A book list by Onset & Rime.
When the weather turns cold, all we want is a familiar story to fall into. So we usually end up turning to a tried-and-true classic novel that we've read 20 times. We put together this list of reimagined classics to provide the comfort we're looking for, but with a fresh (and sometimes much needed) perspective.
A Note: Content warnings have been provided where appropriate. Highlight the "invisible" text beside the content warning label to see. Content warnings are not value statements about the books or judgements about the inclusion of any particular content. They are there to give you a heads up on what to be prepared for so you can choose if and/or when a book is right for you.
1) A CLASH OF STEEL by C.B. Lee
A reimagined Treasure Island set against the backdrop of the Qing dynasty.
From the publisher: “1826. The sun is setting on the golden age of piracy, and the legendary Dragon Fleet, the scourge of the South China Sea, is no more. Its ruthless leader, a woman known only as the Head of the Dragon, is now only a story, like the ones Xiang has grown up with all her life. She desperately wants to prove her worth, especially to her mother, a shrewd businesswoman who never seems to have enough time for Xiang. Her father is also only a story, dead at sea before Xiang was born. Her single memento of him is a pendant she always wears, a simple but plain piece of gold jewelry.
But the pendant's true nature is revealed when a mysterious girl named Anh steals it, only to return it to Xiang in exchange for her help in decoding the tiny map scroll hidden inside. The revelation that Xiang's father sailed with the Dragon Fleet and tucked away this secret changes everything. Rumor has it that the legendary Head of the Dragon had one last treasure—the plunder of a thousand ports—that for decades has only been a myth, a fool's journey.
Xiang is convinced this map could lead to the fabled treasure. Captivated with the thrill of adventure, she joins Anh and her motley crew off in pursuit of the island. But the girls soon find that the sea—and especially those who sail it—are far more dangerous than the legends led them to believe.”
Genre(s): Adventure, Historical Fiction, Young Adult
2) ALIAS HOOK by Lisa Jensen
Explore Neverland from the perspective of Captain Hook.
From the publisher: “Meet Captain James Benjamin Hook, a witty, educated Restoration-era privateer cursed to play villain to a pack of malicious little boys in a pointless war that never ends. But everything changes when Stella Parrish, a forbidden grown woman, dreams her way to the Neverland in defiance of Pan's rules. From the glamour of the Fairy Revels, to the secret ceremonies of the First Tribes, to the mysterious underwater temple beneath the Mermaid Lagoon, the magical forces of the Neverland open up for Stella as they never have for Hook. And in the pirate captain himself, she begins to see someone far more complex than the storybook villain.
With Stella's knowledge of folk and fairy tales, she might be Hook's last chance for redemption and release if they can break his curse before Pan and his warrior boys hunt her down and drag Hook back to their neverending game.”
Genre(s): Fantasy, Adventure, Romance
3) AYESHA AT LAST by Uzma Jalaluddin
“A modern-day Muslim Pride and Prejudice for a new generation of love”
From the publisher: “Ayesha Shamsi has a lot going on. Her dreams of being a poet have been set aside for a teaching job so she can pay off her debts to her wealthy uncle. She lives with her boisterous Muslim family and is always being reminded that her flighty younger cousin, Hafsa, is close to rejecting her one hundredth marriage proposal. Though Ayesha is lonely, she doesn't want an arranged marriage. Then she meets Khalid, who is just as smart and handsome as he is conservative and judgmental. She is irritatingly attracted to someone who looks down on her choices and who dresses like he belongs in the seventh century.
When a surprise engagement is announced between Khalid and Hafsa, Ayesha is torn between how she feels about the straightforward Khalid and the unsettling new gossip she hears about his family. Looking into the rumors, she finds she has to deal with not only what she discovers about Khalid, but also the truth she realizes about herself.”
Genre(s): Contemporary, Romance
Content Warnings: islamophobia, fatphobia, workplace harassment, slut shaming
4) PRIDE, PREJUDICE, AND OTHER FLAVORS by Sonali Dev
The first book in a series that reimagines the works of Jane Austen, centering on the Rajes, an influential Indian American family.
From the publisher: “It is a truth universally acknowledged that only in an overachieving Indian American family can a genius daughter be considered a black sheep.
