Retellings of mythology and reimaginings of myths and legends are one of my favorite types of books. The same primal themes and storylines that inspired people to pass them down from generation and generation are probably what attract people to them now. I would say that Crice is probably my favorite book out of this list, but honestly there’s so many good ones. This list mainly focuses on books for adults (as opposed to YA books).
What are you favorite retellings of myths or legends? If you know of any more good ones, please feel free to drop a note below!
P.S. For more retellings, see Fairy Tale and Folktale Retellings for Adult Readers
What It's About: The ancient city of Troy has withstood a decade under siege of the powerful Greek army, which continues to wage bloody war over a stolen woman—Helen. In the Greek camp, another woman—Briseis—watches and waits for the war's outcome. She was queen of one of Troy's neighboring kingdoms, until Achilles, Greece's greatest warrior, sacked her city and murdered her husband and brothers...Publication Date: August 30, 2018
What It's About: In A Thousand Ships, broadcaster and classicist Natalie Haynes retells the story of the Trojan War from an all-female perspective.
This was never the story of one woman, or two. It was the story of all of them…
In the middle of the night, Creusa wakes to find her beloved Troy engulfed in flames...Publication Date: May 2, 2019
What It's About: In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child—not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power—the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves...Publication Date: April 10, 2018
What It's About: Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. By all rights their paths should never cross, but Achilles takes the shamed prince as his friend, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine their bond blossoms into something deeper - despite the displeasure of Achilles' mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess...Publication Date: September 20, 2011
What It's About: Now that all the others have run out of air, it’s my turn to do a little story-making. In Homer’s account in The Odyssey, Penelope—wife of Odysseus and cousin of the beautiful Helen of Troy—is portrayed as the quintessential faithful wife, her story a salutary lesson through the ages. Left alone for twenty years when Odysseus goes off to fight in the Trojan War after the abduction of Helen, Penelope manages, in the face of scandalous rumors, to maintain the kingdom of Ithaca, bring up her wayward son, and keep over a hundred suitors at bay, simultaneously...Publication Date: October 5, 2005
What It's About: What do a lost Pekinese, a reputation poisoned by gossip, a man spiraling into madness, and a Russian countess in love have in common? Hercule Poirot.Publication Date: June 1, 1984
What It's About: Fifty leading writers retell myths from around the world in this dazzling follow-up to the bestselling My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me
Icarus flies once more. Aztec jaguar gods again stalk the earth. An American soldier designs a new kind of Trojan horse—his cremains in a bullet...Publication Date: September 24, 2013
What It's About: Isma is free. After years of watching out for her younger siblings in the wake of their mother’s death, she’s accepted an invitation from a mentor in America that allows her to resume a dream long deferred. But she can’t stop worrying about Aneeka, her beautiful, headstrong sister back in London, or their brother, Parvaiz, who’s disappeared in pursuit of his own dream, to prove himself to the dark legacy of the jihadist father he never knew...Publication Date: August 15, 2017
What It's About: Theseus is the grandson of the King of Troizen, but his paternity is shrouded in mystery. When he discovers his father's sword beneath a rock, his mother reveals his true identity: Theseus is the son of Aegeus, King of Athens, and is his only heir. So begin Theseus's adventures. He undertakes the perilous journey to his father's palace, escaping bandits and ritual sacrifice in Eleusis, and slays the fearsome Minotaur in Knossos...Publication Date: March 5, 2015
What It's About: “Mary Renault is a shining light to both historical novelists and their readers. She does not pretend the past is like the present, or that the people of ancient Greece were just like us. She shows us their strangeness; discerning, sure-footed, challenging our values, piquing our curiosity, she leads us through an alien landscape that moves and delights us...Publication Date: January 1, 1962
What It's About: My siblings and I have grown up in a cursed house, children of cursed parents...
Jocasta is just fifteen when she is told that she must marry the King of Thebes, an old man she has never met. Her life has never been her own, and nor will it be, unless she outlives her strange, absent husband...Publication Date: May 4, 2017
What It's About: Neil Gaiman has long been inspired by ancient mythology in creating the fantastical realms of his fiction. Now he turns his attention back to the source, presenting a bravura rendition of the great northern tales.
