Myths Made New | SFF Retellings

Myths and legends unfold in these forthcoming science fiction and fantasy titles, based on Beowulf, an old Chinese tale, and Greek and Nigerian mythology.

Myths and legends unfold in these forthcoming science fiction and fantasy titles, based on Beowulf, an old Chinese tale, and Greek and Nigerian mythology.

Emmerichs, Sharon. Shield Maiden. Redhook: Orbit. Oct. 2023. 452p. ISBN 9780316566919. pap. $18.99. FANTASY

DEBUT Fryda has grown up hearing the tales of her uncle, the legendary King Beowulf, and aspires to become a shield maiden—a warrior in her own right. But a frightful, strange accident in her childhood damages Fryda’s hand, seemingly dashing her chances to fight. When her father hosts a grand celebration for Beowulf, Fryda must navigate dealing with foreign rulers and outside clans; a growing love for Theow, an enslaved young man in her home; and a twin brother, Wigalf, who cares more about drinking than his duties. When a shocking plan is revealed that threatens her home, her people, and her life, Fryda must find a way to battle through the treachery—and understand the growing power within her, one that links her to a dragon awakened from a long, cursed sleep. This Beowulf retelling is freshly inspired by its focus on a less-repeated part of the poem but can feel a bit light on character development. VERDICT Beowulf and mythology fans, especially young adults, will find this debut novel a fun read.—Kristi Chadwick

Fit for the Gods: Greek Mythology Reimagined. Vintage. Aug. 2023. 400p. ed. by Jenn Northington & S. Zainab Williams. ISBN 9780593469248. pap. $18. FANTASY

Regenerated gods and monsters share their secrets on a talk show. A Hades and Persephone romance plays out on an Earth ravaged by ecological devastation. Trans oracle Tiresias navigates a house party and the other guests’ preoccupations with gender. These stories and more fill this anthology. Greek myth retellings are popular, and this time- and genre-spanning collection brings an antipatriarchal twist to the trend with stories from authors across genres, including Mia P. Manansala, Valerie Valdes, and Alyssa Cole. Many stories highlight women sidelined or left unknown or unheard in the original myths, such as Sarah Gailey’s “Wild To Covet,” granting Thetis agency around her prophesied son, or Marika Bailey’s “Trembling Aspen; Or, To Shiver,” Daphne’s breathtaking manifesto after becoming a tree. Also among the many standouts in this collection are “The Eagles at the Edge of the World” by Taylor Rae (a take on Aeneas and Dido where two Kumeyaay women flee rising waters to rebuild their nation) and “A Heart Inured to Suffering” by Jude Reali, a spacefaring take on Odysseus. The retellings’ variety ensures there’s plenty to enjoy. VERDICT This collection should please Greek myth fans who want to approach familiar stories from a queer, feminist perspective. Recommended.—Erin Niederberger

Huang, S.L. The Water Outlaws. Aug. 2023. 496p. ISBN 9781250180421. $28.99. FANTASY

As an expert arms instructor for the Imperial Guard, Lin Chong served the Empire of Song, devoted to training the soldiers in all sorts of weapons, and kept herself away from politics and hierarchies. However, when she denies an Imperial Marshal, Lin Chong is arrested, tattooed as a criminal, and sent away to an “accidental” death. Her escape takes her into a nest of outlaws, the Bandits of Liangshan, many of whom are women looking for a life beyond the usual gender and class inequities. While the group proclaims to mete out justice, Lin Chong is unsure of either their true motives or their deadly methods. As the Marshal pursues Lin Chong, he also looks to create a way for his soldiers to claim the powers of a god—and it may be that only a band of those with dubious goals can outwit and overcome the empire’s sinister deeds. Strong worldbuilding, fast action, and exciting, detailed battle scenes from multiple points of view create a fully immersive story. VERDICT Huang (Critical Point) skillfully recreates an old Chinese tale into a gender-bent and queer novel, to showcase how the fringes of society can rise up against unjust rules and actions.—Kristi Chadwick

Oh, Temi. More Perfect. Gallery/Saga. Aug. 2023. 592p. ISBN 9781982142834. pap. $19.99. SF

