22 Audiobooks Inspired by Fairy Tales and Mythology

Rewrites and adaptations that subvert the familiar have long been popular—who can argue with universal appeal? These 22 titles have all been inspired by fairy tales and mythology.

For the latest audio roundup, we turn to titles inspired by fairy tales and mythology, each published in 2022. Rewriting, adapting, subverting the familiar has long been a popular literary trope—who can argue with universal appeal? Cinderella, especially, continues to be an evergreen favorite, appearing in multiple stories, often in surprising permutations. Read (and listen) on!


Early Elementary

Owens, Zibby. Princess Charming. 5 min. Listening Library. Apr. 2022. $22. ISBN 9780593503805.
PreS-Gr 2–Owens’s third book is also her third narrator credit, as well as her debut for children. She relies on a delightfully playful twist channeling one of the world’s most familiar fairy tales, cleverly revealed in the final three words (no spoilers). “Being a princess isn’t always easy,” the young royal laments, unable to achieve the expected “perfect.” “I try my best, but I just can’t seem to find my thing”: cartwheels, cooking, hip-hopping, and singing each prove disastrous. But find her thing she does, by helping someone else find her missing thing. Owens energetically imbues the tenacious princess with plenty of attitude and spunk. VERDICT For reading-enablers intending to combine mediums, the audio edition is the stronger choice over printed. While diverse representation was clearly prioritized on the illustrated pages, the obvious whiteness of the royal family reads like an uncomfortable misstep.

Wong-Kalu, Hinaleimoana, Dean ­Hamer & Joe Wilson. Kapaemahu. 24 min. Listening Library. Jun. 2022. $22. ISBN 9780593605936.
Gr 2-5–A solemn drumbeat welcomes listeners to discover the Kapaemahu, four ancient Tahitian healers of Hawaii. Neither male nor female, “they were mahu—a mixture of both in mind, heart, and spirit.” The people built a monument in gratitude, but the “four great boulders” were eventually lost to U.S. colonialism and destructive tourism. When the stones were recovered, their crucial provenance was erased. This book gorgeously reclaims the monument’s origins. Native Hawaiian Wong-Kalu, who is also mahu, reverently embodies the bilingual text, fluently narrating between Olelo Niihau and English over a richly enhancing background soundtrack. Olelo Niihau, she explains, is “the only uninterrupted form of Hawaiian in continuous communal use since prior to the arrival of foreigners.” Also appended is a glossary and, surprisingly, well-deserved credit ­citation for “music and sound effects by Kanaka Pakipika.” VERDICT Every library should consider creating or augmenting sparse ­Pacific Islander collections with this work.


Middle Grade

Bilan, Jasbinder. Tamarind & the Star of Ishta. 4:22 hrs. Scholastic Audio. Jun. 2022. Audio $74.99. ISBN 9781338809169.
Gr 3-7–British actor Seema Bowri makes her narrating debut, her crisp, youthful voice an ideal match for 11-year-old Tamarind, a Bristol, England-raised girl meeting her late mother’s family for the first time. Her father, recently remarried and on his way to his honeymoon, arranges to leave Tamarind in the Himalayan mansion her mother once called home. Tamarind’s initial nervousness is quickly eased by the palpable welcome, especially from her grandmother and nine-year-old cousin Arjun. She might have even made a new friend in the sprawling, overgrown gardens. While Tamarind yearns to learn more about her mother, no one seems willing to share any memories. From mythical cities to the ancient goddess Ishtar, Bilan seamlessly infuses her sophomore middle grade novel with just enough mayhem and magic. VERDICT Bowri warmly enhances Tamarind’s quest for answers and understanding.

