[Note from Frolic: Today, we welcome author Katee Robert to the site. She’s talking all things Hades and Persephone. Take it away, Katee!]
It’s no secret that I love retellings. All you have to do is look at my backlist to see evidence of it. I have a special fondness for fairy tales (to the point where I have them tattooed all over my body). I cut my teeth on them as a kid. In addition to the fables she loved, my grandmother handed me copies me Perrault and the Brothers Grimm when I was probably too young for those versions of the stories. The ones without a certain cartoon shine, the ones that are gritty and filled with blood, horror, and death.
I loved those fairy tales so much, and when I reached adulthood I intentionally started looking for more versions of the familiar stories I knew so well. I poured over the different versions of each fairy tale and how they showed up again and again in different cultures and time periods, how they were the same and yet different, influenced by the people telling the tales. There’s a reason these stories have become a cornerstone for storytelling across multiple industries. They reflect core stories we recognize on a deep level because we’re often exposed to them in one variation or another as small children.
How many Beauty and the Beast retellings can you name off the top of your head? I bet it’s more than a handful. You can find these retellings in nearly every genre. Romance and horror and fantasy and science fiction. Historical and contemporary and worlds that aren’t our own. There’s a reason that readers love retellings so much, even though they know the story beats by heart. More accurately, because they know those beats by heart.
What is mythology but a different set of fairy tales? The Greek myths read like soap operas, filled to the brim with tragedy and sex and drama. Is it any wonder we gravitate toward these stories the same way we gravitate toward Beauty and the Beast and other fairy tales?
Hades and Persephone, in particular, strikes a chord in a lot of us. The dark, forbidding hero and the sweet, innocent heroine. The kidnapping, whisking Persephone away from everything she’s ever known and into the depths of the underworld. The drama of Demeter’s reaction and Zeus’s determination to not be the least bit helpful. The moment when Persephone eats the six pomegranate seeds and seals her fate to spend half the year at Hades’s side.
We know how the original myth goes. A good portion of us can walk those beats by memory. We’ve seen echoes of this story again and again and again. Throw a stone in a pool of dark romance books and you’ll hit a story with most of these elements in place…but with one difference. The happily ever after is secured. Persephone is not sent back to the surface. She chooses to become the Queen of the Underworld and happily embraces her fate. She warms her Hades’s cold, villainous heart.
With all that said, you can grab ten Hades-Persephone retellings and each of them will be unique within themselves. Each author brings their own perspective and life experiences to the table when we create a story, and that influences the lens we retell this core story with. It’s why I could read a hundred retellings of this particular story and never get tired of it. Each is unique within itself.
Sometimes, like in Alisha Rai’s Hot as Hades, there is no kidnapping at all. Persephone ends up in the underworld through different means and then the story proceeds with a scorching hot enemies to lovers romance.
In Captive in the Underworld, Lianyu Tan sticks pretty close to the original myth, with one marked difference. This Hades is a woman. It creates a completely fresh feel to the story and the interactions between Hades and Persephone reflect that. And, yes, this one is delightfully saucy, too.
Finally, in Drag Me Up by RM Virtues, we get a softer version of Hades in a contemporary setting. The way the relationship develops between him and Persephone (Seph) is just as sweet as it is sexy. Persephone is also trans, which adds a wonderful element to the story. Beyond that, we get a good look at the wider cast as their love story develops (I am deeply in love with a found family in addition to the main romace), which is a fun change of pace from the stories hyper-focused on the couple.
Those are just three excellent examples of how these authors have taken the Hades and Persephone framework and made the stories entirely their own even as they maintain enough familiarity with what readers expect to create a fully immersive and satisfying experience. Once you enjoy these three books, I hope you’ll check out Neon Gods, my addition to the Hades and Persephone retellings.
About the Author:
Katee Robert is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of contemporary romance and romantic suspense. Entertainment Weekly calls her writing “unspeakably hot.” Her books have sold over a million copies. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, children, a cat who thinks he’s a dog, and two Great Danes who think they’re lap dogs.
Neon Gods by Katee Robert, out now!
He was supposed to be a myth. But from the moment I crossed the River Styx and fell under his dark spell…he was, quite simply, mine.
Society darling Persephone Dimitriou plans to flee the ultra-modern city of Olympus and start over far from the backstabbing politics of the Thirteen Houses. But all that’s ripped away when her mother ambushes her with an engagement to Zeus, the dangerous power behind their glittering city’s dark facade.
With no options left, Persephone flees to the forbidden undercity and makes a devil’s bargain with a man she once believed a myth…a man who awakens her to a world she never knew existed.
Hades has spent his life in the shadows, and he has no intention of stepping into the light. But when he finds that Persephone can offer a little slice of the revenge he’s spent years craving, it’s all the excuse he needs to help her—for a price. Yet every breathless night spent tangled together has given Hades a taste for Persephone, and he’ll go to war with Olympus itself to keep her close…