Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Top Ten Beauty and the Beast Retellings

Hah hah hah just kidding. I didn’t really try to get to ten favorites particularly. I just tried to get to ten that I’ve read and liked. Also, I didn’t make it anywhere close to ten. So it’s a list, but not really a top ten list.

Actually I’ve got two lists: one for Beauty and the Beast-inspired novels I’ve read and one (slightly longer) for stories I’ve heard of and want to read, but haven’t got to yet. If you’ve got a particular favorite, toss it in the comments, please, because somehow it’s always been one of my favorite fairy tales for retellings.

For whatever reason, I also particularly like The Twelve Dancing Princesses and The Wild Swans.

Anyway! The lists:

1. BEAUTY by Robin McKinley. This is my all-time favorite, the definitive version as far as I’m concerned, and that’s true even though the story just sort of dissolves gently into the ending. I think this is a difficult fairy tale to bring to a really great ending.

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2. ROSE DAUGHTER by Robin McKinley is the one I think of second, mostly because it’s also by McKinley so naturally I think of it at the same time. I like it okay, but I think BEAUTY is way better.

3. THE CHOCOLATE ROSE by Laura Florand. Stepping outside fantasy and into contemporary romance, and of course this isn’t a retelling so much as a story that is gently influenced by the fairy tale. I love it, though mostly I don’t think I would be very interested in reading romances-that-aren’t-fantasy even if they draw on a fairy tale.

4. CRUEL BEAUTY by Rosamund Hodge. Not my favorite, but I did like it quite a bit.

5. THE PRINCESS CURSE by Merrie Haskell. This one draws only lightly on the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale, but on the other hand, it draws more directly on The Twelve Dancing Princesses. I loved it.

6. THE HOBB’S BARGAIN by Patricia Briggs could be seen as a Beauty and the Beast retelling. Yes or no, what do you think? It’s a good secondary world fantasy either way.

I really thought I could get closer to ten when I started. I feel like I must have missed something.

Moving on, though: Top ten Beauty and the Beast retellings that sound like they might be great, but I haven’t had a chance to read them.

1. HEART’S BLOOD by Juliet Marillier. I have really, really loved some of Marillier’s books. Others, not so much. Her writing is lovely all the time, though. Has anybody read this? What do you think?

2. OF BEAST AND BEAUTY by Stacey Jay. This one sounds excellent.

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3. SCARLET by Marissa Meyer. I haven’t read it, but I’m slowly listening to CINDER right now and I also do have SCARLET as an audiobook, so I expect I’ll get to it this summer.

4. THE FIRE ROSE by Mercedes Lackey. What do you all think of it, thumbs up or thumbs down? I haven’t ever read much by Mercedes Lackey, so it’s hard to guess what I might think of this one.

5. BEASTLY by Alex Flinn. A retelling from the pov of the Beast? That sounds interesting.

6. UPROOTED by Naomi Novik. It’s not quite out yet, but it’s supposed to draw a bit from Beauty and the Beast. I read the first chapter and *loved* it, so I’m sure looking forward to it hitting the shelves, even if it doesn’t turn out to draw much from Beauty and the Beast.

7. BEAST by Donna Jo Napoli is also from the pov of the Beast. It sounds fascinating: “Orasmyn is the prince of Persia and heir to the throne. His religion fills his heart and his mind, and he strives for the knowledge and leadership his father demonstrates. But on the day of the Feast of Sacrifices, Orasmyn makes a foolish choice that results in a fairy’s wretched punishment: He is turned into a beast, a curse to be undone only by the love of a woman. Thus begins Orasmyn’s journey through the exotic Middle East and sensuous France as he struggles to learn the way of the beast, while also preserving the mind of the man.”

8. A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES by Sarah J. Maas. I’m not sure this is really a Beauty and the Beast retelling? The male lead is evidently named Tamlin. Maybe it draws more from Tam Lin?

9. BELLE: A Retelling of Beauty and the Beast by Cameron Dokey. This one sounds more like a direct retelling. “Belle, who lacks her sisters’ beauty, spends her time alone with her wood carving, until she must carve the fabled Heartwood Tree to save her father from the Beast.”

10. I thought I could get to ten with this half. Not quite, it turns out! What’s your favorite Beauty and the Beast retelling (or inspired by) fantasy that I have missed?

