30 Days of Pride: Retellings but make it gay

Hi everyone,

I feel like 2020 publishing is a pretty major year for retellings, whether that be retellings of fairytales, historical events, classics, or mythology. Now I’m a pretty big fan of retellings, but you know what make them reach new heights of epicness? Making them gay! There’s just something about taking an old, boring, cishet book and making it sparkle with queerness instead. So here’s some of my favourites as well as some of the ones I’m most excited to read!

The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

The Mercies has been one of my favourite reads of the year so far. This is a retelling of the year 1617 Vardø storm, a storm which wiped out the men in a small fishing village in Norway. The village of newly independent women must come together to survive in the cold and harsh climate. But then a commissioner is sent to the village to help lead them, a witch hunter from Scotland. What follows is a story focused on the destruction of this village, as the witch hunter riles up suspicion and hatred amongst the group of women as he tries to control them with his Godly, just ways. This book is so fantastic. There is a soft, sapphic relationship (one of my favourite couples!!), a dark descent to villainy and evil, strong friendships, and an absolutely enthalling and enchanting gothic setting. Highly recommend! You can check out my full reivew here.

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Okay I know we’ve all read it. But like. It’s so bloody good. I couldn’t leave it off this list! The Song of Achilles reimagines the myth of Achilles and Patroclus, their life growing up together, the journey which takes them to Troy and the long Trojan War, and their era-defining love (yes I said it, this book is ERA-DEFINING). If you were a fool like me, you might not have realised the ending of this myth before you read this book the first time, and holy fuck, what a mess that resulted in. This book is a beautiful, poetic and HIGHLY EMOTIONAL (I’M NOT FUCKING KIDDING) retelling that will no doubt break you heart but also make you fall in love with Madeline Miller and her Greek retellings.

Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust

I was lucky enough to get an ARC of this, and everyone is in for a treat when this releases next month!! Girl, Serpent, Thorn is a Persian mythology inspired fairytale about a princess who is poisonous to the touch and her journey to discover the power in her gift. This book has so many of my favourite tropes: enemies to lovers, morally grey MC, descent to villainy, a bisexual mc, soft sapphic romance, monster girlfriends, and wings!!!! Yes I have a thing for characters with wings, I blame it on a fanfic I read as an impressionable teen. I loved exploring all the Persian mythology, and the journey Soruya, the main character, goes on. A girl terrified of hurting someone with her poison, to someone who embraces her differences and learns to see their power, is sapphic goddess win.

A Blade so Black by L.L McKinney

Okay so I admit I’ve only read half this book, because I ran out of time and had to return it the library. Once libraries reopen I will be re-borrowing it to finish it off! This is an Alice in Wonderland retelling where Alice fights monsters with massive knives and doesn’t that just sound fantastic?! Add to that a lesbian romance and this book is killer. Alice almost dies when she is attacked by a Nightmare, a creature from Wonderland, a kind of dream realm. So of course she decides to train up and fight them. But when her mentor is poisoned by one of the Nightmares, she needs to travel far into Wonderland to find a cure, fighting monsters all the way.

Scavenge the Stars by Tara Sim

This beauty released in January this year, and has an absolutely killer cover!! This is a retelling of The Counte of Monte Cristo, which whilst I’ve never read, I have seen it discussed in the film V for Vendetta every Guy Fawkes night for the last 10 years. So. That counts. This is a book full of revenge, with Amaya looking to bring down the man who ruined her family and stole her life. I hope she stabs him. Surely that’s what that knife on the cover represents?!

Peter Darling by Austin Chant

This is the Captian Hook x Peter Pan fanfic you always wanted. I literally described this book to my partner and all he could say was ‘wow that sounds like your cup of tea’. And it so bloody is!! With a trans mc, a Peter who left Neverland to live as Wendy Darling but has come to accept his identity as a man and is now returning to Neverland as an adult. And now he has the hots for his old enemy, Captain Hook. I literally want to sob at how perfect this is.

Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron

Cinderella is Dead is one of the books releasing later this year which have caused me to dub 2020 Publishing as The Year of the Retelling. This time, of Cinderella (obviously). This is set 200 years after the story of Cinderella, in a world where girls are now required to appear at a ball once a year, where the men of the kingdom make their choices for brides based on the beauty and finery of the girls. If you aren’t picked, you’re never heard from again… Sophia, who would rather marry her best friend Erin instead of any man, runs away and hides in Cinderella’s mausoleum where she meets the last descendent of Cinderella and together they plan to take down the king for good.