Cohen, Emi Watanabe. The Lost Ryū. 4:48 hrs. Recorded Books. Jun. 2022. $12.99. ISBN 9781705066119.
Gr 3-7–A sigh of relief is almost immediate as Kurt Kanazawa effortlessly pronounces “ryū”—with exacting attention to that diacritical—then “Hiroshima” just so. The Julliard-trained actor displays his Japanese fluency, adroitly enhancing Cohen’s ­poignant first novel in which dragons—the titular ry ryū—are bonded companions to people. In 1960s Japan, all the large ry ryū have disappeared since WWII; young Kohei’s own ry ryū is tiny Yuharu. Kohei lives with his widowed mother and acerbic grandfather—Ojiisan—whose explosive anger might be tamed with a large western ry ryū by his side. When a Jewish Japanese American family arrives as tenant neighbors, Kohei’s initial introduction to their daughter Isolde is marred by his disappointment that Isolde’s American ry ryū is too small to help Ojiisan. Friendship grows quickly, however, and the two hatch a plot hoping to lessen Ojiisan’s suffering. VERDICT Kanazawa guarantees Cohen a magnificent audio debut.

Cypess, Leah. Glass Slippers. 5:39 hrs. (Sisters Ever After: Bk. 2). Listening Library. Apr. 2022. $45. ISBN 9780593510353.
Gr 4-7–Any mention of glass slippers instantly conjures Cinderella. Here she’s Queen Ella, married six years to now-King Ciaran with two young royals of their own. Her two evil stepsisters were banished, but Ella kept her third stepsister, Tirza, close: “I’d hoped you were too young to have absorbed their hatred. I wanted you to have a chance. I raised you in the castle, as if you were my own daughter,” she insists. Eleven-year-old Tirza knows that’s rather an exaggeration, having been tucked in an out-of-the-way, mice-infested room. When those famous glass slippers disappear, all fingers point to Tirza. Narrator Keylor Leigh spiritedly takes on the task of proving Tirza’s innocence, animatedly embodying characters familiar and new, clearly relishing the sororal showdown. VERDICT Leigh energetically continues the delight of Cypess’s cleverly crafted, girl-power-driven second book (after T­hornwood) of the “Sisters Ever After” series.

Cypess, Leah. Thornwood. 5:42 hrs. (Sisters Ever After: Bk. 1). Listening Library. Apr. 2022. $45. ISBN 9780593510339.
Gr 4-7–Cypess debuted her middle grade “Sisters Ever After” series in 2021 with this enchanting retelling of Sleeping Beauty with maybe a bit of Rumpelstiltskin mixed in. The audiobook follows a year later, releasing simultaneously with the series’ second installment, Glass Slippers. Prolific, versatile Jessica Almasy animates the castle cast, starring Briony, the never-mentioned sister to the soporific beauty “with her gorgeous hair and her lovely eyes blah blah blah.” Such spunky attitude! Move over, ever-famous Rosalin—11-year-old Briony is “going to tell you what really happened.” She’ll prove herself the undisputed hero, fighting evil faeries, unmasking imposters, taking no one for granted, and eventually—of course—rescuing them all. VERDICT Almasy skillfully ensures each of Cypess’s characters gets distinctly heard in a rousing celebration of empowering sisterhood.

Mandanna, Sangu. Kiki Kallira Conquers a Curse. 6:33 hrs. (Kiki Kallira: Bk. 2). Listening Library. May 2022. $56. ISBN 9780593589083.
Gr 4-8–Indian-born British actor Zenia Starr returns to narrate the second volume of Mandanna’s Hindu mythology-inspired series, featuring now 12-year-old Kiki whose artistic prowess can engender whole worlds. To read both titles in order (Kiki debuted in Kiki Kallira Breaks a Kingdom), of course, is best, but Mandanna expertly provides enough background to warrant a standalone adventure. Back in London, Mum doesn’t know yet that Kiki created a magical kingdom (based on Mum’s mythic Indian storytelling!) then saved the universe—until magical Pip pops out of Kiki’s sketchbook. Kiki’s being summoned; destruction looms again. Intertwined with the thrilling exploits are deftly inserted details about confronting and treating mental health challenges. VERDICT While the majority of Starr’s performance provides fast-paced entertainment, certain choices fail; voicing twin sisters while seemingly holding her nose proves to be an especially clumsy misstep.