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29 Comments Top Ten Beauty and the Beast Retellings

  1. Matthew

    It’s hard for me to judge how good Napoli’s “Beast” and Lackey’s “Fire Rose” are for me now. I loved them both in high school/early college, but that was ages ago. The Fire Rose was sort of the unnofficial start of her “Elemental Masters” series, but takes place on a different continent. Anyway, I followed that series faithfully for a long while until either my tastes changed or the writing/editing declined and haven’t been able to read anything else by her since. (even rereads) I have only read one Napoli novel in recent years, and enjoyed it, so I suspect I would still enjoy Beast. I think Meyer’s Scarlet is my favorite of the Lunar Chronicles so far, though a close friend counts it as the worst. I think that’s everything I’ve read from your second list. As for the first list, I’ve only read the McKinleys (and enjoyed Beauty more than Rose Daughter) and the Princess Curse (which was fantastic and I can’t wait until Haskell publishes another book — they’re all been great so far).

  2. Maureen E

    FWIW, I hated Beastly. One of my college friends & had several long rants about how awful it is. I also bounced off of Stacey Jay’s book, but I’m not sure if that was me or the book–certainly plenty of other people like it.

    Beauty was one of my first discoveries in mg fantasy, so of course I love it even if I haven’t read it in a long time. I just accept McKinley’s endings as what they are and enjoy the rest of the book.

  3. Brandy

    Fun list. Love the ones you’ve read.

    On your list of ones you haven’t read, I really liked Of Beast and Beauty. I would agree with Maureen that Beastly is not worth your time. And I had not ever considered Scarlet as a B&B retelling (I just focused on The Little Red Riding Hood aspects), but I can see the argument for that too. Though Wolf’s situation is…..complicated.

    I can not wait to read Uprooted!!!!

  4. Rachel

    Maureen, now I’m sorta tempted to try BEASTLY just to *see.* Though with you and Brandy both giving it a thumbs down, there’s a good chance I will not look at more than a sample. I hope I like Jay’s book better than you! And McKinley’s BEAUTY is still iconic for me even though the ending is, well, just kind of a weak ending.

    Matthew, good to hear that you enjoyed SCARLET. I’ll be interested to see what I think of the whole trilogy. I need to do either a lot more weeding (alas, always need to do weeding) or be required to drive a lot. One or the other will get me moving again on audiobooks.

    Also, I totally agree about Merrie Haskell. I love all hers, though I think CASTLE BEHIND THORNS is a nose ahead of THE PRINCESS CURSE. Maybe.

  5. Jo in OKC

    I think of Scarlet by Marissa Meyer as more of a Red Riding Hood retelling than a Beauty and the Beast story.

    I like Beast by Donna Jo Napoli. Waiting for A Court of Throne and Roses by Sarah S. Maas and Uprooted by Naomi Novik.

    I’ve read the Fire Rose by Mercedes Lackey. It’s good, but not great. Nice twist on beauty and the beast, although she doesn’t think of herself as a beauty. She has the same love of books and learning that Belle does in the Disney version, but without the longing for adventure — she’s a serious student who can read several ancient languages. The beast is a wizard who made a mistake and got trapped as a werewolf. Together, they deal with an enemy wizard, natural disaster, and an immoral assistant.

    The Merchant’s Daughter by Melanie Dickerson is a Christian re-telling of Beauty and the Beast with no fantasy elements. It’s a little too religiously overt for me. Set in medieval (circa 1300) England. Seems to draw heavily on the Disney version/characterization. I liked the “beast” as a disfigured man who had gotten his scars while doing good (instead of through lack of virtue). People are fairly binary — either completely good or bad.

    The Rose and the Beast by Francesca Lia Block has 9 short stories that are re-tellings of fairy tales. One is a re-telling of Beauty and the Beast.

  6. Rachel

    Thanks, Jo! With that cover, I could certainly see SCARLET as drawing more from Red Riding Hood. I’m interested in seeing how it works out. The Dickerson sounds maybe a little heavy-handed, especially since I mostly prefer fantasy. FIRE ROSE sounds pretty good, actually.

    And I think we’re ALL waiting for Novik’s new book!

  7. SarahZ

    I like all of the Donna Jo Napoli fairy tale retellings I’ve read, and would definitely recommend Marissa Meyer’s series (although, that’s not a trilogy, it’s a quartet – 4th book coming out this fall I think).

    For Beauty and the Beast, Valiant by Holly Black has some elements of that story. It’s the sequel to Tithe, which draws upon Tam Lin for inspiration. I really like those books. In Valiant, Val finds herself making deliveries for the troll who lives in the subway and makes potions that allow fairy inhabitants of NYC live in a place with so much iron.

