7 Favorite Re-Tellings Through the Years

A Beat the Backlist Feature

POSTED ON January 17, 2019 BY Austine IN Lists

Today I’m sharing a short list since I just wanted to highlight a few of my favorite re-tellings over the years. This list doesn’t have ALL my favorites, it doesn’t have every re-telling out there, and they’re not all based around a fairy tale or mythology.


My Favorite Re-tellings!


Abandon by Meg Cabot

This Persephone/Hades re-telling is one of my favorites from high school. Something about the way Cabot portrays the two Greek gods just. . . worked! I really want to go back and re-read the trilogy at some point since it’s been so long.

Though she tries returning to the life she knew before the accident, Pierce can’t help but feel at once a part of this world, and apart from it. Yet she’s never alone . . . because someone is always watching her. Escape from the realm of the dead is impossible when someone there wants you back.

But now she’s moved to a new town. Maybe at her new school, she can start fresh. Maybe she can stop feeling so afraid.

Only she can’t. Because even here, he finds her. That’s how desperately he wants her back. She knows he’s no guardian angel, and his dark world isn’t exactly heaven, yet she can’t stay away . . . especially since he always appears when she least expects it, but exactly when she needs him most.

But if she lets herself fall any further, she may just find herself back in the one place she most fears: the Underworld.

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Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Though the first book of the series centers around the Cinderella fairy tale, the series covers Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Snow White all with a futuristic sci-fi twist. I don’t usually see re-tellings done in sci-fi (until more recently) so this series always stood out to me and I love recommending it!

Sixteen-year-old Cinder is considered a technological mistake by most of society and a burden by her stepmother. Being cyborg does have its benefits, though: Cinder’s brain interference has given her an uncanny ability to fix things (robots, hovers, her own malfunctioning parts), making her the best mechanic in New Beijing. This reputation brings Prince Kai himself to her weekly market booth, needing her to repair a broken android before the annual ball. He jokingly calls it “a matter of national security,” but Cinder suspects it’s more serious than he’s letting on.

Although eager to impress the prince, Cinder’s intentions are derailed when her younger stepsister, and only human friend, is infected with the fatal plague that’s been devastating Earth for a decade. Blaming Cinder for her daughter’s illness, Cinder’s stepmother volunteers her body for plague research, an “honor” that no one has survived.

But it doesn’t take long for the scientists to discover something unusual about their new guinea pig. Something others would kill for.

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Spindle’s End by Robin McKinley

Another childhood favorite, I used to borrow as many books by McKinley as I could from our school’s small library. They reinforced my love of fantasy and Spindle’s End, a Sleeping Beauty re-telling, is no exception! I have a lot of fond memories attached to this book though I haven’t picked it up in a while.

All the creatures of the forest and field and riverbank knew the infant was special. She was the princess, spirited away from the evil fairy Pernicia on her name-day. But the curse was cast: Rosie was fated to prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and fall into a poisoned sleep-a slumber from which no one would be able to rouse her.

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The Bird and the Blade by Megan Bannen

This is a relatively new addition to my favorite re-tellings list and doesn’t involve a fairy tale or mythology. Instead, The Bird and the Blade is a re-telling of the tragic opera Turandot. It follows the opera pretty closely from what I read, and remains a tragedy (the ending is seriously heartbreaking). It was also one of my top reads of last year so definitely recommend checking it out!

As a slave in the Kipchak Khanate, Jinghua has lost everything: her home, her family, her freedom … until the kingdom is conquered by enemy forces and she finds herself an unlikely conspirator in the escape of Prince Khalaf and his irascible father across the vast Mongol Empire. On the run, with adversaries on all sides and an endless journey ahead, Jinghua hatches a scheme to use the Kipchaks’ exile to return home, a plan that becomes increasingly fraught as her feelings for Khalaf evolve into a hopeless love.

Jinghua’s already dicey prospects take a downward turn when Khalaf seeks to restore his kingdom by forging a marriage alliance with Turandokht, the daughter of the Great Khan. As beautiful as she is cunning, Turandokht requires all potential suitors to solve three impossible riddles to win her hand—and if they fail, they die.

Jinghua has kept her own counsel well, but with Khalaf’s kingdom—and his very life—on the line, she must reconcile the hard truth of her past with her love for a boy who has no idea what she’s capable of … even if it means losing him to the girl who’d sooner take his life than his heart.

The Bird and the Blade is a lush, powerful story of life and death, battles and riddles, lies and secrets from debut author Megan Bannen.