A Miracle of Roses by Diana Pinguicha

This retelling sounds so brilliant and I can’t wait to see the cover when it gets revealed!! It’s a historical fantasy retelling of a Portugese miracle about a girl who turns all food she touches into flowers, following an actual Portugese saint Yzabel of Aragon. Plu! It’s sapphic! There’s an f/f relationship between Yzabel and (I assume) the enchanter she goes to to try reverse her miracle (or curse…)

Ruinsong by Julia Ember

Of all the retellings coming this year, I think this might be my favourite. I am such a big gothic fan. I’m currently taking my partner through all my old gothic films after watching the stage version of Phantom of the Opera on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s weekly Youtube musical release. I adore Phantom. Book, film, and show! So when I heard there was going to be an f/f Phantom of the Opera I think I might have died a little. In a world with music magic, Cadence has been forced to sing to torture the queendom’s disgraced nobility at the queen’s bidding. But when reuinted with a childhood friend, she needs to decide whether to free their country or become a monster herself. Is it bad that I….kinda want her to be the monster?! This sounds so brilliant, morally grey characters, possible descent to villainy, music magic and sapphic relationships, I cannot wait till November!

Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

A King Arthur retelling that’s queer as fuck?! Hell fucking yes. At a local university program for talented high school students, there are demons, a secret society of Legendborn students who fight down the demons and a mage called Merlin who wants to wipe Bree’s memory when she sees one of these demons attack on her very first day on campus. The attack unlocks Bree’s own magic and memories of the death of her mother. Bree vows to become a Legendborn initiate to find out how her mother died. But the Legendborn reveal themselves as descendants of King Arthur and his knights and claim a magical war is coming. Bree must decide whether to take them down, or help them fight.

I hope you enjoyed reading about these super queer retellings and found some new books to add to your TBR! Are there any I’ve missed which you love?? I struggled narrowing down this list so they might be appearing on my blog another day this month…

Book review: The Stone of Sorrow by Brooke Carter

Title: The Stone of Sorrow by Brooke Carter

Publisher: Orca Book Publishers

Publication date: 7 April 2020

Genre: Fantasy | Young Adult

Page extent: 304 pages


Goodreads blurb: In a land of myth and ice, seventeen-year-old Runa Unnursdóttir is not the runecaster her clan has been hoping for. She spends her days daydreaming of sailing away and exploring the world instead of studying the runes and learning her spells. The villagers consider her odd, in looks and in manner. She’s nothing like her talented sister, Sýr, keeper of the sacred moonstone that ensures the village’s continued survival. But when a rival clan led by an evil witch raids the village and kidnaps her sister, Runa is forced to act. With a fallen Valkyrie by her side, and the help of a gorgeous half-elf Runa is not quite sure she can trust, the apprentice must travel to the site of an ancient runecasting competition to try to win back the magical gem. But the journey will not be easy; the three unlikely companions encounter malevolent and supernatural creatures at every turn. Somehow, Runa must summon the courage and strength to face her destiny, a destiny she never wanted. Or die trying.

Thank you to Orca Book Publishers for providing me a digital eARC in exchange for an honest review.

The Stone of Sorrow is a beautiful glimpse into Icelandic mythology, the magic of runecasting and the love between sisters. I really enjoyed these elements, but thought some areas of the book lacked tension.

Runa is a runecasting apprentice, and not a very good one she believes, training under her sister. Her sister is a powerful runecaster who currently holds the moonstone, a powerful rune which clans compete for every red moon. When Runa’s clan is attacked just days before the competition and her sister kidnapped by a witch, Runa must find her courage and travel across the land to save her sister and win back the moonstone.

My favourite thing about this novel was the look into Icelandic mythology. I loved the encounters with different creatures of myth, from the skoffin, a secretive fox who can kill if you look it in the eyes, to the marbendills, half fish half human, to Oski, the Valkyrie that assists Runa with her quest, to the elves, the magical, persuasive, dangerous creatures who try to trick humans into staying with them forever. These creatures were a delight to discover and explore, and some of my favourite characters were these creatures. One such creature I really liked was Pila, an elf. We only meet Pila for a short time, but I already adore that elf and really want to see more of them in the next books!

