Updated: Dec 20, 2021
The "genre" of Fairytale Twists is not often labeled that (a genre). More often than not, it is actually labeled a "subgenre." According to Google, the main "genres" of fiction are crime, fantasy, historical fiction, science fiction, western, inspirational, and romance. Within each of these genres, of course, there are subgenres. For example, within historical fiction, you might find the "traditional" historical fiction which is true to history, you might find time travel (which might also fit under sci-fi), you might find a plot that stretches across multiple time periods (such as the story of an object told across the periods of time), or you might find an action, mystery, thriller, or romance set in history. Within romance, you may find erotica, realistic fiction, and more. Within fantasy, there is high and low fantasy (set in the real world v. in its own world), magical realism (magic is accepted as a normal part of the world), sword and sorcery (sword fighting and sorcery is a focus of the story), and superhero fiction. There are so many genres and subgenres.
And they can mix and match.
You might see fantasy with romance, historical fiction with magic, a crime solved in space, etc. Or you might see the subgenres usually found in one genre or the other (ex. magical realism with fantasy) found in another genre altogether.
This is something that often happens with fairytale twists. In general, fairytales and fables are something you might find set in the fantasy genre. However, often (and even more so recently) fairytale twists are being set in other genres entirely. Fairytale twists are narratives that take the stories we all know and love (and some we don't know that well like tales from non-Western cultures) and twist them. Sometimes they're made darker. Sometimes they're gender-bent. Sometimes they're totally retold. Sometimes they're set in our world. In most of these narratives, authors include certain key details but tell the rest of the story in their own way. They use the original fairytale as a diving board and jump off into the deep end, hoping you, as the reader, will follow.
This, by far, is my favorite genre (or subgenre). I tend to label it as a genre even if it is not so. I absolutely love these books (if I didn't, I suppose I wouldn't be writing my own fairytale twist series, would I?). I have a few shelves dedicated entirely to fairytale twists whether they be Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, the Arthurian Legends, Alice in Wonderland, or Wizard of Oz (many of these classic books and legends are also twisted and fit in this subgenre as well). I have read fairytale twists in realistic fiction, romance, science fiction, and many in fantasy and I have many that I love. But below are some of my favorites which I would recommend to anyone inquiring after this subgenre.
The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
The Lunar Chronicles is my absolute favorite series... ever. I first got put onto it by accident. I do not generally read Science Fiction novels (which these are) and though I had heard of the books before, I hadn't ever picked them up to read. Until the family was going on vacation and I needed something to read. The family rule at the time was get good grades and Mum and Dad would buy you a book (great deal right?!?) so I had a "free book" in my back pocket but didn't have the time to use it. My siblings were going to Barnes and Noble after they finished school but I finished later than they did. Thankfully (Emily to the rescue) my sister offered to choose something for me. And thankfully, I decided to trust her to do so. She chose Cinder.
On the trip, I read the entire book front to back super fast. If I had owned the next book (Scarlet) I might have read that as well. Emily was sick the entire trip and I locked myself in the bedroom and read most of the trip.
I bought the next books as soon as I could (including pre-ordering Winter and Stars Above since they were not out yet) once I got home, though. I loved Cinder and have loved the series ever since. In fact, I actually really enjoy Marissa Meyer's writing. She is a wizard of words and while The Lunar Chronicles will always be my favorite, I generally pre-order her books the summer before they come out in November (I wait until the pre-order gift is offered) and that is really saying something since there is a really small list of books I am willing to pay full price for.
But she has never made anything as good as this series before. The characters are incredible. I fell for them on the spot. The plot is amazing (though Scarlet can be a little slow at times), the fairytales are twisted into the story so marvelously you find new places she did so every time you read back through and the writing is so excellent that as I read, knowing what is coming around the bend, I still cross my fingers and hope it won't happen. Marissa Meyer has created such an excellent world, such an excellent plot, and such excellent characters that I just never want to leave them behind. I highly recommend you read these books. (and then just read everything else by her).
The Land of Stories by Chris Colfer
These books bring such fond memories and warm, happy feelings. Chris Colfer writes these books for a more "middle grade" audience but I have a feeling if I were to read back through them again now I would still enjoy them thoroughly.
I do not remember the first time I read The Land of Stories. It was a long, long time ago. It was prior to the release of the third book in the series (A Grimm Warning) which was released in 2014 just to give you an idea. I do remember a few things about the series that contribute to the warm feelings:
I read through these books with my youngest sister, Holly and they became somewhat of a shared series between us. Between the three of us Mason sisters (Emily, Holly, and I) we own all 6 books but I own only 2 and a few extra books.
I wrote a book report on The Enchantress Returns in middle school. It was an awesome newspaper-type assignment and it was super fun. I still have it somewhere in a binder of all the writing I have collected over the years. I did really well on it. Even as a middle-schooler.
The Criminal has a lot of inspiration from this story. Even though I haven't read it in years, I still remember the way that Colfer recognized that "Goldilocks" would be a criminal after having committed those crimes. While my story focuses on Goldilocks and really tells her story (and doesn't have her falling for Jack from "Jack and the Beanstalk), reading his book as a child likely set me on the path to writing my book as I am writing it today. So thank you, Chris Colfer.
The Fairy's Return by Gail Carson Levine
The Fairy's Return is not even close to the only one of Gail Carson Levine's books I love. There was a time when she was my favorite author (after all, there was a time before Cinder). I love Ella Enchanted and Fairest and Ever and Princess Sonora and the Lost Sleep but this book is a collection of a number of shorter tales and I just love it. I think I bought this copy second-hand (after having already read the book a number of times before) and it is not in good health. Since being bought second-hand, it has been read over and over and over again. I hope someday to read it to children and grandchildren over and over and over again.
Levine's tales are less twisted fairytales and more fairytales of her own. It is like she has taken classic fairytales from all around the world and thrown them in a blender. I can imagine her taking bits out of the blender and pairing them with random words (almost like you might find with a writing prompt: "write a story with a spider, a pyramid, and a carrot") then she writes and creates something magical, silly and amazing all rolled into one. And often, they still teach a lesson.
The stories (and her full-sized books as well) are timeless and for all ages. They could be read to children or enjoyed by adults. They are written in a way that is easy to understand for young kids but not boring for adults and they are not too long nor too short. They are just perfect. I love them so much. I would literally suggest this book to anyone.
But get your own copy... because I'm not giving up mine!
Runners up: Cursed (Thomas Wheeler); Dorothy must Die (Danielle Paige); Twisted Tales (Liz Braswell); The Looking Glass Wars (Frank Beddor); Half Upon a Time (James Riley)