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The Looking glass Wars by Frank Beddor

If I’m going to recommend one Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland retelling, it’s going to be this series, starting with the first book The Looking Glass Wars. These books were just so unique and teen me devoured them one after the next. THIS is the Wonderland I want to explore (just perhaps after the fighting).

Alyss of Wonderland?
When Alyss Heart, newly orphaned heir to the Wonderland throne, flees through the Pool of Tears to escape her murderous Aunt Redd, she finds herself lost and alone in Victorian London. Befriended by an aspiring author named Lewis Carrol, Alyss tells the violent, heartbreaking story of her young life. Alyss trusts this author to tell the truth so that someone, somewhere will find her and bring her home. But he gets the story all wrong. He even spells her name incorrectly!

Fortunately, Royal Bodyguard Hatter Madigan knows all too well the awful truth of Alyss’ story – and he’s searching every corner of our world to find the lost princess and return her to Wonderland, to battle Redd for her rightful place as the Queen of Hearts.

The Looking Glass Wars unabashedly challenges our Wonderland assumptions of mad tea parties, grinning Cheshire cats, and a curious little blond girl to reveal an epic battle in the endless war for Imagination.

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THORN by Intisar Khanani

A new take on The Goose Girl, this is one of the books I read in my early years of blogging and really enjoyed. Even if you aren’t familiar with the original story (which I wasn’t at the time), it’s definitely worth picking up

For Princess Alyrra, choice is a luxury she’s never had … until she’s betrayed.

Princess Alyrra has never enjoyed the security or power of her rank. Between her family’s cruelty and the court’s contempt, she has spent her life in the shadows. Forced to marry a powerful foreign prince, Alyrra embarks on a journey to meet her betrothed with little hope for a better future.

But powerful men have powerful enemies–and now, so does Alyrra. Betrayed during a magical attack, her identity is switched with another woman’s, giving Alyrra the first choice she’s ever had: to start a new life for herself or fight for a prince she’s never met. But Alyrra soon finds that Prince Kestrin is not at all what she expected. While walking away will cost Kestrin his life, returning to the court may cost Alyrra her own. As Alyrra is coming to realize, sometime the hardest choice means learning to trust herself.

You can’t currently purchase this book but will be able to soon! Previously self-published, THORN was picked up by HarperTeen and I believe will be re-releasing at a later date.


Wicked by Gregory Maguire

Okay so this one is totally on the list for the Broadway musical which I LOVE, but also for the book. I’ve talked to several people who didn’t know it was a book (they’d only heard of the musical) and I’ll say that if you like the musical then you may find the book a tad darker. It gets more into the politics and intrigue of Oz and isn’t exactly the bubbly “Popular” read you might expect. A different spin on The Wizard of Oz and one you should totally checkout!

When Dorothy triumphed over the Wicked Witch of the West in L. Frank Baum’s classic tale we heard only her side of the story. But what about her arch-nemesis, the mysterious Witch? Where did she come from? How did she become so wicked? And what is the true nature of evil?

Gregory Maguire creates a fantasy world so rich and vivid that we will never look at Oz the same way again. Wicked is about a land where animals talk and strive to be treated like first-class citizens, Munchkinlanders seek the comfort of middle-class stability, and the Tin Man becomes a victim of domestic violence. And then there is the little green-skinned girl named Elphaba, who will grow up to become the infamous Wicked Witch of the West, a smart, prickly, and misunderstood creature who challenges all our preconceived notions about the nature of good and evil.

An astonishingly rich re-creation of the land of Oz, this book retells the story of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, who wasn’t so wicked after all. Taking readers past the yellow brick road and into a phantasmagoric world rich with imagination and allegory, Gregory Maguire just might change the reputation of one of the most sinister characters in literature.

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What are some of your favorite re-tellings?
Have you read any of these?

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5 responses to “7 Favorite Re-Tellings Through the Years

  1. I was such a huge Meg Cabot fan when I was younger I’m surprised I never heard of the Persephone series. Very intrigued. Added a bunch of these to my TBR!

  2. Thank you for the recs !
    I think the only one I’ve seen talked about before is Cinder .. Before joining the community, retellings is one of the kind of books I never really knew existed ! The community got me curious, I totally gotta try one at some point !

  3. I haven’t heard of the Persephone retelling! I really love Persephone’s mythology. Cinder sounds very unique, so I would love to read that! I feel like I’ve been saying this over and over again but I love Naomi Novik’s Spinning Silver!