In Norse Mythology, Gaiman stays true to the myths in envisioning the major Norse pantheon: Odin, the highest of the high, wise, daring, and cunning; Thor, Odin’s son, incredibly strong yet not the wisest of gods; and Loki—son of a giant—blood brother to Odin and a trickster and unsurpassable manipulator...Publication Date: February 7, 2017
What It's About: Rediscover the thrills, grandeur, and unabashed fun of the Greek myths—stylishly retold by Stephen Fry. This legendary writer, actor, and comedian breathes new life into beloved tales. From Persephone's pomegranate seeds to Prometheus's fire, from devious divine schemes to immortal love affairs, Fry draws out the humor and pathos in each story and reveals its relevance for our own time...Publication Date: November 2, 2017
What It's About: There are Heroes - and then there are Greek Heroes.
Few mere mortals have ever embarked on such bold and heart-stirring adventures, overcome myriad monstrous perils, or outwitted scheming vengeful gods, quite as stylishly and triumphantly as Greek heroes.
In this companion to his bestselling Mythos, Stephen Fry brilliantly retells these dramatic, funny, tragic and timeless tales...Publication Date: November 1, 2018
What It's About: In a richly imagined, beautiful new novel, an acclaimed writer gives an epic heroine her voice.
The Aeneid, Virgil's hero fights to claim the king’s daughter, Lavinia, with whom he is destined to found an empire. Lavinia herself never speaks a word. Now, Ursula K. Le Guin gives Lavinia a voice in a novel that takes us to the half-wild world of ancient Italy, when Rome was a muddy village near seven hills...Publication Date: April 21, 2008
What It's About: First published in 2001, here is the New York Times bestselling novel that became an instant classic and was hailed by USA Today as “a powerful, searing force that makes readers confront what is real and what is not…”—now a TV series from FremantleMedia North America is coming to STARZ with Bryan Fuller and Michael Green as showrunners, and starring Ricky Whittle, Ian McShane, Crispin Glover, Cloris Leachman, and Gillian Anderson...Publication Date: June 19, 2001
What It's About: God is dead. Meet the kids.
Fat Charlie Nancy's normal life ended the moment his father dropped dead on a Florida karaoke stage. Charlie didn't know his dad was a god. And he never knew he had a brother.
Now brother Spider's on his doorstep -- about to make Fat Charlie's life more interesting...Publication Date: September 20, 2005
What It's About: Oreo is raised by her maternal grandparents in Philadelphia. Her black mother tours with a theatrical troupe, and her Jewish deadbeat dad disappeared when she was an infant, leaving behind a mysterious note that triggers her quest to find him. What ensues is a playful, modernized parody of the classical odyssey of Theseus with a feminist twist, immersed in seventies pop culture, and mixing standard English, black vernacular, and Yiddish with wisecracking aplomb...Publication Date: July 7, 2015
What It's About: I felt I needed to include this one for good measure, since The Odyssey by Homer is clearly the OG of mythological retellings. One obstacle in reading this book is that you have to choose a translation. I like the Robert Fagles one, but I'm hardly an expert on The Odyssey translations.Publication Date: September 23, 1999
What It's About: Two mothers—a suburban housewife and a battle-hardened veteran—struggle to protect those they love in this modern retelling of Beowulf.
From the perspective of those who live in Herot Hall, the suburb is a paradise. Picket fences divide buildings—high and gabled—and the community is entirely self-sustaining...Publication Date: July 17, 2018
What It's About: One Life to One Dawn.
In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad's dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride...Publication Date: May 12, 2015
What It's About: Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life by a disgraced rabbi who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic, created to be the wife of a man who dies at sea on the voyage from Poland. Chava is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York harbor in 1899.
Ahmad is a jinni, a being of fire born in the ancient Syrian desert, trapped in an old copper flask, and released in New York City, though still not entirely free...Publication Date: April 1, 2013
What It's About: T.H White′s masterful retelling of the Arthurian legend is an abiding classic. Here all five volumes that make up the story are published in one volume, as White himself always wished. Exquisite comedy offsets the tragedy of Arthur′s personal doom as White brings to life the major British epic of all time with brilliance, grandeur, warmth and charm.Publication Date: June 1, 1987
What It's About: Here is the magical legend of King Arthur, vividly retold through the eyes and lives of the women who wielded power from behind the throne. A spellbinding novel, an extraordinary literary achievement, THE MISTS OF AVALON will stay with you for a long time to come....Publication Date: October 31, 2000