Our favourite mythical retellings

Our favourite mythical retellings

Mythical retellings have had a huge surge in popularity over the past couple of years.

Long-forgotten tales shrouded in misogyny were reinvigorated, gifting voices to those history has sought to obscure. Paired with intricate world-building and fantastical storytelling, mythical retellings are the blueprint for the perfectly engrossing read.

In celebration of our upcoming event with Jennifer Saint on the 26th and her soon-to-be-published book, Atalanta, a tale following the only female member of the Argonauts. If you haven't grabbed your tickets yet - what are you waiting for?!

Why not take a look at some of our favourite retellings that have sprung out of this mythical renaissance?

Jennifer Saint - Elektra

It’s only right to have the guest of honour hold the first spot in this list with her 2022 novel Elektra. This is the story of three women, their fates inextricably tied to the curse of The House of Atreus, and the fickle nature of men and gods.

Clytemnestra must watch as Paris takes her sister Helen to Troy, while her husband Agamemnon wages a war to retrieve her.

Cassandra, Princess of Troy, cursed by Apollo to see the future but never to be believed. She is powerless in her knowledge that the city will fall.

Elektra is the youngest daughter of Clytemnestra and Agamemnon, Elektra is horrified by the bloodletting of her kin. But, can she escape the curse, or is her own destiny also bound by violence?

Natalie Haynes - Stone Blind

Longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2023, this mythical retelling follows the unfortunate circumstances leading to the curse of Medusa by a vengeful Poseidon. Doomed to a life of solitude, her loneliness is upended when Perseus decides to undertake a heroic quest.

Make sure to keep an eye out for Natalie Haynes new non-fiction release later this year, Divine Might.

Vaishnavi Patel - Kaikeyi

A Rare Birds Books advent calendar pick, a reimagining of the Indian epic Ramayana, we follow the titular character as she transforms from an oppressed princess into a fierce warrior in order to protect the women of her realm.

Bolu Babalola - Love in Colour

Bolu Babalola reimagines the most beautiful love stories from the history and mythology of West Africa, incorporating Greek myths, ancient legends from the Middle East, and stories from long-erased places.

While decolonizing tropes inherent in our favourite tales of love, Babalola has created captivating stories that traverse across perspectives, continents, and genres.

Claire North - Ithaca

Classical literature is entrenched with the concept of the epic hero - with Odysseus’ 20 year journey being among the most famous.

We’ve heard of the story of Circe (Madeline Miller), one of the countless women left behind in the wake of Odysseus’ quest for glory.

Claire North now gives the spotlight to Odysseus’ wife, Ithaca, who is left behind to raise their son whilst fighting off the hordes of eager suitors insistent on inserting themselves as the new man of her house.

Francine Prose - Cleopatra

Fear not. I'm quite aware that Cleopatra was a real person. However, this text concerns her role as a queen immortalised by the writings of men, Shakespeare, Plutarch, George Bernard Shaw; with history unable to tell her story from her own lips.

Francine Prose interrogates the bias and misogyny of the historians who have sculpted the image of Cleopatra as we know today, to offer us a reimagined account of Cleopatra using ancient Greek and Roman literary sources, as well as modern representations of Cleopatra in art, theatre, and film.

This text challenges the harmful narratives driven by Orientalism and misogyny to offer a new interpretation of Cleopatra's history through the lens of our current era.

Sue Lynn Tan - The Daughter of the Moon Goddess

Inspired by the legend of the Chinese moon goddess, this epic tale follows the journey of a young woman's quest to free her mother, forcing her to confront the most powerful immortal in the realm.

Xinying grew up on the moon. Accustomed to a solitary existence, her world is upended when she finds out the reason she is isolated is because of her mother’s exile for stealing the Emperor’s elixir of immortality.

When the discovery of her magic exposes her existence, she must flee her home and all that she knows, finding safety in the anonymity of a soldier in the Crown Prince’s guard. She must learn to master both her magic and combat skills, as a dangerous passion with the Emperor’s son threatens her cover.

Lucy Holland - Sister Song

Set in the magical realm of an ancient Britain, this story follows the legend of three sisters and three deadly sins.

The three daughters of King Cador live in a war-torn land, abandoned by the Romans, awaiting the impending invasion of the advancing Saxons. Riva has the ability to heal everyone else but herself, Keyne struggles to be viewed as a son, and Sinne dreams of love and adventure.

But their fates change one day with the arrival of the magician, Myrdhin, who uncovers a power lying within the three sisters, and of the warrior Tristan, whose secrets threaten to tear them apart. Their story and the choices they make will shape the destiny of Britain.

Shelley Parker Chan - She Who Became The Sun

This blazing epic reimagines the journey of a peasant rebel-turned-founding emperor of the Ming dynasty in fourteenth-century China. Living in a poverty-stricken village, two siblings are shown their destiny by a seer. For the boy, she prophesies greatness. For the girl, nothing.

Under the harsh rule of the Mongol Empire, their village is raided and the two siblings are left alone to survive. As the brother gives in to their fate, the girl takes her brother’s identity and forges herself a path that she hopes will live up to his prophecy.