Happy Spooktober, YA readers! 🎃🧚 In the forest and beyond the flowers, there are fairies, wolves, and witches. Beware! These heroines may have claws. This week's Halloween-inspired list of dark fairy tales retellings will have you screaming... for more!
Teaser images below. Let us know in the comments how many you immediately recognized!
If you're just tuning in, this is the third part of my Halloween Bookish Spooktacular. You can catch up with the links below.
Week 1: Witches
Week 2: Ghosts
Week 3: Dark Fairy Tale Retellings
Week 4: Vampires (upcoming)
Week 5: Werewolves (upcoming)
Without further ado, let's go to the first book on our list.
Who better to start off our dark fairy tale retellings list than the queen of the fae, Holly Black? If you're on TikTok or Facebook, you've probably heard of Cruel Prince. Well before Cruel Prince, there was The Darkest Part of the Forest!
In the woods is a glass coffin. It rests on the ground, and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives....
Hazel and her brother, Ben, live in Fairfold, where humans and the Folk exist side by side. Since they were children, Hazel and Ben have been telling each other stories about the boy in the glass coffin, that he is a prince and they are valiant knights, pretending their prince would be different from the other faeries, the ones who made cruel bargains, lurked in the shadows of trees, and doomed tourists. But as Hazel grows up, she puts aside those stories. Hazel knows the horned boy will never wake.
Until one day, he does....
As the world turns upside down, Hazel has to become the knight she once pretended to be.
Beauty and the Beast lovers and kidnapped by a price trope lovers, this one is for you!
Fall in love, break the curse.
It once seemed so easy to Prince Rhen, the heir to Emberfall. Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year over and over, he knew he could be saved if a girl fell for him. But that was before he learned that at the end of each autumn, he would turn into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. That was before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope.
Nothing has ever been easy for Harper. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother barely holding their family together while constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, she learned to be tough enough to survive. But when she tries to save someone else on the streets of Washington, DC, she’s instead somehow sucked into Rhen’s cursed world.
Break the curse, save the kingdom.
A prince? A monster? A curse? Harper doesn’t know where she is or what to believe. But as she spends time with Rhen in this enchanted land, she begins to understand what’s at stake. And as Rhen realizes Harper is not just another girl to charm, his hope comes flooding back. But powerful forces are standing against Emberfall . . . and it will take more than a broken curse to save Harper, Rhen, and his people from utter ruin.
This one is on my personal TBR. The cover alone immediately caught my eye. I'm a sucker for character illustrations. But it's the twisted Cinderella trope and girl power squad that had me insta-click it to my GoodReads.
It's 200 years after Cinderella found her prince, but the fairy tale is over. Teen girls are now required to appear at the Annual Ball, where the men of the kingdom select wives based on a girl's display of finery. If a suitable match is not found, the girls not chosen are never heard from again.
Sixteen-year-old Sophia would much rather marry Erin, her childhood best friend, than parade in front of suitors. At the ball, Sophia makes the desperate decision to flee, and finds herself hiding in Cinderella's mausoleum. There, she meets Constance, the last known descendant of Cinderella and her step sisters. Together they vow to bring down the king once and for all--and in the process, they learn that there's more to Cinderella's story than they ever knew . . .
This fresh take on a classic story will make readers question the tales they've been told, and root for girls to break down the constructs of the world around them.
Eighteen-year-old Xifeng is beautiful. The stars say she is destined for greatness, that she is meant to be Empress of Feng Lu. But only if she embraces the darkness within her.
Growing up as a peasant in a forgotten village on the edge of the map, Xifeng longs to fulfill the destiny promised to her by her cruel aunt, the witch Guma, who has read the cards and seen glimmers of Xifeng's majestic future. But is the price of the throne too high? Because in order to achieve greatness, she must spurn the young man who loves her and exploit the callous magic that runs through her veins--sorcery fueled by eating the hearts of the recently killed. For the god who has sent her on this journey will not be satisfied until his power is absolute.
Set in an East Asian-inspired fantasy world filled with both breathtaking pain and beauty, Forest of a Thousand Lanterns possesses all the hallmarks of masterful fantasy: dazzling magic, heartbreaking romance, and a world that hangs in the balance. Fans of Heartless, Stealing Snow, and Red Queen will devour this stunning debut.
