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Classic Tales, Modern Tellers: 5 Retellings to Check Out

Classic Tales, Modern Tellers: 5 Retellings to Check Out

By Alison Bunis

Everybody’s got their favorite classic novel. And these days, everybody’s got their favorite retelling of a classic novel, too. Personally, if we’re talking movies, I stand by Clueless until the end of time. If we’re talking books, though, there are so many incredible options that it’s pretty much impossible to choose just one. To help you out, here are five of my favorites! I tried to pick a wide range, but I’m not gonna lie, you guys, I like what I like. So let’s kick things off with my current favorite…

Lady Hotspur by Tessa Gratton

Lady HotspurGather ye round, my fellow Shakespeare nerds: Tessa Gratton has given us an incredible gift. She’s already reimagined King Lear as an entrancing fantasy novel with The Queens of Innis Lear.

Now she’s turned Henry IV Part I into a heart-stopping novel of betrayal, battlefields, and destiny, Lady Hotspur. Here’s a glimpse at the characters to give you a quick taste of what it’s about: 

Hal Bolinbroke: A lady knight known for playing tricks and causing scandals, Hal is suddenly made heir to the kingdom when the mother she has not seen since childhood wins the crown. She loathes being a Prince but yearns to live up to the wishes of everyone she loves best—even if that means sacrificing her own heart.

Banna Mora: Heir to the overthrown king, Banna Mora is faced with an agonizing choice: give up everything she’s been raised to love and allow a king-killer to be rewarded—or retake the throne and take up arms against Prince Hal, her childhood best friend.

Lady Hotspur: The fiery and bold knight who stands between these two fierce Princes, and whose support may turn the tides of the coming war and decide everyone’s fates.

Tessa Gratton’s lush, lyrical fantasy world is the perfect setting for this gender-swapped retelling. Mark your calendars, Shakespeare-loving friends: Lady Hotspur hits shelves in January!

Black Leviathan by Bernd Perplies

Black LeviathanBuckle up, everybody, because Black Leviathan is the Herman Melville classic Moby Dick—but with dragons. You heard me. Moby Dick. Except instead of whales, it’s dragons, instead of “Call me Ishmael,” dragons, and instead of chapters on whaling technique, more dragons. And don’t worry, the revenge stuff is still in there. Seriously, what more do you need? 

In the coastal city Skargakar, dragon-hunting powers the economy. Dragons are used in everything from clothing to food, while airborne ships hunt them in the white expanse of a cloud sea, the Cloudmere. Lian does his part carving the kyrillian crystals that power the ships through the Cloudmere, but when he makes an enemy of a dangerous man, Lian ships out on the next vessel available. But he chooses the wrong ship. The fanatic captain, Adaron, hunts the Firstborn Gargantuan—and he is prepared to sacrifice everything for revenge.

You know what they say… revenge is a dish best served with dragons. (This particular dish comes out February 25th, 2020.)

Nottingham by Nathan Makaryk

NottinghamMost authors retelling a classic start with their favorite book, story, legend, myth…Not Nathan Makaryk. He saw all the things he hated about the Robin Hood legend, and he just had to rewrite the whole thing into an epic novel that examines who’s really the hero or villain of a story. Think less Men-In-Tights and more historically-accurate Game of Thrones.

The setup is a political nightmare: King Richard is half a world away, fighting for God and his own ambition. Back home, his country languishes, bankrupt and on the verge of anarchy. People with power are running unchecked. People without are growing angry. And in Nottingham, one of the largest shires in England, the sheriff seems intent on doing nothing about it. But don’t worry, Robin Hood and his Merry Men are here to save the day! Steal from the greedy rich and give to the poor! …Not really. Nothing is that simple in this world. Instead, the lives of six people—Arable, a servant girl with a secret, Robin and William, soldiers running from their pasts, Marion, a noblewoman working for change, Guy of Gisbourne, Nottingham’s beleaguered guard captain, and Elena Gamwell, a brash, ambitious thief—become intertwined. And a strange story begins to spread…

Briar Rose by Jane Yolen 

Briar RoseNo list about retellings is complete without including a fairy tale reimagining. It’s kind of a rule. And Jane Yolen’s Briar Rose, a historically sensitive retelling of Sleeping Beauty set amid forests patrolled by the German army during World War II, is a terrifically moving, graceful entry into the fairy tale retelling genre.

It starts off with a tale being passed down through the generations: Since childhood, Rebecca has been enchanted by her grandmother Gemma’s stories of Briar Rose, a young girl who arrived at a castle controlled by an evil army in the Polish forest during the summer of 1942. As Gemma tells it, Briar Rose was corrupted by dark deeds and choked by poisonous mist, and plunged into a deep sleep in the castle that soon came to be known as Chełmno extermination camp. Becca would have sworn the stories were made up, but on her deathbed Gemma extracts from Becca a promise to fulfill three impossible requests: find the castle, find the prince, and find the spell-maker. Her vow sends Becca on a remarkable journey to uncover the truth of Gemma’s astonishing claim: She is Briar Rose.