Pullman, Philip. I Was a Rat! 3:09 hrs. Listening Library. Feb. 2022. $34. ISBN 9780593559277.
Gr 4-7–Pullman’s 1999 fairy-tale-adjacent, murine fable begets a delightful audio adaptation, gloriously dramatized by British actor Robert Glenister, who effortlessly showcases a dazzlingly vast cast. One moonlit night, a little boy in a torn uniform knocks on cobbler Bob and washerwoman Joan’s door announcing, “I was a rat.” The kind, childless couple welcome him, feed him (after teaching him to use a spoon), and name him Roger. Repeated attempts to find Roger’s family fail, making Bob and Joan his de facto parents. But Roger runs away after a school incident, gets trapped in a “freak show,” makes the wrong friends, and lands in prison. Extermination looms until a princess comes to his rescue and he’s finally allowed to go home for good. VERDICT Even as he brilliantly exposes society’s ills, “His Dark Materials” mastermind Pullman effortlessly entertains; Glenister keeps readers thoroughly enchanted throughout.

Randall, Julian. Pilar Ramirez and the ­Escape from Zafa. 7:12 hrs. (Pilar Ramirez Duology: Bk. 1). Listening Library. Mar. 2022. $50. ISBN 9780593555903.
Gr 3-7–Escaping the Dominican Republic’s murderous Trujillo regime is how Randall’s own family arrived in the United States two generations ago. His debut novel seamlessly combines that history—political and personal—with Dominican mythology for his Pilar Ramirez duology (book two publishes February 2023). Dominican American Amanda Alcántara—her Spanish audiobook experience a superb asset here—is an expert cipher channeling all the whip-smart snark of the eponymous 12-year-old Chicagoan filmmaker-in-the-making. Pilar’s intended documentary centers on Mami’s cousin Natasha’s 1957 disappearance—a tragedy no one will talk about. When older sister Lorena alerts Pilar to a sociology professor researching the Trujillo era’s missing persons, Pilar heads to his office, camera in backpack. He’s not there, but Pilar discovers a folder marked with Natasha’s name that becomes a magic portal to Zafa, an enchanted island in need of her daring. VERDICT Alcántara deftly, undeniably boosts Randall’s empowering adventure with empathy and energy.

Soontornvat, Christina. The Last Mapmaker. 7:21 hrs. OrangeSky Audio. Apr. 2022. $21.99. ISBN 9781667068220.
Gr 3-7–Thai American and double Newbery Honoree Soontornvat gets culturally and linguistically matched with Thai-fluent, (self-described) “blended” Asian American (of Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese heritage) Sura Siu for engrossing high-seas exploits in search of mythical lands. For 12-year-old Sai, being Master Mapmaker Paiyoon’s assistant means daily joy in her work and relentless fear of her lowly background being discovered. Joining Paiyoon on a royal voyage to chart southern waters is a dream come true—and not only because she’ll be able to delay her mandated 13th-birthday reveal of her damning lineage. Of course, mutiny wasn’t part of the route. Siu agilely adapts to a myriad of characters, from tenacious Sai, patient Paiyoon, manipulative father Mud, charismatic Miss Rian; she’s especially entertaining as “curse-slinging” stowaway Bo. VERDICT Soontornvat’s fans will surely appreciate access via multiple mediums; Siu assures listeners chills and thrills.

Sutanto, Jesse Q. Theo Tan and the Fox Spirit. 8:34 hrs. Listening Library. May 2022. $63. ISBN 9780593608012.
Gr 3-7–Sutanto makes her middle grade debut with a Chinese and Indian mythology–inspired epic examining identity politics, bullying, capitalist greed, and unblurring the lines of integrity. “I hate that I’m a Chinese American kid who lives in Chinatown,” Theo readily admits. But he’ll have to change his attitude to get into the prestigious “Know Your Roots” summer program—because that’s the only way he’ll figure out how his older brother Jamie died. Sutanto’s chapters alternate between Theo and Kai, Jamie’s beloved spirit fox who’s compelled to become Theo’s begrudgingly cranky sidekick. Just as Theo and Kai are mismatched, so, too, are Caleb Yen as Theo and Kimberley Wong as Kai. Individual performances entertain, but listeners will quickly notice the jarring lack of continuity of characterizations between chapters. VERDICT Fans of B.B. Alston’s missing-older-sibling “Supernatural Investigations” series will appreciate getting to know Theo—albeit likely better on the page.

