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fairy tale retellings for adults

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We absolutely love fairy tale retellings, especially during the winter months. We realise that there are a lot of retellings for young adults....but what about the adults? We have compiled a list of our favourites, old and new....and yes, we have read them all!

The Bear and the Nightingale

1. The Winternight trilogy by Katherine Arden

If you love Russian fairy tales, a strong heroine, magic horses and an incredible atmosphere with beautiful writing, then this is the book for you. The last book in the series, The Winter of the Witch, has just been released so if you have not started this trilogy now is your chance to grab all three books! 

Description

Beware the evil in the woods. . .

In a village at the edge of the wilderness of northern Russia, where the winds blow cold and the snow falls many months of the year, an elderly servant tells stories of sorcery, folklore and the Winter King to the children of the family, tales of old magic frowned upon by the church.
But for the young, wild Vasya these are far more than just stories. She alone can see the house spirits that guard her home, and sense the growing forces of dark magic in the woods.

Bitter Greens

2. Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth

This beautiful story combines historical fiction with the fairy tale Rapunzel. The writing is beautiful and once you start this gem you will not be able to stop. You learn about how Rapunzel became who she is, the witch's history, Rapunzel's parents and.... read it to find out!

Description

Charlotte-Rose de la Force, exiled from the court of King Louis XIV, has always been a great talker and teller of tales. Selena Leonelli, once the exquisite muse of the great Venetian artist Tiziano, is terrified of time. Margherita, trapped in a doorless tower and burdened by tangles of her red-gold hair, must find a way to escape. You may think you know the story of Rapunzel ...

All The Ever Afters

3. All The Ever Afters by Danielle Teller

We all know Cinderella's story...she marries her prince and lives happily ever after. But what about her stepmother? Why was she so mean and bitter? What is her history? Read this book to get inside her head and what happened to her after Cinderella's happy ever after.

Description

As rumors about the cruel upbringing of beautiful newlywed Princess Cinderella roil the kingdom, her stepmother, Agnes, who knows all too well about hardship, privately records the true story. . . .

A peasant born into serfdom, Agnes is separated from her family and forced into servitude as a laundress’s apprentice when she is only ten years old. Using her wits and ingenuity, she escapes her tyrannical matron and makes her way toward a hopeful future. When teenaged Agnes is seduced by an older man and becomes pregnant, she is transformed by love for her child. Once again left penniless, Agnes has no choice but to return to servitude at the manor she thought she had left behind. Her new position is nursemaid to Ella, an otherworldly infant. She struggles to love the child who in time becomes her stepdaughter and, eventually, the celebrated princess who embodies everyone’s unattainable fantasies. The story of their relationship reveals that nothing is what it seems, that beauty is not always desirable, and that love can take on many guises.

Uprooted

4. Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Uprooted is a combination of Rapunzel and Beauty and the Beast combined. We have a plain, strong heroine who is taken away from her family and has to cope with learning magic and defeating evil.

Description

Agnieszka loves her village, set deep in a peaceful valley. But the nearby enchanted forest casts a shadow over her home. Many have been lost to the Wood and none return unchanged. The villagers depend on an ageless wizard, the Dragon, to protect them from the forest's dark magic. However, his help comes at a terrible price. One young village woman must serve him for ten years, leaving all they value behind. 

Agnieszka fears her dearest friend Kasia will be picked at the next choosing, for she's everything Agnieszka is not - beautiful, graceful and brave. Yet when the Dragon comes, it's not Kasia he takes.

Spinning Silver

5. Another enchanting tale from the same author, Spinning Silver is a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin.

Description

Will dark magic claim their home?

Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders, but her father's too kind-hearted to collect his debts. They face poverty, until Miryem hardens her own heart and takes up his work in their village. Her success creates rumours she can turn silver into gold, which attract the fairy king of winter himself. He sets her an impossible challenge - and if she fails, she'll die. Yet if she triumphs, it may mean a fate worse than death. And in her desperate efforts to succeed, Miryem unwittingly spins a web which draws in the unhappy daughter of a lord.

Daughter of the Forest

6. Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier

This book is our absolute favourite. It is a retelling of the six swans and is based in Ireland with an incredible protagonist, Sorcha, who has to break a curse on her brothers. 

Description

Lovely Sorcha is the seventh child and only daughter of Lord Colum of Sevenwaters. Bereftof a mother, she is comforted by her six brothers who love and protect her. Sorcha is the light in their lives, they are determined that she know only contentment. 

But Sorcha's joy is shattered when her father is bewitched by his new wife, an evil enchantress who binds her brothers with a terrible spell, a spell which only Sorcha can lift--by staying silent. If she speaks before she completes the quest set to her by the Fair Folk and their queen, the Lady of the Forest, she will lose her brothers forever. 

When Sorcha is kidnapped by the enemies of Sevenwaters and taken to a foreign land, she is torn between the desire to save her beloved brothers, and a love that comes only once. Sorcha despairs at ever being able to complete her task, but the magic of the Fair Folk knows no boundaries, and love is the strongest magic of them all.

Deathless

7. Deathless by Catherynne M.Valente

Set in Russia during the Russian Revolution, this story is rich with history and folklore combined. Koschei the Deathless claims a young girl as his bride, and we are thrown into a world filled with fairy tales, mystery, history and war. 

Description

Koschei the Deathless is to Russian folklore what giants or wicked witches are to European culture: the villain of countless stories which have been passed on through story and text for generations. Valente's take on the legend brings the action to modern times, spanning many of the great developments of Russian history in the twentieth century. 

Deathless, however, is no dry, historical tome: it lights up like fire as the young Marya Morevna transforms from a clever peasant girl to Koschei's beautiful bride, to his eventual undoing. Along the way there are Stalinist house elves, magical quests, secrecy and bureaucracy, and games of lust and power. All told, Deathless is a collision of magical history and actual history, of revolution and mythology, of love and death, that will bring Russian myth to life in a stunning new incarnation. 

The Surface Breaks

8. The Surface Breaks by Louise O’Neil 

Despite the fact that this is in the young adult section in book shops, we think that this should be considered as a book for adults. Dark and seductive, this retelling of A Little Mermaid will leave you feeling conflicted.

Description

Deep beneath the sea, off the cold Irish coast, Gaia is a young mermaid who dreams of freedom from her controlling father. On her first swim to the surface, she is drawn towards a human boy.

She longs to join his carefree world, but how much will she have to sacrifice?
What will it take for the little mermaid to find her voice?

Hans Christian Andersen's original fairy tale is reimagined through a searing feminist lens, with the stunning, scalpel-sharp writing and world building that has won Louise her legions of devoted fans.

Let us know some of your favourite retellings! 

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