Miranda and Caliban by Jacqueline Carey

Miranda and CalibanAnother Shakespeare retelling? Yes. Let’s go there with Jacqueline Carey’s gorgeous retelling of The Tempest. We all know the tale of Prospero’s quest for revenge, but what about Miranda? Or Caliban, the so-called savage? In Miranda and Caliban, Jacqueline Carey gives us their side of the story: the dutiful and tenderhearted Miranda, who loves her father but is terribly lonely. And Caliban, the strange and feral boy Prospero has bewitched to serve him. The two find solace and companionship in each other as Prospero weaves his magic and dreams of revenge. Always under Prospero’s jealous eye, Miranda and Caliban battle the dark, unknowable forces that bind them to the island even as the pangs of adolescence create a new awareness of each other and their doomed relationship. 


New Releases: 4/19/16

Here’s what went on sale today!

Design for Dying by Renee Patrick

Design for Dying by Renee Patrick Los Angeles, 1937. Lillian Frost has traded dreams of stardom for security as a department store salesgirl . . . until she discovers she’s a suspect in the murder of her former roommate, Ruby Carroll. Party girl Ruby died wearing a gown she stole from the wardrobe department at Paramount Pictures, domain of Edith Head.

Edith has yet to win the first of her eight Academy Awards; right now she’s barely hanging on to her job, and a scandal is the last thing she needs. To clear Lillian’s name and save Edith’s career, the two women join forces.

Unraveling the mystery pits them against a Hungarian princess on the lam, a hotshot director on the make, and a private investigator who’s not on the level. All they have going for them are dogged determination, assists from the likes of Bob Hope and Barbara Stanwyck, and a killer sense of style. In show business, that just might be enough.

Dust Up by Josh McGoran

Dust Up by Josh McGoran  Detective Doyle Carrick is awakened in the middle of the night by frantic banging on his front door, a sound followed by gunfire. Ron Hartwell, a complete stranger, is dying on his doorstep.

A halfhearted investigation labels the murder a domestic dispute, with Miriam, Ron’s widow, the sole suspect. When Doyle discovers the Hartwells both worked for a big biotech company, he suspects something else is going on, but it’s not his case. Then, in a run-down North Philly hotel, Miriam tells him her story.

As Doyle follows her back to Haiti, and uncovers a web of deceit, intrigue and mass murder. Giant biotech corporations are working to topple the Haitian government. One is spreading a deadly allergy that will make the competitor’s most popular product virtually poisonous and put millions of lives at risk.

To prevent this, Doyle must enlist the help of his most dangerous enemies, and question everything he ever knew about himself and what it means to be a cop.

The House of Daniel by Harry Turtledove

The House of Daniel by Harry Turtledove Jack Spivey’s just another down-and-out trying to stay alive, doing a little of this and a little of that. Sometimes that means making a few bucks playing ball with the Enid Eagles, against teams from as many as two counties away. And somethimes it means roughing up rival thugs for Big Stu, the guy who calls the shots in Enid.

But one day Jack knocks on the door of the person he’s supposed to “deal with”—and realizes that he’s not going to do any such thing to the young lady who answers. This means he needs to get out of the reach of Big Stu, who didn’t get to where he is by letting defiance go unpunished.

Then the House of Daniel comes to town–a brash band of barnstormers who’ll take on any team, and whose antics never fail to entertain. Against the odds Jack secures a berth with them. Now they’re off to tour an America that’s as shot through with magic as it is dead broke. Jack will never be the same—nor will baseball.

Knights of Crystallia by Brandon Sanderson The Knights of Crystallia by Brandon Sanderson

The Knights of Crystallia is the third action-packed fantasy adventure in the Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians series for young readers by the #1 New York Times bestselling author Brandon Sanderson. These fast-paced and funny novels are now available in deluxe hardcover editions illustrated by Hayley Lazo.


The Emperor’s Railroad by Guy Haley

The Emperor's Railroad by Guy HaleyGlobal war devastated the environment, a zombie-like plague wiped out much of humanity, and civilization as we once understood it came to a standstill. But that was a thousand years ago, and the world is now a very different place.

Conflict between city states is constant, superstition is rife, and machine relics, mutant creatures and resurrected prehistoric beasts trouble the land. Watching over all are the silent Dreaming Cities. Homes of the angels, bastion outposts of heaven on Earth. Or so the church claims. Very few go in, and nobody ever comes out.

Until now…


Briar Rose by Jane Yolen

Skies of Ash by Rachel Howzell Hall

Where by Kit Reed


Magical Girl Apocalypse Vol. 7 by Kentaro Sato

My Monster Secret Vol. 2 by Eiji Masuda

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz & The Marvelous Land of Oz by L. Frank Baum; Art by Kriss Sison

See upcoming releases.

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