Oh’s (Do You Dream of Terra-Two?) near-future novel, loosely based on the myth of Eurydice and Orpheus, is set in London when much of the world is linked online through a neural implant called Pulse. Teenager Moremi was excited to have her Pulse installed, but five years after a terrorist event killed her mother, Moremi is lonely and burdened by grief and trauma. Hoping to move on with her life, she agrees to a procedure that will alter her memories. When she meets Orpheus, the Dreamscaper from her procedure, she falls into a whirlwind love affair with him. Their happiness together is short-lived, however, as Orpheus is jailed, based on the probability that he will commit a crime in the future. But Moremi will do anything to save him amid a battle for the future that pits the controlling government against “neo-Luddites,” who believe in the freedom of an off-grid life. Readers will find themselves immersed in the intricate and deeply felt wonder and horror of this world. VERDICT Oh has written a stunning dystopian tale that contemplates the future of augmented reality, and who controls it, through a heartrending love story.—Melissa DeWild

Okosun, Ehigbor. Forged by Blood. Harper Voyager. (The Tainted Blood Duology, Bk. 1). Aug. 2023. 400p. ISBN 9780063112629. $30. FANTASY

DEBUT In the land of Ife, those who hold magical powers are hunted by the king. Dèmi and her mother have magic and are hiding in a village pretending to be Ajes, those without magic, when thrust into a situation where their magic is needed. This magic comes from the gods, and they are bound to use it to help others. A wealthy woman brings them a boy dying from poison. Risking their lives, Dèmi’s mother heals the boy, but they are betrayed by the woman, who fears their magic. Dèmi’s mother is killed in front of her, leaving her an orphan. Years later, Dèmi is caught using magic to save children from enslavement and is given another choice—help her people, the Oluso, gain political power by kidnapping the prince or be turned in for using magic. Kidnapping the prince proves harder than expected; the more time they spend together, the more their attraction for each other gets in the way. VERDICT Inspired by Nigerian mythology, Okosun begins “The Tainted Blood Duology” with a fast-paced adventure that fans of Rebecca Ross and Tomi Adeyemi will enjoy.—Leigh Verburg

Parker-Chan, Shelley. He Who Drowned the World. Tor. (The Radiant Emperor Duology, Bk. 2). Aug. 2023. 496p. ISBN 9781250621825. $28.99. FANTASY

Zhu Yuanzhang has started her path as the Radiant King, but she faces a larger battle to become emperor. Even with the success of her forces, many others stand in the way of her path to greatness. General Zhang commands a stronger, larger army and is guided by his sharp, cunning wife, Madam Zhang. Zhu knows that to survive this hurdle, she will need to bring the eunuch General Ouyang to her side, no matter the enmity between them. Yet beyond these powerful players is one who can subvert all of their goals—the scholar Wang Baoxiang, who has placed himself in the capital to create a long game of revenge and death for everyone’s path to the throne. Paying equal attention to fierce battle scenes and deep conversations and filled with desperate decisions and brutal actions, this book is immersive and intimate. VERDICT Parker-Chan’s sequel to She Who Became the Sun is a powerful historical fantasy filled with complex people and high stakes.—Kristi Chadwick

Vo, Nghi. Mammoths at the Gates. (Singing Hills Cycle, Bk. 4). Sept. 2023. 128p. ISBN 9781250851437. $19.99. FANTASY

The steps of wandering Cleric Chih have turned towards home. They expect to find the monastery much as they left it, but they return to mammoths blocking the gate and their oldest friend in mid-argument with the commander of the force. Chih learns that their mentor is dead, the clerics and apprentices have rushed to the site of a new discovery, and the home they expected to be a haven is nearly a battleground. Expecting peace, instead Chih finds chaos and change, but amid the depths of mourning and regret there might just be a space where the nearly warring forces can meet in an uneasy middle. Chih finds themself an outsider in the place they call home and grieves for not just the loss of their mentor but also the changes in themself and their once closest companion. But grief proves to be bittersweet as their late mentor’s experience continues through one profoundly grieving bird. VERDICT This fourth entry in the “Singing Hills Cycle” series, after Into the Riverlands, is every bit as beautiful and thought-provoking as its predecessors. Highly recommended for fans of the previous books in the series and for anyone who loves their fantasy colored with myth, legend, and bittersweet truth.—Marlene Harris

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing