head-strong and frank, whose actions (turning silver into gold, albeit in a more realistic way) capture the attention of a fey “beast” who might just have as cold of a heart as she claims to have. Novik modernizes these classic fairy tales while offering a unique plot with twists and turns that will keep readers absorbed. 


Hunted

By Meagan Spooner,

Book cover of Hunted

Why this book?

Spooner incorporates a classic Russian fairy tale into her rendition of Beauty and the Beast, creating a rich narrative set in an enchanted forest, both mysterious and dangerous. Though the framework of the original tales is there, this novel does a great job redressing the mannequin (figuratively speaking) so that we get a fresh and enjoyable exploration into the duality of human nature—among other things. I loved the tenacious heroine, who’s a skilled archer and feels more at home in the woods, and it’s her desire for revenge that sparks the chain of events that follow. The author’s version of the beast goes beyond the archetypal motif of “bad guy with good heart,” and the pacing of the book allows for a more authentic delivery (and transformation) of emotion between the characters.  


The Fairest of Them All

By Carolyn Turgeon,

Book cover of The Fairest of Them All

Why this book?

Rapunzel meets Snow White, and this encounter will reveal the true colours of all those involved. The Fairest of Them All acts as a continuation of one classic tale that eventually intrudes on another, making for a creative “what if” narrative while maintaining a strict fairy tale atmosphere. A more mature tone adds a layer of depth to this story, where characters are not limited to purely virtuous or villainous qualities, and happily ever afters are neither simple nor guaranteed. As a reader, you really feel for Rapunzel as she struggles to overcome hardship, betrayal, jealousy, and regret—she’s human after all—and the author doesn’t hold back when it comes to unexpected plot twists and dark themes.


Girls Made of Snow and Glass

By Melissa Bashardoust,

Book cover of Girls Made of Snow and Glass

Why this book?

This feminist adaption of Snow White, peppered with elements from The Snow Queen, The Bloody Chamber, and even a touch of Frankenstein, is a gripping delight of a novel. I really enjoyed the mother-daughter relationship that develops throughout the narrative—it felt natural and authentic—and then to watch it unravel in new and familiar ways as the plot thickens. Our heroines have been shaped or altered in a Frankenstein-esque manner that becomes the crux of their quest for self-discovery and liberation, which is just one of the innovative touches that has breathed new life into the vintage tale. With alternating points of view, the reader is able to better understand the innermost emotions, struggles, and motivations of the perceived “evil” stepmother, and the truth is heartbreaking as well as empowering.  


Kill Me Softly

By Sarah Cross,

Book cover of Kill Me Softly

Why this book?

If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like if all the iconic fairy tale characters were friends and lived in the modern world, then this is the novel for you. Kill Me Softly is the ultimate fairy tale mashup, with heroes and heroines—and of course, villains—from Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Beauty and the Beast, and countless others, all living in one enchanted town where magic comes in two forms: blessings and curses. The reader follows a teenage orphan as she gradually comes to understand what it means to have the mark that brands her as an inevitable victim, though her stubborn determination to change her fate and go against the norm is a welcoming variation. With a plot chock-full of intrigue, love triangles, and dark twists, this YA novel is sure to charm.   


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in fairy tales, curses, and romantic love?

5,309 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about fairy tales, curses, and romantic love.

Fairy Tales Explore 175 books about fairy tales
Curses Explore 44 books about curses
Romantic Love Explore 367 books about romantic love

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Once Upon a Broken Heart, Once Again: Snow; Beauty Sleep, and Princess of the Midnight Ball if you like this list.