    Also, Dark Triumph by Robin La Fevers has some Beauty and the Beast elements (and some Bluebeard as well), although it’s mostly a historical fiction about the Breton struggle to remain independent from France. It’s the middle book in a trilogy, and I don’t think there’s any obvious fairy tale tie-ins for the 1st or 3rd books, but it’s an enjoyable story.

    As far as other fairy tales go, I’m also partial to Briar Rose by Jane Yolen, and Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan. That second one’s about selkies, so it’s less a fairy tale in the grimm brothers sense, and more a story about fairy creatures. She also wrote Tender Morsels, which retells Snow White, Rose Red, but I liked Rollrock more.

    There was a 12 Dancing Princesses retelling that I was trying to track down, and in the process I found some good lists of fairy tale retellings. I didn’t find the book I was trying to remember, but I found a roaring 20’s retelling that looks interesting – The Girls at the Kingfisher Club, by Genevieve Valentine.

    The lists mentioned Crazy Beautiful by Lauren Baratz-Logsted, The Hollow Kingdom by Clare B. Dunkle, Stung by Bethany Wiggins, Spirited by Nancy Holder, and Roses by G.R. Mannering as some other Beauty and the Beast stories, although I haven’t read any of those.

  8. elaine t

    i put SUNSHINE far above ROSE DAUGHTER for a second McKinley Beauty. i hated the end of RD.

    i can’t think of any I’ve read that I’d recommend that aren’t already listed. The Napoli retelling have left me cold, although I really liked early work of hers. The HOLLOW KINGDOM is probably a B&B retelling, mostly in the first book of the trilogy.

    Yes on theHOB’s BARGAIN as Beauty & the Beast.

    Surely Jane Yolen has written one? Why can’t I think of it?
    FOREST OF SERRE by McKillip has shades of the tale.

    Sarah Z what was the 12 Dancing Princess retelling? I keep running across them.

  9. SarahZ

    Elaine, I couldn’t find the one I was thinking of (it predates when I started tracking my books on goodreads, and I can’t remember enough of what makes it different from all these other books), but the other ones I found in trying to find it were:

    Entwined by Heather Dixon
    The Phoenix Dance by Dia Calhoun
    The Night Dance by Suzanne Weyn
    Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George
    Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier
    The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine
    Dance ‘Til Dawn by Genevieve J. Griffin
    The Thirteenth Princess by Diane Zahler
    (plus the Princess Curse by Marie Haskell, mentioned above – love that one)

  10. Cheryl L

    The final story in Tanith Lee’s fairy tale collection RED AS BLOOD is “Beauty” – a science fictional retelling of Beauty and the Beast.

  11. Aimee

    Scarlet: I liked Cinder, but I feel like the whole series really picked up steam for me with Scarlet. As mentioned above, I think it is supposed to be Little Red Riding Hood, but it certainly has tones of Beauty and the Beast. I am so excited for the final book!

    The Hollow Kingdom: I guess this could be Beauty and the Beast, but I always found it more Princess and the Goblins. I really like this one, up until the end, which feels a little tacked on. But, definitely worth a read. (And Jenny Sterlin does an amazing audio version!)

    Dark Triumph: Yes. Trigger-warning and dark, but it’s also really good.

  12. Rachel

    Elaine, it didn’t really occur to me to consider SUNSHINE a Beauty and the Beast kind of story. I’m not sure I can see it that way.

    I’ve seen THE HOLLOW KINGDOM on Beauty and the Beast lists, and I kind of see why, but I don’t really think it fits the story all that well. Also, though I really enjoyed reading it, I thought that one of the underlying messages of the story were not so great. It’s perfectly okay to kidnap girls, they’ll be grateful for it later; it’s okay to maintain your species via forced marriages and, not to put to fine a point on it, rape. Very iffy. The story itself is a lot of fun, but still.

    SarahZ, thanks, that’s a useful list. WILDWOOD DANCING was not even close to my favorite 12 Dancing Princesses story. Actually, I liked McKinley’s novella best for a straight retelling. And THE PRINCESS CURSE. I’ve heard very good things about THE GIRLS AT THE KINGFISHER CLUB.

    Cheryl, I have RED AS BLOOD around here somewhere, I think. I should re-read that story.

    Aimee, I really need to go one with CINDER cause now I’m definitely looking forward to SCARLET. With that cape on the cover, I can definitely see it ought to be drawing on Little Red Riding Hood.