Zhao, Katie. Winnie Zeng Unleashes a Legend. 7:37 hrs. (Winnie Zeng: Bk. 1). ­Listening Library. Apr. 2022. $50. ISBN 9780593560013.
Gr 3-7–“Middle school. Is there a scarier place on the planet?” 11-year-old Winnie laments. “In books and movies, everything bad happens in middle school.” She’s not wrong, alas. Plenty of scary and worse are about to happen in sixth grade, but good will conquer a lot. Hoping to win a bake sale challenge against her frenemy David, Winnie uses her late grandmother’s cookbook to make mooncakes. Maybe it was that “essence of the moon” ingredient, but Winnie’s pet rabbit insists she’s Lao Lao in spirit, announcing Winnie’s shaman powers are dormant no more. Mythical mayhem ­ensues. Besides surviving sixth grade, Winnie also needs to save the world from evil spirits. VERDICT Annie Q sounds like a youthful, cultural (Chinese American) match for introducing bestselling author Zhao’s new series, but her often overenthusiastic delivery pushes reluctant hero Winnie and her cohorts into farcical realms.

Young Adult

Chee, Traci. A Thousand Steps into Night. 11:50 hrs. HarperAudio. Mar. 2022. $27.99. ISBN 9780358639565.
Gr 6 Up–Grace Rolek, who was part of the audio cast for Chee’s We Are Not Free, makes her solo debut with this rousing Japanese-inspired epic. In fictional Awara, where demons, spirits, magical beings, oh—and humans—all coexist, 17-year-old Miuko is deemed “average by every conceivable standard,” except for being “uncommonly loud.” Out when she shouldn’t be, Miuko gets infected with evil “rot, spreading slowly.” Before she’s consumed by malevolence, she’s got to find the exorcising cure. Chee’s detailed worldbuilding is enhanced with footnotes and pronunciation guides, crucial to Rolek’s effusive narration. Admirably unflagging through exploits and adventures, Rolek is particularly memorable as excitable, unpredictable Geiki, a trickster magpie Miuko once rescued who will return her kindness manyfold—albeit not without well-timed, hilarious snark. VERDICT With Rolek as aural sidekick, Chee triumphs again.

de la Cruz, Melissa. Cinder & Glass. 9:32 hrs. Listening Library. Mar. 2022. $63. ISBN 9780593502556.
Gr 7 Up–Bestselling author de la Cruz remarkably has two 2022 Cinderella adaptations: The Stolen Slippers, introducing not-evil stepsisters, and this, in which “Cendrillon” is a Lady in King Louis XIV’s Versailles Court. So much of de la Cruz’s exceptional retelling—with even a nod to 17th-century French storyteller Charles Perrault—is historically accurate, seamlessly intertwined with a familiar tale made cleverly new. Yes, Cendrillon is orphaned, forced to serve her evil stepmother and stepsisters, loses a shoe fleeing a royal ball, is chosen by the crown prince (the Dauphin here—because it’s French). But de la Cruz is magnificently unpredictable, setting up a 25-way The Bachelor -esque competition, including a gay romance, adding a real-life illegitimate royal. Prolific narrator Lauren Ezzo is an ideal complement, smoothly manifesting vivacious (sometimes resigned) Cendrillon, cunning Lady Catherine, spoiled Severine, nervous Alexandre, loyal Elodie, besotted Auguste. VERDICT A perfectly matched pair deliver a rewarding happily ever after.

