As a self-proclaimed nerd and Disney lover, I am always looking for new retellings of fairytale classics. So, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite retellings based on the same stories and cultures as the Disney princesses (and a few other heroines).
However, if you’re looking for Princess Leia because she’s been on my last Disney princess roundups, you’re going to have to look through my book recommendations for Star Wars characters. Anyway, without further ado, here are some books you should read based on your favorite Disney princess.
Snow White: ‘Blanca & Roja’
If your favorite princess is Snow White, or maybe you like the darker original tale, you should read Blanca & Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore. I didn’t think I could ever truly love Snow White, but this book made me change my tune real fast.
Based on Snow White and Rose Red, this novel gives it new life. Blanca and Roja are sisters and enemies: Blanca is pure while Roja is mean. But when their livelihoods are threatened when their love interests enter their lives, it’s time to work together to discover the truth of their family’s curse.
Cinderella: ‘Cinderella Is Dead’
For those that love Cinderella (either the original Grimm fairytale or the animated or live-action films), you need to get your hands on a copy of Cinderella Is Dead by Kalynn Bayron. This is one of my favorite stories based on the Grimm fairytale.
Cinderella married her prince two centuries ago, and a lot has changed… except one thing. The Annual Ball that helped the princess find her true love is still going on, but the girls who don’t get chosen by a prince go missing. That’s where Sophia and Constance get the idea to take down the Ball once and for all.
Sleeping Beauty: ‘A Kiss in Time’
If you love Aurora in her eighteen minutes on screen (no, really!) in the animated Disney movie, you’ll probably love to see more of the character. You can find that in Alex Flinn’s A Kiss in Time. Flinn has some of my favorite fairytale retellings, and this book is no different.
A Kiss in Time sees Sleeping Beauty wake up 300 years in the future after a random teenage boy kisses her. It’s a little tricky when she wants to get to know her supposed-true love when he doesn’t want to accept his fate at just 16 years old. And have you ever tried explaining modern technology to a 316-year-old girl?
Ariel: ‘The Seafarer’s Kiss’
Do you want more of The Little Mermaid? You’re going to love seeing another version of the character in The Seafarer’s Kiss by Julia Ember. The “Ariel” in this story is Ersel, a nineteen-year-old mermaid who dreams of the world above the water.
Ersel ventures to the ice above her and meets shield-maiden Ragna. Despite coming from different worlds, they become friends and fall in love. But everything is threatened when Ersel’s betrothed threatens to tell the King. Ersel goes to Loki, the Norse god, much like how Ariel goes to Ursula.
Belle: ‘Beastly’ and ‘Beastly: Lindy’s Diary’
We all know the basic story of Beauty and the Beast. And we’ve gotten some pretty popular retellings, specifically A Court of Thorns and Roses. But, if you’re looking for a more direct account of the fairytale, grab Beastly and the companion novella, Beastly: Lindy’s Diary by Alex Flinn.
Beastly tells the story of the Beast; Lindy’s Diary is what Lindy is writing in throughout her time with him. So if you want more of that side of the story, definitely check out the novella. Honestly, you should read both because it’s like watching two people fall in love, like what we see in the animated movie.
Jasmine: ‘We Hunt the Flame’
There are so many books inspired by One Thousand and One Nights, but for Jasmine, I wanted to find one that switches the princess and the street rat’s roles. And I discovered that in Hafsah Faizal’s We Hunt the Flame. I love this take on the story and can’t wait for the next book in the series.
With war on the horizon in their kingdom, Zafira and Nasir must learn to work together despite being enemies. Nasir kills those who disobey his father, the Sultan; Zafira disguises herself as a man and kills animals in the forest nearby.
Pocahontas: ‘Race to the Sun’
When I couldn’t find any fiction novels about Pocahontas besides the Disney novelization of the movie, I decided to focus on finding a book written by an Indigenous author about an Indigenous protagonist. And that’s when I remembered Race to the Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse.
Race to the Sun takes a lot of inspiration from Diné culture and mythology. Nizhoni, Mac, and Davery are on a rescue mission and need help from the Diné Holy People. They will be tested as they go through their tasks, but they must prevail to save Nizhoni’s father and the world.
Mulan: ‘The Magnolia Sword’
Disney gave us a musical movie based on Hua Mulan, a Chinese folktale. And while the film itself was excellent, we missed out on a few details from the original story. So, if you want more of Mulan, check out Sherry Thomas’s The Magnolia Sword.
Much like Mulan from the animated movie, the book’s Mulan goes to serve in the war in place of the men in her family. Before notice came, though, she’d been training her whole life to avenge her father, who is now paralyzed. While serving, she even meets her own love interest, who just so happens to be her commander. Sound familiar?
Tiana: ‘The Frog Princess’
Tiana’s movie is loosely based on The Frog Princess by E.D. Baker. And other than the princess in the film turning into a frog for kissing a prince in frog form, there’s basically nothing else similar. However, if you want more of the story, there’s a whole series from E.D. Baker.
