Cinderella, Retold: 8 Novels That Put a New Spin on the Fairy-tale Favorite

Posted on March 12, 2015 by

Is Cinderella one of the most beloved fairy tales of all time? From the ancient Chinese tale of Yeh-Shen to the European versions from Giambattista Basile, Charles Perrault, and the Grimm Brothers, Cinderella has touched readers for thousands of years.

Now, the classic fairytale is getting a facelift — Disney’s brand-new Cinderella movie hits theaters today.

In honor of the film’s release, we rounded up some of our favorite Cinderella retellings. From post-apocalyptic settings to sympathy for the wicked stepsisters, these books based on Cinderella promise something for every reader!


Cinder by Marissa Meyer

71xftwoEDbL._SL1500_Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl…

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

Why you’ll love it: Fans of dystopian YA series like The Hunger Games and Divergent will immediately be hooked by the futuristic world Meyer creates in Cinder.


A Kiss at Midnight by Eloisa James

919vDEfdLaL._SL1500_Miss Kate Daltry doesn’t believe in fairy tales… or happily ever after.

Forced by her stepmother to attend a ball, Kate meets a prince… and decides he’s anything but charming. A clash of wits and wills ensues, but they both know their irresistible attraction will lead nowhere. For Gabriel is promised to another woman — a princess whose hand in marriage will fulfill his ruthless ambitions.

Gabriel likes his fiancée, which is a welcome turn of events, but he doesn’t love her. Obviously, he should be wooing his bride-to-be, not the witty, impoverished beauty who refuses to fawn over him.

Godmothers and glass slippers notwithstanding, this is one fairy tale in which destiny conspires to destroy any chance that Kate and Gabriel might have a happily ever after.

Unless a prince throws away everything that makes him noble…

Unless a dowry of an unruly heart trumps a fortune…

Unless one kiss at the stroke of midnight changes everything.

Why you’ll love it: Historical romance readers will swoon over the messy love triangle in this retelling from bestselling author Eloisa James.


Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

91gV5jz3uJL._SL1500_How can a fairy’s blessing be such a curse?

At her birth, Ella of Frell was the unfortunate recipient of a foolish fairy’s gift — the “gift’ of obedience. Ella must obey any order given to her, whether it’s hopping on one foot for a day and a half, or chopping off her own head! But strong-willed Ella does not tamely accept her fate. Against a bold backdrop of princes, ogres, giants, wicked stepsisters, and fairy godmothers, Ella goes on a quest to break the curse — once and for all.

In this incredible debut novel comes the richly entertaining story of Ella of Frell, who at birth was given the gift of obedience by a fairy. Ella soon realizes that this gift is little better than a curse, for how can she truly be herself if at anytime anyone can order her to hop on one foot, or cut off her hand, or betray her kingdom’and she’ll have to obey? Against a bold tapestry of princes, ogres, giants, wicked stepsisters, and fairy godmothers, Ella’s quest to break the curse once and for all and discover who she really is is as sharply funny as Catherine, Called Birdy and as richly poignant as Beauty, and has all the marks of a classic in the making.

Why you’ll love it: This beautifully-written middle grade book has earned its spot as a modern classic, using the familiar tale of Cinderella to teach an important lesson about doing the right thing.


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Enchanted by Alethea Kontis

91zcTRx7vpL._SL1500_It isn’t easy being the rather overlooked and unhappy youngest sibling to sisters named for the other six days of the week. Sunday’s only comfort is writing stories, although what she writes has a terrible tendency to come true.

When Sunday meets an enchanted frog who asks about her stories, the two become friends. Soon that friendship deepens into something magical. One night Sunday kisses her frog goodbye and leaves, not realizing that her love has transformed him back into Rumbold, the crown prince of Arilland — and a man Sunday’s family despises.

The prince returns to his castle, intent on making Sunday fall in love with him as the man he is, not the frog he was. But Sunday is not so easy to woo. How can she feel such a strange, strong attraction for this prince she barely knows? And what twisted secrets lie hidden in his past — and hers?

Why you’ll love it: Not only does Enchanted, take on Cinderella, but it also explores many other familiar fairytales, weaving the stories together in a way you’ve never considered.


Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire

51QAeC43VPLIs this new land a place where magics really happen?