Dr. Trisha Raje is San Francisco’s most acclaimed neurosurgeon. But that’s not enough for the Rajes, her influential immigrant family who’s achieved power by making its own non-negotiable rules:
- Never trust an outsider
- Never do anything to jeopardize your brother’s political aspirations
- And never, ever, defy your family
Trisha is guilty of breaking all three rules. But now she has a chance to redeem herself. So long as she doesn’t repeat old mistakes.
Up-and-coming chef DJ Caine has known people like Trisha before, people who judge him by his rough beginnings and place pedigree above character. He needs the lucrative job the Rajes offer, but he values his pride too much to indulge Trisha’s arrogance. And then he discovers that she’s the only surgeon who can save his sister’s life.
As the two clash, their assumptions crumble like the spun sugar on one of DJ’s stunning desserts. But before a future can be savored there’s a past to be reckoned with...
A family trying to build home in a new land.
A man who has never felt at home anywhere.
And a choice to be made between the two.”
This book is the first in a series of Jane Austen retellings centering on one Indian American family, the Rajes. Each book can be read as a stand alone but you might gain a richer understanding of the family and their dynamics if you read them in order. The second book, Recipe for Persuasion is a retelling of Persuasion. The third, Incense and Sensibility is a retelling of Sense and Sensibility. There is also a fourth book in the works called The Emma Project, based on Emma, that is expected to be published sometime in 2022.
Genre(s): Contemporary, Romance
Content Warnings: sexual assault, racism
5) THE WIFE UPSTAIRS by Rachel Hawkins
“[A] tale of forbidden romance, ill-advised attraction, and a wife who just won't stay buried. In this vivid reimagining of [Jane Eyre], which Mrs. Rochester will get her happy ending?”
From the publisher: “Meet Jane. Newly arrived to Birmingham, Alabama, Jane is a broke dog-walker in Thornfield Estates—a gated community full of McMansions, shiny SUVs, and bored housewives. The kind of place where no one will notice if Jane lifts the discarded tchotchkes and jewelry off the side tables of her well-heeled clients. Where no one will think to ask if Jane is her real name.
But her luck changes when she meets Eddie Rochester. Recently widowed, Eddie is Thornfield Estates’ most mysterious resident. His wife, Bea, drowned in a boating accident with her best friend, their bodies lost to the deep. Jane can’t help but see an opportunity in Eddie—not only is he rich, brooding, and handsome, he could also offer her the kind of protection she’s always yearned for.
Yet as Jane and Eddie fall for each other, Jane is increasingly haunted by the legend of Bea, an ambitious beauty with a rags-to-riches origin story, who launched a wildly successful southern lifestyle brand. How can she, plain Jane, ever measure up? And can she win Eddie’s heart before her past—or his—catches up to her?”
Genre(s): Mystery, Thriller, Contemporary
Content Warnings: forced captivity, domestic abuse, suicidal ideation
6) THE CHOSEN AND THE BEAUTIFUL by Nghi Vo
A reimagined version of The Great Gatsby from the perspective of Jordan Baker instead of Nick Carraway, with a splash of magic.
From the publisher: “Immigrant. Socialite. Magician.
Jordan Baker grows up in the most rarefied circles of 1920s American society—she has money, education, a killer golf handicap, and invitations to some of the most exclusive parties of the Jazz Age. She’s also queer, Asian, adopted, and treated as an exotic attraction by her peers, while the most important doors remain closed to her.
But the world is full of wonders: infernal pacts and dazzling illusions, lost ghosts and elemental mysteries. In all paper is fire, and Jordan can burn the cut paper heart out of a man. She just has to learn how.”
Genre(s): Historical Fiction, Fantasy
Content Warnings: domestic abuse, racism, colonialism
7) SKY WITHOUT STARS by Jessica Brody & Joanne Rendell
An interstellar reimagining of Les Misérables.
From the publisher: “A thief. An officer. A guardian.
Three strangers. One shared destiny . . .
When the Last Days came, the planet of Laterre promised hope. But five hundred years later, it’s now a place where an extravagant elite class reigns supreme; where the clouds hide the stars and the poor starve in the streets; where a rebel group, long thought dead, is resurfacing.
Whispers of revolution have begun—a revolution that hinges on three unlikely heroes…
Chatine is a street-savvy thief who will do anything to escape the brutal Regime, including spying on Marcellus, the grandson of the most powerful man on the planet.