Falaye, Deborah. Blood Scion. 15:26 hrs. HarperAudio. Mar. 2022. $31.99. ISBN 9780063220812.
Gr 8 Up–Nigerian Canadian author Falaye’s Yoruban mythology–inspired debut (introducing a planned duology) presents Nagea, a nation brutalized by the genocidal Lucis. Only her grandfather has managed to keep 15-year-old Sloane safe, until she’s drafted into the army. Being a Scion—“a descendent of the ancient Orisha gods”—Sloane is imbued with àse, the power of fire; the Scion are the prey of the Lucis. Hiding in plain sight, Sloane survives the murderous training that turns her monstrous, but the (rushed) shocking ending revelations will question at what personal cost. Nigerian American actor Liz Femi’s first solo narration is a 15-plus hour endurance feat of distinguishing voices from a vast cast, some more successfully: sharp Sloane, desperate Teo, sly Malachi, strengthening Izara, booming Theodus. Femi deftly slips in and out of various accents, making Lucis in power American, vicious Queen Olympia posh British. VERDICT Femi ­shrewdly enhances Falaye’s underlying ­exposé of ­colonialism, genocide, and eternal war.

Huerta, Lizz. The Lost Dreamer. 10:52 hrs. (The Lost Dreamer: Bk. 1). Macmillan Young Listeners. Mar. 2022. $26.99. ISBN 9781250815934.
Gr 8 Up–Huerta introduces a planned ­duology inspired by Mesoamerican myths, in which she alternates narratives with ­connections revealed near book’s end. Indir is a Dreamer in a family of multigenerational Dreamers whose visions serve Alcanzeh’s kings. The newest monarch openly disdains the Dreamers, causing imbalance in the Waking World. When Indir loses her ability to dream, she faces banishment to survive. Elsewhere, young Saya has always been manipulated by her mother in the name of safety. Separation from Celay may be the only way Saya can understand her growing powers. Elisa Melendez and Inés del Castillo take turns, respectively, as Indir and Saya. Debut narrator Melendez is the weaker half, her performance marred by noticeable, sometimes gasping, nose breathing. Del ­Castillo, more practiced with dozens of credits, deftly manifests Saya with curiosity, frustration, and hope. VERDICT Impatient historical fantasy purists might want to choose the page.

Kutub, Naz. The Loophole. 7:13 hrs. Bloomsbury. Jun. 2022. ISBN 9781547611638.
Gr 7 Up–Kutub commingles the preposterous and poignant, heightened with myths of lost love. Shawn K. Jain is a sensitive cipher, opening with Kutub’s author’s note that includes content warnings about abuse and expulsion, both of which happen to Sy, the 17-year-old Muslim Indian gay son of a homophobic father. Sy’s still mourning beloved Farouk’s abandonment. Enter—rather, crash into the coffee shop window—Reggie, who, in exchange for a kind lending hand, offers Sy three wishes. A million-dollar deposit and an egg sandwich later, Sy’s en route toward his true love. Jain’s focus is, of course, Sy, but he’s equally affecting as Sy’s smothering mother, sarcastic sister, and especially capricious Reggie. He affectingly shifts tone and cadence for Hamza and Delima’s nested tale; Orpheus and Eurydice also make brief appearances. VERDICT Kutub’s debut occasionally turns bewildering with excessive narrative prongs, but Jain adroitly guides readers through.

Lukens, F.T. So This Is Ever After. 9:33 hrs. S. & S. Audio. Mar. 2022. $19.99. ISBN 9781797136479.
Gr 8 Up–Inimitable Kevin R. Free returns for another happily ever after match with bestselling author Lukens. As the story begins, the hardest part is over—right? Arek and his BFFs have beheaded the Vile One, saving the realm of Chickpea. Until the rightful heir is restored, Arek agrees to assume the throne—temporarily. Except the princess was trapped in the tower so long that she’s...dead. Not only must Arek rule, but unless he finds a soulmate by his 18th birthday, he’ll fade away. Literally. His wooing efforts all misfire—even as his one true love is right there by his side. Free effervescently voices the motley crew—King Arek, mage Matt, fae Lila, bard Bethany, warrior Sionna, knight Rion—but he bestows his finest performance on Harlow, the dignified (disdaining) steward of the castle. VERDICT Even when the narrative occasionally drags, Free advances with irresistible glee.

