Book Recs: LGBT Retellings (Fairy Tales)

I mentioned on twitter the other day that I was thinking of making a post like this and everyone was very into the idea. I mean, what’s better than taking a classic story we all know & putting a gay spin on it, right?

I put a parenthesis in the title of this rec list and there’s a very simple reason for it: there are going to be two more in the “series”! One for classic books (think Peter Pan or Sherlock Holmes) and one for mythologies (in a very broad meaning of the word). So look out for those!

Before we start, let me make an honorary mention of Ash by Malinda Lo, the lesbian retelling of Cinderella. It’s not on the list itself because I can’t rec you a book you all already know, can I? But just in case you forgot for a second…

And now, let’s go boldly into the world of LGBT fairy tales!

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In the Vanishers’ Palace

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Aliette de Bodard
Goodreads
Rep: lesbian mc, bi mc, Vietnamese setting and characters
Original Story: Beauty and the Beast

In a ruined, devastated world, where the earth is poisoned and beings of nightmares roam the land… 

A woman, betrayed, terrified, sold into indenture to pay her village’s debts and struggling to survive in a spirit world.

A dragon, among the last of her kind, cold and aloof but desperately trying to make a difference.

When failed scholar Yên is sold to Vu Côn, one of the last dragons walking the earth, she expects to be tortured or killed for Vu Côn’s amusement.

But Vu Côn, it turns out, has a use for Yên: she needs a scholar to tutor her two unruly children. She takes Yên back to her home, a vast, vertiginous palace-prison where every door can lead to death. Vu Côn seems stern and unbending, but as the days pass Yên comes to see her kinder and caring side. She finds herself dangerously attracted to the dragon who is her master and jailer. In the end, Yên will have to decide where her own happiness lies—and whether it will survive the revelation of Vu Côn’s dark, unspeakable secrets… 

Why Should I Read It?

Aliette’s writing is absolutely mesmerising, but that’s not even the best part about her stories! What I love most about her works is how bold her imagination is. I mean, here? You get a bi dragon. Who else can give you that much?

Related: Charlotte’s review of In the Vanishers’ Palace

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The Winter Duke

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Claire Eliza Bartlett
Goodreads
Rep: wlw relationship
Original Story: Sleeping Beauty

An enchanted tale of intrigue where a duke’s daughter is the only survivor of a magical curse.

When Ekata’s brother is finally named heir, there will be nothing to keep her at home in Kylma Above with her murderous family. Not her books or science experiments, not her family’s icy castle atop a frozen lake, not even the tantalizingly close Kylma Below, a mesmerizing underwater kingdom that provides her family with magic. But just as escape is within reach, her parents and twelve siblings fall under a strange sleeping sickness.

In the space of a single night, Ekata inherits the title of duke, her brother’s warrior bride, and ever-encroaching challengers from without—and within—her own ministry. Nothing has prepared Ekata for diplomacy, for war, for love…or for a crown she has never wanted. If Kylma Above is to survive, Ekata must seize her family’s power. And if Ekata is to survive, she must quickly decide how she will wield it.

Part Sleeping Beauty, part Anastasia, with a thrilling political mystery, The Winter Duke is a spellbinding story about choosing what’s right in the face of danger.

Why Should I Read It?

Well this is an upcoming release, so I don’t know more about it than you, guys. But. K.A. Doore recommends it & I trust her with my life.

Related: Interview with K.A. Doore

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Thorn

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Anna Burke
Goodreads
Rep: wlw mcs (ownvoices)
Original Story: Beauty and the Beast

On a cold day deep in the heart of winter, Rowan’s father returns from an ill-fated hunting trip bearing a single, white rose. The rose is followed by the Huntress, a figure out of legend. Tall, cruel, and achingly beautiful, she brings Rowan back with her to a mountain fastness populated solely by the creatures of the hunt. Rowan, who once scorned the villagers for their superstitions, now finds herself at the heart of a curse with roots as deep as the mountains, ruled by an old magic that is as insidious as the touch of the winter rose. Torn between her family loyalties, her guilty relief at escaping her betrothal to the charming but arrogant Avery Lockland, and her complicated feelings for the Huntress, Rowan must find a way to break the curse before it destroys everything she loves. There is only one problem―if she can find a way to lift the curse, she will have to return to the life she left behind. And the only thing more unbearable than endless winter is facing a lifetime of springs without the Huntress.

Why Should I Read It?

Yes, this is a second retelling of Beauty and the Best on my list. Yes, this one is also sapphic. No, it’s not the last one I put on here. It’s a lot darker than the Disney version (although let’s be real, people turned into talking furniture was creepy as hell), cold & icy – and Burke paints that atmosphere masterfully.

