Thursday, June 18, 2020

Reading on a Theme: Inspired by Classic Literature

I love retellings of every variety. Here we have books inspired by classic literature. I've been thinking of this bunch in particular as the "Inspired by the Classics: Fantasy/ Sci-fi Edition." Watch for the "Inspired by the Classics: Contemporary Edition." More "Inspired by the Classics" here.

The Raven: 
In Cat Winter's story, Muses take physical form. Seventeen-year-old Edgar Allen Poe meets his dark Muse, Lenore, who appears as a young woman with raven-like characteristics. Torn between his desire to write and his duty to his foster family, Edgar hesitates to fully embrace his Muse, trying to keep Lenore a secret as he straddles two worlds. I loved the historical setting in this book. It begins in Richmond and follows Edgar to the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. I would have loved the book to follow even more of Edgar Allen Poe's life. The Raven's Tale is so atmospheric while remaining to true to Poe's actual life. Published April 2019. Review copy from NetGalley.

Arthurian Legend:  
Princess Guinevere is not who she seems to be. She's been sent by Merlin to protect Arthur, but magic is no longer accepted in Camelot, so she must keep her powers and her objectives a secret. I have really loved Kiersten White's recent retellings And I Darken series and The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein, and I was really looking forward to this book. It didn't quite meet all my expectations, but I think the series has a lot of potential. One thing that we see White doing in her recent work is centering female characters and figures who have traditionally been secondary. I really enjoy that aspect of this book. Guinevere is a character who is too often a pawn or vilified in the Arthurian legends. Published November 2019. Review copy from NetGalley.

Les Misérables:
The Court of Miracles isn't so much a retelling of Victor Hugo's classic, as it is a reimagining. In Kester Grant's story, the French Revolution of 1789 failed, and Paris's unwanted banded together in an underground court system of their own. The central character is Éponine, who goes by Nina. She is a member of the Guild of Thieves and an excellent cat burglar, but her true goal is to save Ettie (Cosette) and her sister Alezma from the Lord of the Guild of Flesh. The setting is really rich and diverse, but it took me a bit of effort to get all the characters straight. I loved seeing how the threads of the original tale were woven into something that felt utterly new. Published June 2020. Review copy from NetGalley.

I'm definitely here for Jane Austen in space. Alexa Donne's retelling stars Leo, the heir to a derelict space ship, who is reluctantly participating in her society's match-making season. Marriage for money could save her family, but Leo would rather save her family through ingenuity. It doesn't help that she's still pining for her first love, Elliot. Elliot has returned to the ship, and the former-servant is now wealthy and an heir himself. Enduring the season was bad enough. Now Leo has to watch as other girls flirt with her former flame. I really enjoyed The Stars We Steal. The world building is really well done. Leo has an interesting circle of friends, and I whipped through this book. Published February 2020. Review copy from NetGalley. 

The Bird and the Blade is a retelling not of a classic novel but a classic opera, Puccini's Turandot. Megan Bannen centers the story on Jinghua, a fairly minor character in the opera, who is enslaved to the Kipchak Khanate. The story takes place during the Mongolian empire, which was vast but also fractured, and the Kipchak Khanate is at odds with some of the other Khanates. To save his people and restore their fortunes, Prince Khalaf sets out to marry the daughter of the Great Khan, Princess Turandokht. I was so delighted by this book. It is a little mushy, but that seems appropriate for a book based on an opera best known for its highly emotional music. Published June 2018.

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