Splintered is such a 90s, emo, skater nostalgia ride for adults in their 20s and 30s. For teens, you'll enjoy the rebellious, independent attitude of the main character and the twisty, turns of Wonderland remade.
Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now.
When her mother’s mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on.
There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice’s tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice’s mistakes and save her family. She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own.
I promised dark, so buckle up! This one is adult fantasy due to some heavy themes, but I think it's going to be a must-read for a lot of YA fans too. It's going to be released this month, and it's definitely on my TBR.
All my life, I’ve dreamed of the sea.
Mermaids, stormy skies, daring adventures, pirates…it was little wonder I sprinted to the docks the moment I left the orphanage. Eager to begin my new life, I searched for a ship that would have me—and found a thief instead. I chased the bastard.
Now I’m trapped.
I’m told this place is Neverland, but everything I touch is dead or dying; what’s left is hellbent on killing each other. Monsters lurk around every corner, and everyone I meet hides a damning secret. I’m thrust in the middle of a deadly feud, and the only one capable of unraveling the curse that plagues us.
Neverland is my home now. Until it’s done with me?
It will never let go.
***Peter Pan meets Pirates of the Caribbean in A Land of Never After, but reader beware: this children’s tale has been reimagined for adult lovers of all things dark and deadly, with an LGBTQ+ positive twist. Content warnings include language, violence, and mentions of gender dysphoria and suicide.***
As one by one her beautiful sisters mysteriously die on their isolated island estate, Annaleigh must unravel the curse that haunts her family.
In a manor by the sea, twelve sisters are cursed.
Annaleigh lives a sheltered life at Highmoor with her sisters and their father and stepmother. Once there were twelve, but loneliness fills the grand halls now that four of the girls' lives have been cut short. Each death was more tragic than the last--the plague, a plummeting fall, a drowning, a slippery plunge--and there are whispers throughout the surrounding villages that the family is cursed by the gods.
Disturbed by a series of ghostly visions, Annaleigh becomes increasingly suspicious that her sister's deaths were no accidents. The girls have been sneaking out every night to attend glittering balls, dancing until dawn in silk gowns and shimmering slippers, and Annaleigh isn't sure whether to try to stop them or to join their forbidden trysts. Because who--or what--are they really dancing with?
When Annaleigh's involvement with a mysterious stranger who has secrets of his own intensifies, it's a race to unravel the darkness that has fallen over her family--before it claims her next. House of Salt and Sorrows is a spellbinding novel filled with magic and the rustle of gossamer skirts down long, dark hallways. Be careful who you dance with...
I loved this book! The main character, Amy, was such a breath of fresh air. She's a snarky, pessimistic survivor from a troubled home. Oz is twisted and broken, and Dorothy is its monstrous leader. It's up to the other girl from Kansas, Amy, to set things right.
My name is Amy Gumm—and I'm the other girl from Kansas. I've been recruited by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked. I've been trained to fight. And I have a mission: Remove the Tin Woodman's heart. Steal the Scarecrow's brain. Take the Lion's courage. And—Dorothy must die.
I didn't ask for any of this. I didn't ask to be some kind of hero. But when your whole life gets swept up by a tornado—taking you with it—you have no choice but to go along, you know?
Sure, I've read the books. I've seen the movies. I know the song about the rainbow and the happy little blue birds. But I never expected Oz to look like this. To be a place where Good Witches can't be trusted, Wicked Witches may just be the good guys, and winged monkeys can be executed for acts of rebellion. There's still a road of yellow brick—but even that's crumbling.
What happened? Dorothy. They say she found a way to come back to Oz. They say she seized power and the power went to her head. And now no one is safe.
Stay away from the Hazel Wood.
Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: Her mother is stolen away―by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother's stories are set. Alice's only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”
Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother's tales began―and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.
This article was written by E.V. Everest.
E.V. Everest is a YA fantasy and sci-fi author, best known for her novel Seven Crowns. Check out more of her work by clicking any of the book covers below.