Related: Charlotte’s review of Thorn

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Cinderella Boy

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Kristina Meister
Goodreads
Rep: genderfluid mc, bi li
Original Story: Cinderella

Being perfect isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Sixteen-year-old Declan is the perfect son . . . except for one tiny issue. When his sister Delia comes home to find him trying on her clothes, he fears her judgment, but she only fears his fashion choices. One quick makeover later, Declan is transformed into Delia’s mysterious cousin Layla and dragged to the party of the year, hosted by Carter, the most popular boy in school.

When Carter meets Layla, he fumbles to charm her. He adores her sense of humor and her poise. But when she vanishes in the middle of the night, he’s left confused and determined to solve the mystery of who she is.

As their school year begins, their high school embraces a policy of intolerance, and both Declan and Carter know they must stand up. Carter is tired of being a coward and wants to prove he can be a knight in shining armor. Declan is sick of being bullied and wants desperately to be himself. If they team up, it could be a fairy-tale ending, or a very unhappy ever after.

Why Should I Read It?

I appreciate Cinderella Boy for how romantic it is. It’s a delicate story, very clearly about teenagers & yet (or maybe because of that?) broaching important topics in a casual way, like misogyny or homophobia. I know there are people who complain about the ending, but honestly? It’s one of my favourite love stories of all time.

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The Raven and the Reindeer

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T. Kingfisher
Goodreads
Rep: wlw relationship
Original Story: Snow Queen

When Gerta’s friend Kay is stolen away by the mysterious Snow Queen, it’s up to Gerta to find him. Her journey will take her through a dangerous land of snow and witchcraft, accompanied only by a bandit and a talking raven. Can she win her friend’s release, or will following her heart take her to unexpected places? 

A strange, sly retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s “Snow Queen,” by T. Kingfisher, author of “Bryony and Roses” and “The Seventh Bride.”

Why Should I Read It?

This is a little bit of enemies to lovers, just a touch, with the love interest being a bandit princess (who has, in fact, killed a man or two). And if you still need more encouragement, there’s a raven by the name Sound of Mouse Bones Crunching Under the Hooves of God & some really cool magic.

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Beast

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Brie Spangler
Goodreads
Rep: trans li
Original Story: Beauty and the Beast

Tall, meaty, muscle-bound, and hairier than most throw rugs, Dylan doesn’t look like your average fifteen-year-old, so, naturally, high school has not been kind to him. To make matters worse, on the day his school bans hats (his preferred camouflage), Dylan goes up on his roof only to fall and wake up in the hospital with a broken leg—and a mandate to attend group therapy for self-harmers.

Dylan vows to say nothing and zones out at therapy—until he meets Jamie. She’s funny, smart, and so stunning, even his womanizing best friend, JP, would be jealous. She’s also the first person to ever call Dylan out on his self-pitying and superficiality. As Jamie’s humanity and wisdom begin to rub off on Dylan, they become more than just friends. But there is something Dylan doesn’t know about Jamie, something she shared with the group the day he wasn’t listening. Something that shouldn’t change a thing. She is who she’s always been—an amazing photographer and devoted friend, who also happens to be transgender. But will Dylan see it that way?

Why Should I Read It?

Another contemporary take on a fairy tale, since honestly? Those are always super interesting, just taking the major themes of a story & making them work in a modern world…

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Girls Made of Snow and Glass

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Melissa Bashardoust
Goodreads
Rep: wlw relationship
Original Story: Snow White

Frozen meets The Bloody Chamber in this feminist fantasy reimagining of the Snow White fairytale.

At sixteen, Mina’s mother is dead, her magician father is vicious, and her silent heart has never beat with love for anyone has never beat at all, in fact, but shed always thought that fact normal. She never guessed that her father cut out her heart and replaced it with one of glass. When she moves to Whitespring Castle and sees its king for the first time, Mina forms a plan: win the kings heart with her beauty, become queen, and finally know love. The only catch is that shell have to become a stepmother.

Fifteen-year-old Lynet looks just like her late mother, and one day she discovers why: a magician created her out of snow in the dead queens image, at her fathers order. But despite being the dead queen made flesh, Lynet would rather be like her fierce and regal stepmother, Mina. She gets her wish when her father makes Lynet queen of the southern territories, displacing Mina. Now Mina is starting to look at Lynet with something like hatred, and Lynet must decide what to do and who to be to win back the only mother shes ever known or else defeat her once and for all.

Entwining the stories of both Lynet and Mina in the past and present, Girls Made of Snow and Glass traces the relationship of two young women doomed to be rivals from the start. Only one can win all, while the other must lose everything unless both can find a way to reshape themselves and their story.