Emeralda runs away when it’s revealed she’s betrothed to a price she can’t stand. When she meets a talking frog in the forest, she turns into a frog after kissing him. The rest of this book has them on an adventure to find a way to transform back into their human forms.
The Frog Princess is the first in a long series that introduces the rest of Emeralda’s family, both past and future generations. My favorite from the series, The Dragon Princess, follows Emeralda’s daughter, Millie, as she struggles with her own magic that’s been passed down from her mother’s family.
I loved Rapunzel’s story as a kid, so it’s no wonder I was drawn to these retellings. If Rapunzel is your favorite, I’m recommending my favorite story about her: Towering by Alex Flinn.
In this retelling, Rachel has grown up knowing her Mama isn’t her mother and has stayed in her tower full of books her whole life. One day, her hair starts to grow, and she decides it’s time to escape. When she’s finally free, she runs for it and might be on her way to her Prince Charming.
Merida: ‘The Lost Queen’
Brave isn’t technically based on any specific fairytale. However, it is based on Celtic culture and mythology, so I ran with that when thinking of a book for Merida lovers to read. And I settled on Signe Pike’s The Lost Queen.
Set in Scotland, this novel tells the story of Langoureth and Lailoken, siblings who struggle to live up to their family’s expectations while wanting to follow their own path. The Lost Queen is the first in a trilogy and tells the story of a queen forgotten by history.
Elsa: ‘Cold Queen’
Before we got the Frozen movie we know and love, Elsa was a villain in the early stages. Thankfully they changed that, and we got two amazing musical films that touched our hearts. But since learning about Elsa’s origin, I’ve been wondering what the story would have been like if she’d stayed the villain.
That’s where K. Webster’s dark retelling, Cold Queen, comes in handy. And what if Hans had been upfront with his intentions in the first place? All my questions were answered as I read this novel. The queen will do whatever it takes to save her sister, even if it means doing the worst she can.
Anna: ‘Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy’
On the other side of The Snow Queen, we have the character who goes searching for the ice-powered queen to save her land. If you love Anna, you’re also going to love Ophelia in Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee.
Other than Ophelia and Anna both going in search of their respective queens, there’s not much else these stories have in common. In Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy, Ophelia must help “The Marvelous Boy” in the task of killing the Snow Queen before it’s too late.
Much like how Brave wasn’t based on a specific fairytale but a general Celtic vibe, Moana was created with Polynesian culture and mythology in mind. Going off that, I decided Moloka’i by Alan Brennert is the best way to go for Moana fans. I just wish this had been a little harder to choose, but there’s not a lot of Polynesian fiction novels.
Rachel Kalami, the novel’s young protagonist, is a lot like Moana in her dreams of traveling the world and seeing new places. Sadly, this story isn’t as happy as Moana’s. Rachel gets leprosy and must spend her life in quarantine, but she finds hope and new dreams while in this situation.
Raya: ‘Dragon Keeper’
We’ve come to yet another Disney princess story that isn’t based on a pre-established fairytale. Thankfully, I managed to find Dragon Keeper by Carole Wilkinson, which has some of the same elements that made me love Raya and the Last Dragon.
Wilkinson’s series follows orphaned Ping and her new ally, elderly dragon Danzi. They go on the run, similar to how Raya and Sisu in the movie. Throughout the series, Ping has others join her journey to becoming the true Dragon Keeper.
Maid Marian: ‘Sherwood’
If you loved Robin Hood as a kid, you’d recognize Maid Marian immediately. I haven’t included her in any of my last Disney princess roundups because she’s technically not a princess. Still, I couldn’t help myself with her book recommendation.
Sherwood by Megan Spooner tells the story of Marian after she takes over the Robin Hood mantle after Robin dies. It’s an exciting take on the Sherwood Forest bandit that I love. Trust me, Marian will become one of your favorite characters after reading her story by Spooner.
Melody: ‘The Mermaid’s Daughter’
I don’t know about you, but I love The Little Mermaid 2 and Melody. And while I already recommended a book for fans of Ariel, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to recommend one for her daughter. So, I thought it would be fun to suggest reading The Mermaid’s Daughter by Ann Claycomb.
This book follows a descendant of the mermaid from the original Little Mermaid fairytale. Without saltwater, Kathleen is in immense pain and can’t speak. After a bit of convincing from her girlfriend, she leaves to learn more about her mother’s family. What she discovers changes her life forever.
Alice: ‘Alice in Zombieland’
As the last on the list, I thought it would be fitting to talk about one of my favorite series that made me love Alice in Wonderland in the first place. If you adore Alice from the animated or live-action movies but also wish there was a darker tone to the story, you’re going to love Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter.
This series follows Alice “Ali” Bell as she is sucked into a world full of zombies only a select few can see. And it turns out she’s the key to saving the world. While she’s at it, she might as well avenge her parents’ deaths and make some new friends in her new town.