Books

20 Reimaginings Of Classic Myths & Legends To Read After Cursed

From King Arthur to The Odyssey, these novels revisit most beloved stories.

If watching Netflix's Cursed has left you wanting more mythical stories told with a twist, you're in luck. There are plenty of other books that retell classic myths and legends, any of which will make the perfect follow-up to your Cursed marathon-watch. Nimue's adventures may be over for now, but you can still get your hands on great works of literature inspired by classic stories.

Many of your favorite classical tales, including The Iliad and The Odyssey, began as stories orally told and retold before they found new life on the page. Classic storytelling continues today in many parts of the world, including in Aboriginal Australian communities, where historical records maintained through oral traditions have been found to match scientific evidence of geographic change.

Those ultra-accurate records aside, most of human storytelling throughout history has been marked by the subtle and not-so-subtle changes each teller makes to their shared tales. We continue to see this phenomenon in contemporary retellings of classic stories, which may set The Tempest in a modern-day prison, or tell the story of Hamlet through the eyes of a forgotten god. Take a look at 20 books that retell classic myths and legends below.

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1

First things first: If you haven't read Thomas Wheeler and Frank Miller's Cursed novel yet, you absolutely should, even if you've already seen the Netflix series adaptation. Wheeler and Miller's version of the King Arthur legend focuses on Nimue, a Fey girl destined to become the Lady of the Lake, as she escorts the Sword of Power to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands.

2

A twist on the classic tale of Hansel and Gretel, Helen Oyeyemi's Gingerbread centers on Harriet Lee, a single mother who bakes a particular gingerbread recipe that many can't seem to get enough of. The recipe comes from Druhástrana, the strange and possibly mythical country where Harriet grew up, and which her teenage daughter, Perdita, longs to visit. When Perdita forces her mother's hand, Harriet must tell everything she knows about Druhástrana, but, as always, with a twist.

3

She's the villain in The Odyssey: a beautiful witch who turns men into pigs. But who was Circe really? The Song of Achilles author Madeline Miller resurrects the legendary demigoddess, giving her the opportunity to tell her own story, in this powerful novel.

4

Set in 5th-century China, Sherry Thomas' The Magnolia Sword centers on Mulan, the legendary soldier who disguised herself as a man to protect her father and brother from the perils of war. Her journey soon finds her fighting side-by-side with a handsome nobleman, who harbors a dangerous secret himself.

5

Tobias has spent centuries protecting Greenhollow Wood. Henry has just become its new owner. Tobias is the stuff of legends — the "Green Man" myth, to be exact — and parsing fact from fiction in those old stories happens to be Henry's favorite hobby. The two men grow close, but can they ever trust one another completely?

6

Looking for some labyrinthine storytelling? Then you need to check out Fran Ross' Oreo, which recasts the Minotaur as the mixed-race daughter of a Jewish father and a Black mother. After she grows tired of living with her maternal grandparents in her mother's absence, Ross' eponymous heroine packs her bags and heads to New York City to locate her father, with hilarious results.

7

In part a retelling of Sophocles' Antigone, Kamila Shamsie's Home Fire centers on Isma: a motherless young woman who leaves her beloved siblings behind in London to study in the U.S., but finds herself increasingly preoccupied with their well-being. Her sister is beautiful but stubborn, and her brother has disappeared, presumably to join a jihadist sect. When another young man with ties to her family's experience in the UK enters Isma's life, things become infinitely more complicated.

8

Well-known for her takes on classic stories, Christina Henry will become your new favorite author with her Little Red Riding Hood retelling: The Girl in Red. Here, a woman attempts a solitary existence in the wake of a societal collapse. She lives her life in constant jeopardy — and the wolves in the woods are just the tip of a dangerous iceberg.

9

Karen Lord takes on Caribbean folklore in Unraveling. After she helps to lock away a serial killer, forensic therapist Miranda is transported to a maze-like otherworld, where two strange brothers have begun their own investigation into a handful of ostensibly innocuous crimes from her archives. Working together with the brothers, Miranda follows the trail of a killer who wants immortality... at the expense of everything else.

