Have you noticed that a lot of the YA novels being published these days are retellings of well-known classic fairy tales? Books like “Cinder” by Marissa Meyer, “A Court of Thorns and Roses” by Sarah J. Maas and “The Shadow Queen” by C. J. Redwine are great examples of books that have made it big because of our fondness for fairy tales.
An interesting new subgenre that has recently emerged from this fairy tale trend is Arabian folktale retellings. These stories are set in scorching deserts and are full of brilliant, ancient magic. They’re a breath of fresh air, providing us with a nice reprieve from all of the dystopian fiction that still saturates teen literature.
Intrigued by this small but mighty subgenre? Then check out the books below.
“Rebel of the Sands” by Alwyn Hamilton
Amani is desperate to leave the dead-end town of Dustwalk, and she’s counting on her sharpshooting skills to help her escape. But after she meets Jin, the mysterious rebel running from the Sultan’s army, she unlocks the powerful truth about the desert nation of Miraji…and herself.
This fast-paced novel is a masterful blend of American Western and Arabian myths. Also, the cover is beautiful. I’m a sucker for a well-done book cover!
“The Forbidden Wish” by Jessica Khoury
Forced to hid her true identity, Zahra finds her chance for freedom challenged by her love for her master, Aladdin.
The beautiful, lyric writing will suck you into this romantic novel and even make you ignore the fact that it’s a bit weird for a jinni who is thousands of years old to fall for a teenage boy.
“The Wrath & the Dawn” by Renée Ahdieh
In this reimagining of “The Arabian Nights,” Shahrzad plans to avenge the death of her dearest friend by volunteering to marry the murderous boy-king of Khorasan, but discovers not all is as it seems within the palace.
If you’re a fan of ferocious female characters who have a soft spot for misunderstood fellas, this book is for you! After you’ve read this novel, check out book two, “The Rose & the Dagger.”
“The Star-Touched Queen” by Roshani Chokshi
Treated with scorn and fear in her father’s kingdom because of a formidable horoscope, 16-year-old Maya commits herself to her education only to land in an arranged marriage that culminates in her sudden elevation to the throne, a situation that is threatened by dark secrets and Otherworldly magic.
This is a lovely, deeply mythic novel is about a whip-smart teenage girl who is swept away into a seemingly unfamiliar wold with magic and demons. While it’s a beautiful book, some readers might be put off by the fact that Maya has had many past lives that can, to some, make the romance seem less realistic.
“An Ember in the Ashes” by Sabaa Tahir
Laia is a Scholar living under the iron-fisted rule of the Martial Empire. When her brother is arrested for treason, Laia goes undercover as a slave at the empire’s greatest military academy in exchange for assistance from rebel Scholars who claim that they will help to save her brother from execution.
Okay, so as far as I can tell, this book isn’t technically based off of any folktale or mythology. But it feels like a delightful mix of ancient Rome and “The Arabian Nights,” and it’s one of my favorite books of all time! Trust me, you won’t regret reading “An Ember in the Ashes” or the equally awesome second book, “A Torch Against the Night.”
Spellbound by these sandy stories? Here’s a list I’ve created that includes even more Arabian folktale retellings.