Fairy tales have always fascinated us as children. And why not? These are tales where dragons can be defeated, fruits turn into moving vehicles, and a prince comes to save the day. As we grow older, reality seeps into these tales and we forget the magic these stories used to weave.

This list is for those adults who wish to remember that magic, but with a twist. Filled with guts, death, magical realism, gothic elements and sex, these fairy tales for adults are sure to renew your interest in the age-old tales.


The Sleeper And The Spindle

Neil Gaiman, Chris Riddell (Illus.)

A young queen hears about a nearby kingdom where a princess lies in deep slumber. On the eve of her wedding, the queen sets out to rescue the princess, because why should only princes save damsels? A brilliant retelling of both Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, Neil Gaiman’s dark fairy tale only enchants us further with beautiful illustrations by Chris Riddell. This is a fascinatingly dark retelling of a beloved fairy tale that is sure to appeal to readers who enjoy a little bit of the macabre in the books they pick up.

Buy it here.



Sally Gardner, David Roberts (Illus.)

Though Otto gets injured during a war in 1624, he manages to cheat death. Following this, he comes across a beast who gives him a shoe and a die to guide him through his journey. Destiny intervenes, and he falls in love with the beautiful Safire, whom he must rescue with the help of a tinderbox. During his quest, he meets wolves he can control, the scheming Mistress Jabber and the terrifying Lady of the Nail. But can he overcome the horrors of his journey to get what he truly wants? Based on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Tinderbox and the myth of Prometheus, this dark and terrifying tale will leave you stunned and shocked, especially the ending.

Buy it here.


Let The Right One In

John Ajvide Lindqvist

Oscar is 12, gets frightened easily and is regularly bullied in school. A young Eli moves in next door, and Oscar is instantly smitten. Eli is odd, though, as she only comes out at night. Dead bodies soon start appearing, and Oscar finally starts making a connection between the murders and his eerie crush. Mixing folktale, legends and horrors, John Lindquist’s fiction, also adapted into a film, is simultaneously terrifying and engrossing.

Buy it here.


Poison’s Kiss

Breeana Shields

Marinda is a vishkanya (a poison maiden) who works as a hired killer for the king. One kiss from her can deliver death to his enemies. But when she receives orders to kill Deven, a boy she knows very well, she begins to question her work and the king’s motives. Based on Indian folklore, this tale of deceit, twists and turns by Breeana Shields is an unmissable and engaging debut.

Buy it here.


The Robber Bride

Margaret Atwood

Tony, Charis and Roz are three friends whose lives are ruined by their friend Zenia, a greedy and selfish girl, when she unremorsefully takes their beaux away from them. She has been a consistent villain in their lives, destroying them as they lose their sanity over her. But now Zenia is dead, and everyone is at peace. However, is it really the end of Zenia, or will she come back from the dead to wreak havoc once more? In this retelling of the German fairy tale The Robber Bridegroom, Margaret Atwood’s Zenia is the ultimate villain – the witch who lures men and is utterly shameless in her pursuit to ruin her friends.

Buy it here.  


Witches Abroad

Terry Pratchett

As a fairy godmother, Desiderata had promised her ward, Emberella, that she will not have to marry the Duke. But poor Desiderata dies, leaving Emberella with another fairy godmother, Magrat, who hasn’t figured out how to use her magic wand yet and manages to turn everything into a pumpkin. To save her godchild from another fairy who is hell-bent on forcing a happily-ever-after on Emberella, Magrat, along with her companions, travels to a faraway land and to stop Emberella from attending the ball that will decide her fate. A part of Terry Pratchett’s infamous Discworld, this fairy tale will make your stomach ache with laughter.   

Buy it here.


The Fairy Tales Of Hermann Hesse

Hermann Hesse, Jack Zipes (Tr.)

Translated from German into English for the first time, The Fairy Tales Of Hermann Hesse contain 22 fairy tales from the Nobel Prize-winner. Hermann Hesse’s stories are not stereotypical fairy tales, but involve seekers, poets and princesses. He conveys the artists’ conundrum over perfection and desire for success, evolution of society and theories of nationalism through his tales. His stories ‘compel us to leave home, and inevitably to return; and that harbours the greatest joys and most devastating wounds of our heart’.

Buy it here.


The Night Circus

Erin Morgenstern

A phantasmagorical fairy tale, The Night Circus is a story of magic and true love. Set in Victorian London, a magical circus, Le Cirque des Rêves, is in town. Here, two rival magicians train their protégées to compete in a deadly competition, which will only end when one of them dies. Things get complicated when the protégées fall in love, thus beginning a journey that will change the fate of everyone involved and the circus. The book manages to capture the dreamlike quality of both fairy tales and magic and is one that should be on everyone’s TBR.

Buy it here.


Briar Rose

Jane Yolen

Gemma has grown up listening to the stories of Briar Rose, a.k.a. Sleeping Beauty, from her grandmother. While on her deathbed, her grandmother extracts three promises from Gemma: to find the castle, the prince and the spell-maker. Gemma’s grandmother’s claim that she is Briar Rose sends Gemma on a magical journey that will change her life forever. Set in Nazi Germany, Jane Yolen’s Briar Rose is a retelling of Sleeping Beauty, and is a haunting tale that will stay with you forever.  

Buy it here.


Practical Magic

Alice Hoffman

The people of Massachusetts have blamed the Owens women for everything that went wrong in their town. Two sisters from the Owens family, Gillian and Sally, have had to grow up in this hateful environment, and their aunts’ eccentric ways haven’t made life any easier. All the sisters want to do is escape. One does so by marrying, and the other by running away. But fate, with a little magic, has a way of bringing people together. Alice Hoffman’s Practical Magic is a fairy tale for those adults who are fans of magical realism, murder and mayhem.

Buy it here.


Kissing The Witch

Emma Donoghue

In this collection of 13 of the most wonderful retellings of fairy tales, women, long labelled as either damsels in distress or evil witches, weave their own tales. Cinderella runs off with her fairy godmother instead of the Prince, and Beauty finds out that sometimes a Beast never changes. Emma Donoghue expertly sheds new light on these old stories, giving them unique twists and turns that make for an entertaining yet enlightening reading experience. 

Buy it here.


The Bloody Chamber

Angela Carter

No fairy tale list for adults can be complete without Angela Carter, who is known as the fairy godmother of feminist fairy tales. In this book, young girls are sexually self-aware, and mothers and pets are the champions. The book includes a tale of Sleeping Beauty, where Beauty is a mysterious vampire, and Little Red Riding Hood, where the werewolf is someone within Little Red’s acquaintances. In this collection of short stories, Carter explores the themes of feminism and gothic fiction along with sex, blood and guts to bring us a powerful read.

Buy it here.

Prasanna Sawant

Prasanna Sawant

Prasanna is a human (probably) who makes stuff up for a living. When she's not sleeping or eating, you'll find her in the quietest corner of the library, devouring yet another hardbound book. She vastly prefers the imaginary world to the real one, but grudgingly emerges from her writing cave on occasion. If you do see her, it's best not to approach her before she's had her coffee.

She writes at The Curious Reader. You can read her articles here