Marcellus is an officer—and the son of a traitor. Groomed to command by his legendary grandfather, Marcellus begins to doubt the government he’s vowed to serve when he discovers a cryptic message that only one person, a girl named Alouette, can read.
Alouette is living in an underground refuge, where she guards and protects the last surviving library on the planet. But a shocking murder will bring Alouette to the surface for the first time in twelve years…and plunge Laterre into chaos.
All three have roles to play in a dangerous game of revolution—and together they will shape the future of a planet.”
This is the first book in the fully published System Divine trilogy.
Genre(s): Science Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult
Content Warnings: child abuse, police brutality
8) SING ME FORGOTTEN by Jessica S. Olson
“A YA fantasy, gender-swapped retelling of The Phantom of the Opera.”
From the publisher: “Isda does not exist. At least not beyond the opulent walls of the opera house.
Cast into a well at birth for being one of the magical few who can manipulate memories when people sing, she was saved by Cyril, the opera house’s owner. Since that day, he has given her sanctuary from the murderous world outside. All he asks in return is that she use her power to keep ticket sales high—and that she stay out of sight. For if anyone discovers she survived, Isda and Cyril would pay with their lives.
But Isda breaks Cyril’s cardinal rule when she meets Emeric Rodin, a charming boy who throws her quiet, solitary life out of balance. His voice is unlike any she’s ever heard, but the real shock comes when she finds in his memories hints of a way to finally break free of her gilded prison.
Haunted by this possibility, Isda spends more and more time with Emeric, searching for answers in his music and his past. But the price of freedom is steeper than Isda could ever know. For even as she struggles with her growing feelings for Emeric, she learns that in order to take charge of her own destiny, she must become the monster the world tried to drown in the first place.”
Genre(s): Fantasy, Young Adult
Content Warnings: child abuse, forced confinement, self harm
9) HIS HIDEOUS HEART edited by Dahlia Adler
“Thirteen of YA’s most celebrated names reimagine Edgar Allan Poe’s most surprising, unsettling, and popular tales for a new generation.”
From the publisher: “Edgar Allan Poe may be a hundred and fifty years beyond this world, but the themes of his beloved works have much in common with modern young adult fiction. Whether the stories are familiar to readers or discovered for the first time, readers will revel in Edgar Allan Poe’s classic tales, and how they’ve been brought to life in 13 unique and unforgettable ways.
Contributors include Kendare Blake (reimagining “Metzengerstein”), Rin Chupeco (“The Murders in the Rue Morge”), Lamar Giles (“The Oval Portrait”), Tessa Gratton (“Annabel Lee”), Tiffany D. Jackson (“The Cask of Amontillado”), Stephanie Kuehn (“The Tell-Tale Heart”), Emily Lloyd-Jones (“The Purloined Letter”), Hillary Monahan (“The Masque of the Red Death”), Marieke Nijkamp (“Hop-Frog”), Caleb Roehrig (“The Pit and the Pendulum”), and Fran Wilde (“The Fall of the House of Usher”).”
Genre(s): Horror, Short Story, Young Adult
Content Warnings: homophobia (Night-Tide); kidnapping and misogyny (The Glittering Death); abuse, ableism, and misogyny (Changeling); homophobia (Lygia); transphobia, past domestic violence (The Murders in the Rue Apartelle, Borcay)
10) TELLING TALES by Patience Agbabi
“Boisterous, funky, foul-mouthed, sublimely lyrical, and bursting at the seams, Telling Tales takes [The Canterbury Tales] and gives it thrilling new life.”
From the publisher: “Tabard Inn to Canterb'ry Cathedral,
Poet pilgrims competing for free picks,
Chaucer Tales, track by track, it's the remix
From below-the-belt base to the topnotch;
I won't stop all the clocks with a stopwatch
when the tales overrun, run offensive,
or run clean out of steam, they're authentic
and we're keeping it real, reminisce this:
Chaucer Tales were an unfinished business.
Award-winning poet Patience Agbabi presents an inspired remix of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales retelling all of the stories, from the Miller's Tale to the Wife of Bath's in her own critically acclaimed poetic style.”
Genre(s): Poetry, Fiction