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9 Novels That Put a Spin On Popular Fairy Tales

Book covers for Sea Witch, Cinder, and A Whole New World
Katherine Tegen Books/Square Fish/Disney-Hyperion

We all grow up reading classic fairy tales like Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and The Wizard of Oz. Here are a few novels that put a spin on stories from your childhood.

Many of the fairy tales we know are already retellings of the classics. Disney’s The Little Mermaid, for example, gives Ariel a happy ending with Prince Eric. In Hans Christian Andersen’s original story, however, the Little Mermaid does not win the heart of the prince and is turned to sea foam at the end of the book. Other retellings, like Disney’s take on The Snow Queen in the movie Frozen, have happier endings.

If you enjoy traditional fairy tales but want to hear a new spin on the stories, check out the books below.

Cinder: Book One of the Lunar Chronicles

In the aftermath of World War IV, New Beijing is a chaotic city where humans and cyborgs coexist. Cinder is a cyborg herself, and her mechanical expertise makes her one of the best mechanics in the city, although her stepmother resents her for it. When the prince of New Beijing enlists Cinder’s help with a secret project, both of their lives are set on a new path. The story is a truly unique retelling of Cinderella that is full of surprises.


This book explores the tale of Beauty and the Beast from a slightly more realistic point of view. Although it does rely on a magic spell, it takes place in modern-day New York City and doesn’t include talking furniture or hairy beasts. The story also provides an insightful examination of looks, status, and wealth. It’s a solid book best suited for teens but can be enjoyed by readers of all ages.

Peter and the Starcatchers

The first of a five-book series, this story is a re-telling of Peter Pan. The first book mostly focuses on the backgrounds of Peter Pan, Captain Hook, and the Lost Boys. It’s interesting to think about how Neverland was developed and, of course, where pixie dust came from in the first place. The characters are richly developed and the entire series is exciting from beginning to end.

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West

This is the book, which inspired the award-winning Broadway play, deserves all its success. The untold story of The Wicked Witch of the West is as imaginative as The Wizard of Oz while creating rich character development for one of the most well-known villains of all time. It also creates a discussion around topics like wealth, politics, murder, and religion. It’s wildly funny and although not as child-friendly as The Wizard of Oz movie, definitely deserves a read.

A Whole New World: A Twisted Tale

This book explores what would have happened if Jafar had gotten the lamp at the beginning of Disney’s Aladdin. The result is a dictatorship just as terrifying as you can imagine in a format that’s appropriate for younger readers. It also gives backstories to characters that answer some questions you may have had while watching the movie, including how the Genie was sentenced to his life in the lamp.

Everywhere You Want to Be

After a difficult senior year recovering from a dance injury, Matilda Castillo jumps at the opportunity to join a New York dance troupe. Armed with her red vintage sunglasses, Tilly embarks on a summer adventure that closely follows the events of Little Red Riding Hood in a modern-day setting. It’s a fun story about facing your fears and learning from your mistakes.

Dorothy Must Die

As the name suggests, this book is a darker retelling of The Wizard of Oz. Amy Gumm, who lives in a trailer park with her distant mother, gets caught up in a tornado and plopped into Oz. After Dorothy defeated the Wicked Witch of the West, she took over Oz and stripped the place of its magic with her tyrannical rule. It’s dark and morbidly fun.

Sea Witch

This retelling of The Little Mermaid shares the origin story of one of Disney’s most famous villains. It’s a darker tale about three unlikely friends in a small fishing village in Scandinavia, two of which are dealing with the loss of another friend several years earlier. It will make you think differently about the magic of love, the power of friendship, and the devastation of betrayal.

Briar Rose: A Novel of the Holocaust

This retelling of Sleeping Beauty takes place during the Holocaust. Both heartbreaking and beautiful, the far-from-obvious connection to the classic fairy tale is made seamlessly as the main character, Rebecca, uses the legend to discover her grandmother’s past. It’s a perfect balance of fact and fiction and is the perfect read for anyone interested in World War II.

Anne Taylor Anne Taylor
Anne Taylor is a writer with a BA in Journalism and a passion for storytelling. Her work has been published on a variety of websites including Mental Floss and Well + Good, and she recently published her first novel, What it Takes to Lose. When she's not writing, Anne loves to travel (19 countries and counting), spend time outside, and play with her dog, Pepper. Read Full Bio »
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