I also really liked Runa’s character growth across the book. She starts off as this very unsure and nervous character, one who hates herself. She’s had odd dreams and fits since she was born and thinks she’s completely broken, but over the journey to save her sister, her friends help her and she begins to see she’s stronger than she thought, finding her confidence and her power as the book progresses. I really loved the focus on her relationship with her sister. YA so often focuses on romance (and that’s actually one of the areas I think the book should have not focused on), but it did also have a really strong focus on this wonderful sister relationship. They are both so protective of each other, and I just really appreciated that the whole reason for Runa going on this quest was her sister. Sure, the moonstone and her clan also plays a part, but the main reason Runa finds the strength to leave is to rescue her sister, and I loved that!

As mentioned above, I don’t think the romance was needed. For Runa, half the novel was spent talking about how she doesn’t want marriage, doesn’t feel any love or crushes, and then suddenly she wants to be with someone? I think it would have been stronger if the two had been kept as friends, to put even greater importance and emphasis on the strong sister relationship.

I also think, despite how much I enjoyed the creatures encountered on the journey, it was quite slow at points and lacked tension. I think this is probably due to a lot of focus on more mundane activities like cooking and foraging for food, sleeping, bathroom activities etc. I know we do sometimes remark on how silly it is that fantasy characters never seem to do normal activities like this – but there’s a reason for that. It lowered the tension and made a lot of the journey feel a bit more mundane and boring.

All in all, this was an interesting exploration of Icelandic mythology and I’m interested to see where the series takes Runa now that she’s thirsting for blood and feeling more confident with her runecasting.

Book review: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Title: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing

Publication date: 20 September 2011

Genre: Mythology | Adult

Page extent: 352 pages

Goodreads blurb: 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. But then word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus journeys with Achilles to Troy, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.

Profoundly moving and breathtakingly original, this rendering of the epic Trojan War is a dazzling feat of the imagination, a devastating love story, and an almighty battle between gods and kings, peace and glory, immortal fame and the human heart.

Where do I even start with a book like this? Sometimes I think knowing the pain that you’ll feel makes a book even more devastating, as if the constandt dread at the events you know are coming just makes everything hurt so much more. The Song of Achilles is like that. I first read it a few years ago, but my reread this month really just made everything so much more heartbreaking. Rereads really help you catch so much more foreshadowing and I really need to make the effort to reread more often, because this was just stunning.

The Song of Achilles is a retelling of the Greek myth of Achilles and Patroclus, the kidnapping of Helen, and the Trojan war. Following Patroclus from a young age as he accidentally kills a noble son and is exiled, we watch him meet Achilles and see them unepexctedly grow close. We read as Patroclus and Achilles go to the ends of the earth in their love for each other and see the pain and heartbreak as the events at Troy occur.

I could recognize him by touch alone, by smell, I would know him blind, by the way his breaths came and his feet struck the earth. I would know him in death, at the end of the world.

GAAAAH this book is just so full of emotion it’s so difficult to write a review for. The love between Patroclus and Achilles is just so obvious and shines throughout the book. They are both so willing to forgive each other for every wrong, willing to stay by each other no matter how much it hurts. Much like me being so willing to reread this book no matter the pain it causes. Imagine someone repeatedly punching through your chest until there is a a massive gaping hole inside you THAT IS READING THIS BOOK.

I just want to hug and scream at these two boys. It’s such a beautiful retelling, full of humanity and godhood and what happens when someone is pulled in both directions. We see Achilles struggle with the weight of the sacrifice he must make for godhood and see him choose his humanity, choose his love for Patroclus, this the very thing that makes him so human in the eyes of Thetis, his goddess mother. And then we can only watch on in knowing and uncomprehending eyes as this becomes the very thing which tears him apart.

“And perhaps it is the greater grief, after all, to be left on earth when another is gone.” 

Miller effortlessly tells us of famous Greek heroes and gods and weaves the tapestry of Ancient Greek mythology with such confidence – it’s such a detailed story with so many different characters. The worldbuilding and detail required to portray all these characters, some many of us will have heard of so often, is brilliantly done – it really is effortless and we learn so much about all of the gods and heroes without feeling overwhelmed.

Rereading was rough. It is such an emotional and utterly devastating story and I found it even more so on this reread. The Song of Achillies is simply Patroclus and Achilles, two halves of one soul, and a book which tore me apart.

Paws out,
Rach + Draco