Top 5 Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by Bionic Bookworm. When I saw my friend Rachel at pace, amore, libri doing it, it looked like fun, so I decided to do it too, especially given this month’s Top 5 Wednesday topics are…not doing it for me.
Anyway, what I’ve discovered from this is I apparently don’t read a lot of retellings! I’m not sure why, as I quite like them. Let me know in the comments if there are any retellings you are fond of; I’m always on the lookout for Hades/Persephone retellings in particular, but I’m open to all.
Dreams of Shreds and Tatters by Amanda Downum
The original: The King in Yellow by Robert Chambers
I hesitate to call this a retelling. The King in Yellow is a book of creepy short stories that were actually a precursor to Lovecraft’s Cthulu mythos; Lovecraft makes references to the stories in his own work. Downum’s work sort of…borrows that world for her own story rather than retelling any particular Chambers tale. The important thing, though, is that she manages to capture just how fucking creepy the mythos of Carcos and the King in Yellow are. It’s atmospheric and hella weird, and a great modern adaptation of this strange mythos.
Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
The original: Beauty and the Beast
I don’t know why I thought this was a Bluebeard retelling. Though, I suppose, the two are rather similar. Cruel Beauty’s strength is in its two main protagonists rather than its world-building (which is weak and derivative and confounding); Nyx and Ignifex. Nyx (Beauty) is bitter and selfish and I love female characters who are unlikeable. Ignifex is dark and witty and charming and rakish. Their interactions are delightful. The book reads like a fairy tale, so not everything always makes perfect sense, but it’s a treat.
The Kiesha’ra by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes
The original: Romeo and Juliet
I only learned this was based on Romeo and Juliet very, very recently. I would say this is an extremely loose retelling, with only the first two books really having much to do with the Shakespeare play. This was one of my favorite series as a teen; I read it over ten times (though I suspect it wouldn’t hold up as well if I re-read it now). It tells the story of Zane and Danica, who come from two opposing shape-shifting species, the serpiente and the avians, who have been at war for as long as anyone can remember. Zane and Danica decide to come together and marry in order to bring peace to their societies and they end up falling in love for real. This is straight-up high fantasy, with fantastic worldbuilding and characters. The third book was also my first experience with a lesbian character, and that was very formative for me as a youngster.
The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
The original: Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, Snow White
These series has received a lot of well-received criticism for its portrayal of Asian cultures. It’s true that its world-building is weak and somewhat nonsensical, but it’s a fun series nonetheless. It gives me “Found Family” vibes and it’s basically one adventure after the other. It’s also a very interesting twist on the original fairytales; the world of the Lunar Chronicles is a dystopia with cyborgs. In fact, Cinder, one of the protagonists, is part-cyborg herself, which is a super intriguing twist on the Cinderella story! I have yet to read Winter, the final book in this series, but it’s waiting for me on my Kindle.
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
The original: The Iliad
I have to mention The Song of Achilles, even though I don’t think I loved it as much as most people did, nor am I familiar with the source material. Still, this book deserves mentioning for the beautiful, loving relationship between Achilles and Patroclus and its lovely prose. I hadn’t expected to enjoy this book when I first picked it up, but I was really pleasantly surprised that it kept me hooked. It also featured some really entertaining side characters; I really hope Madeline Miller writes about Odysseus at some point, because his snark was hilarious.