Oh, Axie. The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea. 8:50 hrs. Dreamscape Audio. Feb. 2022. $17.99. ISBN 9781666526219.
Gr 7 Up–Oh adapts the traditional Korean “Tale of Shim Cheong” as the basis of her latest novel, her first foray into exploring folklore. Her unique version features 16-year-old Mina who, unwilling to watch her adored older brother lose his beloved Shim Cheong, replaces herself as the sacrificial bride of the Sea God. Waking in the Spirit Realm, Mina must reunite with her lost soul while figuring out how to save her earthly people. In combining historical folklore, magical elements, and fantastic creatures, Oh invents her own affecting myths. Spanish Korean actor Rosa Escoda makes her YA debut with energetic aplomb. Persuasively dynamic characterizations aside, however, Escoda has a noticeable speech impediment that could alienate impatient listeners. VERDICT The choosiest audiences might turn to the page to enjoy Oh’s girl-power adventure.

Older, Daniel José. Ballad & Dagger. 11:41 hrs. (Outlaw Saints: Bk. 1). Disney-Hyperion. May 2022. $29.99. ISBN 9781368082440.
Gr 7 Up–Lee Osorio bestows Older’s newest series with an outstanding first volume—hopefully signaling further perfectly tuned duets. Once upon a time, the Caribbean island of San Madrigal was home to “that particularly wonderful mix of humanity...Sefaradim, Santeros, and pirates” as well as Indigenous peoples, European Jews, and freed West Africans. But the island sunk during a hurricane, scattering its inhabitants to Brooklyn. Fifteen years later, high school junior and piano prodigy Mateo lives with two aunts (one corporeal, the other ghostly). His musical dreams get suddenly waylaid when, according to prophecy, he’s identified as one of “three initiated, fully awakened children of the original spirits” and the trio—when found—will raise and restore Madrigal. Alas, the vicious detractors can’t agree. VERDICT Osorio is a powerhouse of diverse voices—good, bad, desperate, vile—amplified by his Latinx fluency.

Pan, Emily X.R. An Arrow to the Moon. 8:24 hrs. Hachette Audio. Apr. 2022. $22.98. ISBN 9781549184246.
Gr 9 Up–Pan melds east and west in a hybrid fantasy/reality novel inspired by two sets of star-crossed lovers: China’s Houyi and Chang’e (the Archer and the Moon Goddess) and Romeo and Juliet. In 1991, Hunter Yee and Luna Chang are 17-year-old seniors at Fairbridge High. Both are children of Taiwanese immigrants, their families hiding a vitriolic rivalry unknown to the teens as sparks fly. Both families have elevated expectations: Hunter’s unforgivably expect perfection; Luna’s (just) presume Stanford. Love isn’t allowed. Secrets revealed will explain—but also devastate. The unbalanced cast take uneven turns: Natalie Naudus as Luna is too often overwrought, Shawn K. Jain as Hunter is more convincing, David Shih ­reliably moonlights as parents and strangers. VERDICT Following the bestselling success of Pan’s The ­Astonishing Color of After debut, demand will be high for her sophomore ­effort. ­Libraries will want ­multiple formats.

Salvatore, Steven. And They Lived... 10:04 hrs. Bloomsbury. Mar. 2022. $21.99. ISBN 9781547610273.
Gr 10 Up–From Salvatore’s warm dedication onward, Kirt Graves ignites the pages with kaleidoscopic talent and charm, fulfilling his self-described “passion...for telling queer stories, the types of stories he wishes he had while growing up.” Animation major Chase arrives at art college with dreams of falling in love. His initial baggage is heavy: body dysmorphia, an abusive father, a traitorous ex-best friend. But his new roommate Benny couldn’t be more supportive (or Graves more splendid), his true BFF is just a campus away, and his animation seminar promises achievable rewards. And then there’s “we’re not sure he’s even gay-adjacent” Jack. VERDICT Salvatore knows how to tell an empowering story. Graves embellishes with indispensable sparkle.

Terry Hong was Library Journal’s 2016 Reviewer of the Year for Fiction and Audio. Follow her blog, Smithsonian BookDragon, and on Twitter @SIBookDragon.

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