Marissa Meyer’s The Lunar Chronicles are action-packed sci-fi retellings of some of our favorite classic tales, including Cinderella (Cinder), Little Red Riding Hood (Scarlet), Rapunzel (Cress), and Snow White (Winter). Our princess isn’t a delicate lady locked in a tower, but a cyborg and a gifted mechanic on the streets of “New Beijing.” If you’re looking for similarly engaging reads with fierce heroines, villainous monarchs, and swoony romance, look no further than this list of YA fairytale retellings and sci-fi adventures.
1. A Curse So Dark and Lonely, by Brigid Kemmerer
In this imaginative Beauty and the Beast retelling, Harper is a normal girl from Washington D.C. pulled into a magical world to break the curse haunting Prince Rhen and his kingdom. Rhen is trapped in the eternally repeating autumn of his eighteenth year. Every season, he attempts to woo a young lady to fall in love with him before he transforms into a deadly beast. Unfortunately for him, Harper is certainly not the type of girl who will fall at the prince’s feet, but she might be Rhen’s last chance to save himself and his kingdom. Like Cinder and her sometimes ill-fitting cyborg parts, Harper, too, faces a physical impediment but won’t let it stand in her way. Brigid Kemmerer gives us a slow-burn romance between a capable heroine and a boy who’s all but lost hope.
2. Stitching Snow, by R.C. Lewis
Essie lives a quiet life on the cold planet of Thanda where she is a mechanic for the seven drones that work in the local mines. When a young man crash-lands on her planet, she reluctantly agrees to help him repair his ship. But crossing paths with Dane unwittingly pulls Essie into an interplanetary war and the frenzied search for the missing Princess Snow. Though there are certainly similarities to Marissa Meyer’s Cinder (teen mechanic with a secretive past), this futuristic YA sci-fi story is an original spin on Snow White. Stitching Snow is an entertaining thrill ride as Essie evades an evil queen, travels through space, and falls in love.
3. These Broken Stars, by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
When their luxury spaceliner crashes into the nearest planet, only Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen survive. As the daughter of the richest man in the universe, Lilac is a bit of a snob, and she and the young war hero could not be more different. But all they’ve got is each other, so they must team up to traverse the deserted planet in search of help. While These Broken Stars is not a fairytale retelling, it’s a sci-fi space adventure that calls to mind the Lunar colony in The Lunar Chronicles. Lilac and Tarver’s story mirrors that of Cress and Thorn’s journey through the desert. Unlike Cress, however, Lilac is not harboring feelings for her companion. Rather, it’s a snarky enemies-to-lovers romance as these two survivors come to know one another and uncover the truth behind their circumstances.
4. Princess of Thorns, by Stacey Jay
Princess Aurora is the daughter of “Sleeping Beauty” and rightful heir to her mother’s throne. But a villainous ogre queen has stolen the throne and holds her brother captive, and Aurora will do anything to save him. Disguised as a boy, she partners with the cursed Prince Niklaas to embark on a dangerous rescue mission. The two form a close friendship even as Niklaas thinks she is merely “Ror,” and believes they are in search of the princess. Stacey Jay gives us a fast-paced fantasy adventure with a fresh twist on the Sleeping Beauty tale, and readers will also appreciate the nods to other fairy tales.
5. The Wrath and the Dawn, by Renee Ahdieh
The caliph takes a new bride each night and has her killed at dawn. When Shahrzad’s closest friend becomes one of his victims, she vows to take vengeance and to put a stop to the serial murders. Shazi volunteers to be the caliph’s new bride, with a clever plan to tell him stories each night so she’ll live to see the dawn of a new day. But Khalid is not the murderous madman Shazi thought he would be, and he stirs something in her heart, even as she seeks an opportunity to kill him. With her beautiful prose, Renee Ahdieh weaves a sensuous, suspenseful retelling of the Arabic folklore A Thousand and One Nights. Like Scarlet in The Lunar Chronicles, Shazi is a sharp, brave woman who finds herself falling for the dangerous “bad boy” even as she seeks to unravel his mysteries.
6. Red Queen, by Victoria Aveyard
Mare Barrow is a “Red,” a commoner with blood that runs red rather than silver. When powers she shouldn’t have manifest during a highly public event at the Silver Palace, the royal family must save face by passing Mare off as one of their own—a long-lost Silver princess. Trapped at the palace in an engagement to the younger prince, Mare agrees to spy for the Red Guard, a rebel group working to overthrow the Silver elite and restore equality. In Red Queen, the Silvers are like Lunars, with an attitude of disdain for those who do not share their silver blood or possess unique powers. Victoria Aveyard gives us a YA dystopian fantasy with everything we loved about The Lunar Chronicles—a bold heroine, political intrigue, rebellion, and romance.
7. Scarlet, by A.C. Gaughen
In this gender-bent Robin Hood retelling, Robin’s friend “Will Scarlet” is a young girl in disguise. Scarlet is a member of Robin Hood’s close band of thieves, stealing from the rich to give to the poor in the city of Nottingham. When Lord Gisbourne arrives to hunt down Robin and his men, Scarlet fears being exposed. She is an impulsive yet talented pickpocket who is perfectly capable of holding her own but is sometimes clueless when it comes to her own romantic feelings. This is an entertaining story of bravery, friendship, and loyalty. Scarlet, Robin, and Robin’s “Merry Men” have a bond like Cinder and the gang in The Lunar Chronicles.
8. Cruel Beauty, by Rosamund Hodge
On Nyx’s seventeenth birthday, she must marry the evil ruler of her kingdom, thanks to a foolish bargain struck by her father before she was born. She resents her family for her fate, but she has a plan. She will marry the ruler, seduce him, and break her kingdom’s curse. Things change when Nyx finds that, despite herself, she’s falling for her new husband. Cruel Beauty is another Beauty and the Beast retelling featuring a cursed kingdom and a reluctant romance. Readers who loved the push and pull between Cinder and Prince Kai will appreciate the banter and romantic tension between Nyx and Ignifex.
9. Throne of Glass, by Sarah J. Maas
Teenage assassin Celaena Sardothien is chosen by the Crown Prince to be his “Champion” in his father’s competition. If she beats out her competitors, dangerous thugs, and criminals twice her age, she will serve as the King of Adarlan’s royal assassin and earn her freedom. But someone—or something—is murdering the contestants, and it reeks of dark magic. Loosely based on Cinderella, Throne of Glass nods to the classic fairytale but spins a new story of survival, redemption, and romance. Celaena is an unforgettable heroine, both fierce and feminine, with a dangerous secret and a score to settle with the crooked king.
10. Fairest, by Marissa Meyer
Fans of The Lunar Chronicles may not know that Marissa Meyer wrote a prequel of sorts as a “bridge” book between Cress and Winter. Fairest shares the backstory of Queen Levana, the villainous Lunar queen who hides behind her “glamour” and is determined to steal Cinder’s crown. The book begins with the murder of Levana’s parents, and her subsequent childhood and teen years at the mercy of her selfish and cruel older sister Channery. By exploring Levana’s worldview and her obsession with beauty, Meyer manages to make the future queen sympathetic to readers. Fairest is a richly woven tale that provides context to an already engrossing series. Not to be missed!