From Gregory Maguire, the acclaimed author of Wicked, comes his much-anticipated second novel, a brilliant and provocative retelling of the timeless Cinderella tale.

In the lives of children, pumpkins can turn into coaches, mice and rats into human beings… When we grow up, we learn that it’s far more common for human beings to turn into rats…

We all have heard the story of Cinderella, the beautiful child cast out to slave among the ashes. But what of her stepsisters, the homely pair exiled into ignominy by the fame of their lovely sibling? What fate befell those untouched by beauty… and what curses accompanied Cinderella’s exquisite looks?

Extreme beauty is an affliction

Set against the rich backdrop of 17th century Holland, Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister tells the story of Iris, an unlikely heroine who finds herself swept from the lowly streets of Haarlem to a strange world of wealth, artifice, and ambition. Iris’s path quickly becomes intertwined with that of Clara, the mysterious and unnaturally beautiful girl destined to become her sister.

Clara was the prettiest child, but was her life the prettiest tale?

While Clara retreats to the cinders of the family hearth, burning all memories of her past, Iris seeks out the shadowy secrets of her new household — and the treacherous truth of her former life.

God and Satan snarling at each other like dogs… Imps and fairy godmotbers trying to undo each other’s work. How we try to pin the world between opposite extremes!

Far more than a mere fairy-tale, Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister is a novel of beauty and betrayal, illusion and understanding, reminding us that deception can be unearthed — and love unveiled — in the most unexpected of places.

Why you’ll love it: Similar to WickedConfessions of an Ugly Stepsister proves there’s much more to the “bad guys” than meets the eye.


Ash by Malinda Lo

81K6EnJ7AZL._SL1500_In the wake of her father’s death, Ash is left at the mercy of her cruel stepmother. Consumed with grief, her only joy comes by the light of the dying hearth fire, rereading the fairy tales her mother once told her. In her dreams, someday the fairies will steal her away, as they are said to do. When she meets the dark and dangerous fairy Sidhean, she believes that her wish may be granted.

The day that Ash meets Kaisa, the King’s Huntress, her heart begins to change. Instead of chasing fairies, Ash learns to hunt with Kaisa. Though their friendship is as delicate as a new bloom, it reawakens Ash’s capacity for love-and her desire to live. But Sidhean has already claimed Ash for his own, and she must make a choice between fairy tale dreams and true love.

Entrancing, empowering, and romantic, Ash is about the connection between life and love, and solitude and death, where transformation can come from even the deepest grief.

Why you’ll love it: Malinda Lo’s fairytale teaches that the only way to be truly happy is to be true to ourselves.


Seducing Cinderella by Gina L. Maxwell

81-s114cPfL._SL1500_Mixed martial arts fighter Reid Andrews’s chance to reclaim his title as light heavyweight champ is shattered when he’s injured only months before the rematch. To make sure he’s healed in time, his trainer sends him to recuperate under a professional’s care — Reid’s best friend’s little sister, all grown up.

Disorganized and bookish Lucie Miller needs some professional help of her own. She’d do anything to catch the eye of a doctor she’s crushed on for years, so when Reid offers seduction lessons in exchange for 24/7 conditioning for the biggest fight of his career, Lucie jumps at the chance.

Soon Reid finds himself in the fight of his life… winning Lucie’s heart before she gives it to someone else.

Why you’ll love it: Ball gowns, horse-drawn carriages, and glass slippers may be a thing of the past, but this modern take on Cinderella tale reminds us fairytales come in all shapes and sizes these days.


The Fairy Godmother by Mercedes Lackey

513SHQET50LIn the land of the Five Hundred Kingdoms, if you can’t carry out your legendary role, life is no fairy tale….

Elena Klovis was supposed to be her kingdom’s Cinderella — until fate left her with a completely inappropriate prince! So she set out to make a new life for herself. But breaking with “The Tradition” was no easy matter — until she got a little help from her own fairy godmother. Who promptly offered Elena a most unexpected job….

Now, instead of sleeping in the chimney, she has to deal with arrogant, stuffed-shirt princes who keep trying to rise above their place in the tale. And there’s one in particular who needs to be dealt with….

Sometimes a fairy godmother’s work is never done….

Why you’ll love it: This fun fantasy novel explores what happens when “happily ever after” doesn’t go as planned — and one heroine’s attempt to change her fate.


What are your favorite fairy tale retellings? Share in the comments!


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