January has to be the dreariest month of the year. It’s dark, it’s cold, and after ringing in the New Year there aren’t even any holidays to look forward to. It’s the time of year many of us choose to stay cozy inside, often with a good book. While I enjoy a variety of genres, I do read a lot of fantasy at this time of year. Maybe I just want to pretend to be somewhere less frozen! Much of my favourite fantasy draws heavily from mythology and folklore. While fairy tale retellings have become common, I’m always on the hunt for works that draw on lesser known stories. If you too would like to escape for a while, one of these books might be just what you need.
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
When Shadow is released from prison, he begins to encounter strange individuals who may be more than they seem. What happens to old gods when people no longer believe in them? This one is an obvious pick, and has recently been adapted for TV. I first read this novel as a teen mythology geek, and I had a lot of fun picking out various references and looking up myths that were less familiar to me. Gaiman has prior experience with mythic stories from his work on the Sandman comics in the ‘80s and ‘90s.
Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente
Deathless interweaves Russian folklore and history into a dark dream of the last century. The story is about a young woman named Marya Morevna, her marriage to the immortal Koschei, and what happens after. Fair warning, this book is pretty bleak, but quite fitting for our wintry weather outside. If you’d prefer something shorter for this busy time of year, her poetry collection A Guide to Folktales in Fragile Dialects re-imagines fairy tales from different perspectives.
Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire
McGuire is a prolific writer, so you’re sure to find something to like in at least one of her many series. Rosemary and Rue is the first in her series following a changeling PI. The author’s extensive knowledge of folklore make it stand out from other urban fantasy series. If you prefer ghosts and urban legends to fairy tales, try Sparrow Hill Road. Cryptozoologists should check out the InCrypted series.
Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant
Do you like the darker side of fairy tales? How about mixing some horror into your fantasy? A documentary film crew disappeared after they went looking for evidence of real mermaids. When a new crew sets out to find out what happened, they get a lot more than they’d planned for. Be warned, the mermaids in this ocean aren’t anything like Ariel. Grant and McGuire are one and the same, Mira being the name under which she pens her horror titles.
The Wicked + the Divine by Kieron Gillen
What would happen if gods walked among us for a short time? Every century, 12 gods are reincarnated into human vessels on earth. For two years these individuals enjoy divine influence and supernatural powers, before suddenly dying. But this time around, things might be a little different.
Wayward by Jim Zub
I loved the first volume in this graphic novel series based on Japanese mythology. When Rori and her mother move to Japan, she begins to encounter strange creatures and odd things start happening. Is it her, or something older?
The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss
This novel doesn’t deal with mythology, but with the literary monsters that have become a cornerstone of our modern imagination. What if the monstrous daughters of the mad scientists Frankenstein, Moreau, Rappaccini , Jekyll, and Hyde managed to find each other in Victorian London? Trying to survive and discover the truth about their origins, they uncover a plot involving their fathers that must be stopped. This is the first in a trilogy about the Athena Club.