  13. Elaine T

    Sarah, the only 12 Dancing princesses retelling (that might be what you’re looking for) I’ve read that you’ve not listed was by Kelly Link, and I think the title was GIRL DETECTIVE, and it wasn’t a novel.
    There’s one more that I just read and it’s just out so it’s probably not what you want, and it doesnt’ have 12 princesses, just one and her ladies affected by the curse: L. Shelby’s PAVANE IN PEARL & EMERALD. (narrated by the impoverished nobleman scraping by in cunning fashions including running a school for ambitious girls and cadging meals without appearing to, set in a vaguely African tropical culture). And the curse wasn’t meant maliciously…

    My favorite retelling is McKinley’s novella, too.

    SUNSHINE doesn’t jump out and scream at the reader about being a Beauty and the Beast, but after I read it, it occurred to me that it fit with Sunny’s relationship with Con.

  14. SarahZ

    Elaine, I’m just resigned to not figuring that one out :) All I can remember is that all the princesses were named after flowers and it’s from the perspective of the soldier, but I don’t think any of that is unique enough.

  15. Elaine T

    Sarah, there are two I’m aware of with princesses named for flowers, ENTWINED and PRINCESS OF THE MIDNIGHT BALL and the second is narrated or in the POV of the soldier. Are you sure it’s not that one? Princess Rose was the one he ended up with (Teen says she was eldest). Another sister was Pansy.

    ENTWINED is narrated by the eldest, Azalea, which knocks that version out of the running.

  16. SarahZ

    Maybe I’ll check that one again – I know it’s not entwined, but could be I had the answer all along :)

  17. Meghan

    I loved A Court of Thorns and Roses! It starts out as a retelling of beauty and the beast, but transforms to a fight against evil+ the unbeastifying of Tamlin. It is a great book, one of my favorites!

  18. Rachel

    Meghan, that does sound really good. I should kick back some month and read ALL the Beauty retellings …

  19. Sally

    I am currently obsessed with Depravity: A Beauty and the Beast Novel (A Beastly Tale Book 1) by MJ Haag – This is a 3 part series. I have read the first two and just love this!

    Also a beautiful gem I recently found is called Entreat Me by Grace Draven. I just fell in love with this Beauty and the Beast retelling. I don’t know if I will ever read something that tops it.

  20. Rachel

    Sally, thanks for the pointers! I will definitely look up Entreat Me. You make it sound like one I have to try!

  21. Ashley

    Beauty and the Beast has been my favorite fairy tale for a long time. And Beauty by Robin McKinley is my all-time favorite book ever.
    I don’t know if you have read Scarlet yet but it is really good, the entire series is great actually. And Cruel Beauty is also on my to-read list right now.

    I’ve read Beastly and Belle and I actually found them both to be okay. Beastly is a bit too modern for me -I prefer fantasy settings for my fairy tales. As for Belle, I actually prefer Dokey’s retellings of Cinderella (Before Midnight) and Mulan (Wild Orchid; this one makes me bawl like a baby) over Belle. Reading it, I just felt like she was trying to hard to copy McKinley’s version, and you can really see it in places.

    I don’t know if you’ve heard of this one but Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George is a really good story, it’s a retelling of the Norwegian tale East of the Sun, West of the Moon, which is a variant of the Beauty and the Beast tale. East by Edith Pattou is another version of the same tale.

  22. Rachel

    I haven’t read Scarlet, but I really want to! I have read the Jessica Day George story, and I agree. It’s a good retelling of a less common fairy tale. I hadn’t heard of the Mulan retelling by Dokey and I think I want to look that up. Though now I’m curious about Belle and whether I’d also see powerful echos of Beauty.

  23. Ashley

    Dokey mentions McKinley’s version in as inspiration in an authors note, which may have led to me closely comparing the two. Belle is definitely its own unique version, but I could see where she borrowed some things. It’s still definitely worth a read.

  24. Rachel

    Thanks — I’ll certainly take a look at it. One day I need to settle down and read ALL the Beauty and the Beast stories one after another. That would be a really interesting experience, I’m sure!

  25. Jackie

    You need to read Heart’s Blood. It is my favorite Marillier story so far, and that’s not just because I love Beauty and the Beast. As always, her prose is astounding.

  26. Ivy Alsept

    My favorite retelling is East by Edith Pattou. It is set in the northern arctic regions and the beast is a polar bear! I would recommend this book to anyone who loves retellings of beauty and the beast.

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