Hades and Persephone Retellings
I'm not sure what it says about a certain type of reader (myself included!), but there's always been something bout Hades and Persephone retellings that jumps out from the rest of the Greek myth reimaginings. As popular as they always are, though, this really feels like it's been the year of Hades and Persephone stories. Maybe it's just me, but everywhere I turn there's another one coming out, and my never-ending TBR can NOT handle it. Especially since they all seem to have such gorgeous covers!
I won't get into my theories about how all of the Hades and Persephone retellings, Beauty and the Beast stories, and Phantom of the opera all fit into the same category (at least not in this blog), but I do have three amazing H&P retellings to talk about from this year. I am not ranking them. I couldn't if I tried because they are all doing different things and doing them exceptionally well. So, I'll go in the order I read them: A Captive in the Underworld by Lianyu Tan, Neon Gods by Katee Robert, and Drag Me Up by R.M. Virtues.
Captive in the Underworld by Lianyu Tan is a dark lesbian romance with a gender-bent Hades and a Persephone who needs rescuing from Demeter. Of my three recommendations, this probably follows the closest to the actual mythology, though Lianyu Tan definitely gives Demeter and Persephone's relationship a much darker twist. I'll start with some content warnings for this one, so you can skip down to Neon Gods if you need to.
*CW: parental abuse - emotional and physical, whipping as punishment.*
Demeter has kept Persephone under her thumb her entire life. Persephone doesn't know how to do even basic things to make it on her own as an independent adult, and her mother punishes her for every sleight (real or imagined) or for attracting the attention of the other gods and goddesses. Hades comes to Persephone's not-quite-a-rescue one night when Persephone is on the run from her mother ... but then Hades keeps her in the underworld and refuses to let her return home.
Now, for the most part, Hades treats her well. She has a lovely room, she's provided for, she's safe ... she's very Feyre in the Night Court at the start of ACOMAF ... but she's there against her will. The one really dark scene comes between Hades and Persephone after her escape attempt gone wrong, but over time they both come to an understanding.
Of course, things don't go well between Persephone and Demeter when she finally returns home. The final act of this book is intense and so full of the love that's blossomed between Persephone and Hades against all odds.
This one is the only standalone in my recommendations, and I have mixed feelings about that! It's great that the story wraps up all in one story, and the arc between Hades and Persephone does feel complete. Because there aren't going to be any sequels, there's very few side characters. I love that this was retold as a sapphic romance, and I love getting to see a darker, more morally gray character like Hades portrayed as a woman in a genre where emo boy heroes run the show.
This was a debut work, and I'm excited to see what Lianyu Tan comes up with next ... lesbian vampire dark romance? Yes, please!
Neon Gods by Katee Robert is the first in her new series of Greek mythology reimaginings. The Dark Olympus series follows the original myths very loosely, so don't go into this expecting something that feels really "accurate" to H&P; if you're familiar with her Wicked Villains series, you already know that's not her style.
*Content warnings: attempted forced marriage, references to Zeus as an abusive spouse / dead wives, gun violence. Content note: this is an adult, BDSM romance*
This series is set in a similar world to the Wicked Villains series, and there is actually a tie between the Hades of Neon Gods and the Hades of Learned My Lesson. Within Olympus proper, Hades has become a bit of a myth and a bogeyman. He is one of the official 13 rulers, but most people don't believe he exists--courtesy of the long-standing feud between Hades and Zeus. Persephone, however, has always been drawn to the mythos surrounding him.
Until her mother arranges an engagement between Persephone and Zeus, and she's forced to flee what she views as a guaranteed death sentence at her betrothed's hands directly into Hades' arms. They make an arrangement of a very adult variety to keep her safe, and this is a romance, so you know the drill ... they fall in love along the way.
As far as tropes are concerned, this is often billed as a grumpy / sunshine romance. I'd argue that Persephone isn't really a sunshine character as much as she is pretty emo herself but forced to present a sunshine persona as part of her mother's PR plan.
This one is so much fun, and if you like the Wicked Villains, you'll love this one too. This was a solid, super-enjoyable 4-star quick read for me, and a 4-chili spice rating. I've seen some people say it wasn't as spicy as they expected, and I think that might be coming from people expecting a dark romance / noncon / dubcon story. Hades and Persephone are all about the informed, enthusiastic consent in this one, and in my opinion? that just makes it even hotter.
Drag Me Up by R.M. Virtues. I just read this one, and whew! I am so upset it took me so long to get to it! But also not that upset because it means book 2 is already out :) This is the first book in the Gods of Hunger series, and it's another debut book that absolutely does not feel like it. These are also loose reimaginings of the original myths, where the characters are not actual gods but territory rulers. I don't like to compare books because people get weird about it, but if you enjoyed Neon Gods or the Wicked Villains, and you haven't read this yet, you are missing out.
*Content warnings: There is off-page reference to an emotionally abusive ex, as well as a man character who is extremely misogynistic, manipulative, abusive toward women, and engages in on-page stalking / threatening behavior.
Content notes: This is an adult BDSM romance set in a casino.*
Hades is the elusive, workaholic owner of a successful casino that he built from the ground up, and the only thing that is his without his parents' legacy or his brother Zeus, who he's constantly on the lookout for because ... well, because Zeus pretty much sucks. His nephew, Dionysus, convinces him to go to a Cirque du Soleil type show that has just taken up residency at the casino, where he is immediately captivated by an aerial performer, Persephone.
The relationship between these two is so beautiful. Their communication is excellent and sweet. There are no miscommunication plots, or issues that could have been resolved if they had just talked to one another. Even when both of them are dealing with individual issues, they share them with another, without putting the burden of them on the other. Honestly, it's just really wonderfully done. Also, they are really hot together lol. There are two scenes in particular that, I'm pretty certain, are seared onto my brain.
Lastly this book is just wonderfully inclusive without ever feeling forced or ingenuine. This book was fun, heartwarming, and delightfully spicy. This was 4/4.5-star quick read for me, and a 4-chili spice rating. These Hades and Persephone are also all about the informed, enthusiastic consent and I adore them for it.
That's it for now! Do you have any favorite Hades and Persephone retellings?