10

Catherynne M. Valente revisits on the Russian myth of Koschei the Deathless in this fantastical romance novel. Set in wartime Russia, Deathless follows Marya, the girl destined to become Koschei's bride... and similarly fated to destroy him. Even if you're familiar with Koschei's story, trust us: you've never read it like this before.

11

Roshani Chokshi's The Star-Touched Queen draws from the Greek myth of Hades and Persephone to tell a fantasy romance you won't want to miss. Born under terrible stars, Maya, the Raja's daughter, is married off to Amar, the King of Akaran, in a marriage more political than romantic. But when Amar turns out to be much more, in many ways, than his wife ever expected, his closely-held secrets are put at risk, and Maya's predicted fate may come to pass in unimaginable ways.

12

From Mexican Gothic author Silvia Moreno-Garcia comes Gods of Jade and Shadow: a Cinderella story steeped in Mayan myth and legend. In Jazz Age Mexico, domestic worker Casiopea accidentally frees a trapped god — the Mayan god of death — and accepts his quest to overthrow his usurping brother. It's a journey that could mean the end of Casiopea's life, or the start of a new one.

13

Juliet Marillier's retelling of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Wild Swans," Daughter of the Forest is a lush fantasy novel that kicks off the Sevenwaters series. After being kidnapped by the enemies of her father, the Lord of Sevenwaters' only daughter, Sorcha, has a chance at true love. There's just one thing standing in the way: a deal Sorcha made with the Fair Folk, which requires her to live in silence to break the curse her wicked stepmother has placed upon her six older brothers.

14

Another Antigone retelling, Sara Uribe's experimental book, Antígona González, follows one woman's quest to locate her missing brother, presumed deceased. In a world in which men can disappear without a trace, all evidence of their lives scrubbed from official documents, her quest is both delicate and dangerous.

15

Two women at constant odds are thrust together by the simultaneous disappearance of their sons in Maria Dahvana Headley's lauded Beowulf retelling. A veteran with a son she never wanted, Dana cares for Gren in their rugged home: a cave just beyond the borders of the illustrious Herot Hall. Living a charmed life inside Herot Hall, Willa doesn't pay much mind to Dana or her son, until her own child, Dylan, runs away with Gren.

16

Guadeloupean author Maryse Condé breathes new life into Tituba, the legendary sorceress at the heart of the Salem witch trials, in I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem. Orphaned after her mother is executed for defending herself against a plantation owner, Tituba has grown up under the tutelage of a gifted healer. But when love traps her in bondage, she must reckon with the power and legacy of a colonizing religion.

17

A new take on The 1,001 Nights, Renée Ahdieh's The Wrath & the Dawn centers on Shahrzad: a 16-year-old who agrees to marry a murderous man to avenge one of his victims. Delaying her own death by telling her new husband stories, Shahrzad just needs her opening — a chance to kill Khalid. Inexplicably, however, she finds herself falling in love with the man who murdered her best friend, in this exhilarating novel.

18

Sarah Perry's retelling of Charles Maturin's Melmoth the Wanderer, Melmoth centers on Helen: an academic whose friend has fallen down the rabbit hole. Karel was investigating the existence of the eponymous Melmoth, a fairy-tale villain who curses those who follow her to a restless immortality. Helen thinks it's a nice story, and nothing more... until Karel disappears.

19

Out author Natsuo Kirino takes on a Japanese creation myth in The Goddess Chronicle. In this retelling, two sisters, Kamikuu and Namima, are fated to be forever separated in worlds of light and darkness. Tasked with serving her sister as a lady-in-waiting, Namima believes she's found a new destiny in Mahito, a man who takes a special interest in her. But when Mahito's betrayal puts her in the service of the goddess of the underworld, Namima claws her way back to the land of the living, looking for revenge.

20

No list like this would be complete without The Bloody Chamber. Angela Carter's collection of feminist-slanted fairy tales is gruesome, edgy, and a whole lot of fun. Taking on everything from Bluebeard to Puss-in-Boots, this is the perfect story collection for anyone looking to put chills and thrills on their nightstand.