If there’s one type of book that I know I’ll never tire of, it’s retellings. In a successful retelling, the author is able to take a well-known story and turn it into something new—perhaps by honing in on a more minor character, or perhaps by adding their own unique twists. The result is something wonderful: a story that is both new and familiar at the same time.
In order to share my appreciation for these books, I’ve created a list of 5 of my favourite fantasy retellings. So, here goes:
1. CIRCE BY MADELINE MILLER
First up is one of my favourite books of all time: Madeline Miller’s Circe. It’s technically a retelling of Homer’s The Odyssey, but rather than telling Odysseus’ story, it focuses on Circe, a witch who briefly features in the original tale. It’s a wonderful book, and if you enjoyed The Odyssey, it’s definitely worth a read!
2. A THRONE OF SWANS BY KATHARINE & ELIZABETH CORR
Katharine & Elizabeth Corr’s A Throne of Swans is a loose retelling of Swan Lake. Again, rather than focussing on the tale’s original protagonist, Odette, it tells the story of a different character—Aderyn, Odette’s cousin. I would recommend this book even if it wasn’t a retelling, but the fact that it is makes it even more interesting!
3. THE HAND, THE EYE, & THE HEART BY ZOË MARRIOTT
The Hand, the Eye, & the Heart by Zoë Marriott is another loose retelling. This time, it reflects on the story of Mulan. The protagonist, Zhi, is non-binary, but they must declare themselves a boy in order to take their father’s place in the great war against the Leopard. It’s another excellent read, especially if you’re looking for more books with gender-fluid representation.
4. THE BONELESS MERCIES BY APRIL GENEVIEVE TUCHOLKE
April Genevieve Tucholke’s The Boneless Mercies is a YA fantasy novel inspired by the Old English poem Beowulf. It’s a loose, feminist retelling that speaks for itself—with beautiful world-building, a high-octane storyline, and distinctive characters, this is another book that I can thoroughly recommend.
5. THE PENELOPIAD BY MARGARET ATWOOD
Finally, no list of retellings can be complete without Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad. Like Circe, this is a retelling of Homer’s The Odyssey, and, like Circe, it looks at The Odyssey through a distinctly feminist lens. Yet this book arguably conveys a much more powerful message, especially if you’re already familiar with Homer’s epic poem.
I hope you enjoyed reading this list of my favourite fantasy retellings! Now I want to hear from you. Is this a genre that you enjoy reading? If so, what’s your favourite retelling? Let me know in the comments below!