TW: suicide, violence/death, child abuse, and misogyny

Why Should I Read It?

If you’re looking for a sweet, tender, slow-blossoming romance – this is the retelling for you. And if you’re also looking for an interesting magic system and an original understanding of villains, you really don’t have to search any further.

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Kissing the Witch

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Emma Donoghue
Goodreads
Rep: wlw relationships (lesbian author)
Original Story: various

Thirteen tales are unspun from the deeply familiar, and woven anew into a collection of fairy tales that wind back through time. Acclaimed Irish author Emma Donoghue reveals heroines young and old in unexpected alliances–sometimes treacherous, sometimes erotic, but always courageous.

Told with luminous voices that shimmer with sensuality and truth, these age-old characters shed their antiquated cloaks to travel a seductive new landscape, radiantly transformed. Cinderella forsakes the handsome prince and runs off with the fairy godmother; Beauty discovers the Beast behind the mask is not so very different from the face she sees in the mirror; Snow White is awakened from slumber by the bittersweet fruit of an unnamed desire.

Acclaimed writer Emma Donoghue spins new tales out of old in a magical web of thirteen interconnected stories about power and transformation and choosing one’s own path in the world. In these fairy tales, women young and old tell their own stories of love and hate, honor and revenge, passion and deception. Using the intricate patterns and oral rhythms of traditional fairy tales, Emma Donoghue wraps age-old characters in a dazzling new skin.

Why Should I Read It?

We all used to read fairy tales from giant books full of different stories, so really, it’s no wonder that the same format should apply to retellings of them. It’s even better than reading them as a kid, because this time the stories are written by a lesbian.

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Finding Aurora

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Rebecca Langham
Goodreads
Rep: bi mc, wlw relationship
Original Story: Sleeping Beauty

Aurora Rose slumbers in the city of Oldpass, a cursed kingdom once allied with Grimvein. The victim of a malicious spell, she is powerless to control her own fate. At least, that’s how the story goes.

Now, as Grimvein faces attack, Prince Amir has been tasked with the life-threatening rescue of Aurora, his parents hopeful he will marry the princess and secure safety for their kingdom. Talia, the strongest spellcaster in the known lands, protects and guides the prince in his quest to save a woman that threatens to change their lives forever. 

In finding Aurora, the pair will realise the truth about themselves and each other, coming to understand just what – and who – they really want in life.

Why Should I Read It?

A classic tale told from a different perspective – always a good approach. Especially if that new approach means your protagonist is a bisexual girl & the romance turns up in the place where you didn’t even think of looking for it (before starting the novella, I mean).

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Cinder Ella

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S.T. Lynn
Goodreads
Rep:
Black trans lesbian mc (non-binary author), lesbian li
Original Story:
Cinderella

Ella is transgender. She’s known since she was young; being a woman just fit better. She was happier in skirts than trousers, but that was before her stepmother moved in. Eleanor can’t stand her, and after Ella’s father passes she’s forced to revert to Cole, a lump of a son. She cooks, she cleans, and she tolerates being called the wrong name for the sake of a roof over her head. Where else can she go? 

An opportunity to attend the royal ball transforms Ella’s life. For the first time, strangers see a woman when she walks down the stairs. While Princess Lizabetta invited Cole to the ball, she doesn’t blink an eye when Cinderella is the one who shows. The princess is elegant, bold, and everything Ella never knew she wanted. For a moment she glimpses a world that can accept her, and she holds on tight. 

She should have known it wouldn’t last. Dumped by her wicked stepmother on the farthest edge of the kingdom, Ella must find a way to let go of the princess and the beautiful life they shared for an hour. She’ll never find her way back. But it’s hard to forget the greatest night of her life when every rose she plants is a reminder.

Why Should I Read It?

Frankly, I don’t understand why there aren’t more Cinderella retellings where she’s trans – the original fairy tale gives a perfect set up for it. Thankfully we at least have this tender story!

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Like I said, there are going to be two more posts like this – we are nowhere near the end of our LGBT retellings adventure!

And before I go today, I want to direct y’all to Corvid Queen. It’s a journal of feminist folklore & fairy tales from Sword & Kettle Press. They post new short stories every Friday and granted, not all of them are retellings & not all of them are LGBT-friendly, but – they’re always a breath of fresh air.

anna

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15 thoughts on “Book Recs: LGBT Retellings (Fairy Tales)

  1. Kathryn Speckels says:

    Welp, my TBR just got a lot longer. One other, which I haven’t read but have heard good things about, is one called Ash, by Malinda Lo, which is a lesbian Cinderella retelling! Just in case you were looking for even more to add to the list…

    Liked by 1 person

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