ARC Review: Laertes by Carly Stevens


Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Title: Laertes: A Hamlet Retelling
Author: Carly Stevens
Genre: Historical Fiction / Dark Academia Retelling
Audience: Adult
Format: eARC
Length: 290 pages
Publisher: independent
Release Date: July 29, 2022
Source: author
Recommended for fans of: If We Were Villains, Hamlet
Content Warnings: suicide, death, death of parent, infidelity


Set in 1920s Europe, this poignant dark academia novel sheds new light on Shakespeare’s masterpiece, finally allowing Laertes to tell his side of the story.

Laertes Belleforest lives two lives: a wild, passionate one with his best friends studying Classics in Paris, and a stifling existence in the Danish court where the mercurial prince Hamlet constantly overshadows him.

Now in his last year at university, Laertes must decide the kind of man he will become. But who is he, apart from the huge personalities that surround him and the secret guilt that haunts him?

When tragedy rocks Denmark, Laertes’ questions are forced into focus. Like a Greek play, his story hurtles through love and wine, ghosts and revenge, toward inevitable catastrophe.


Laertes is a dark academia retelling of Hamlet set in 1920s Europe told through the lens of Hamlet’s foil. Hamlet is my favorite of Shakespeare’s plays (that I’ve read), so I was intrigued by the dark reimagining of an already dark tale. Like Hamlet, Laertes is literally and figuratively haunted by a deceased parent, giving the story gothic vibes.

Author Carly Stevens is herself an avid Shakespeare fan and scholar. While her academic familiarity with the subject matter brought deep insights to the the development of Laertes’s character, the writing sometimes felt constrained by the original. I found the story most compelling when Laertes was away at university in Paris, but some of the scenes in Denmark felt almost too faithful to the play. I think there was a missed opportunity for moments providing new insights and interpretations of characters besides Laertes, especially considering the updated setting.

While I appreciate the short length of this book, I think there was room for a bit more, especially regarding Laertes’s visions of his mother and Ophelia’s death. Still, I think Laertes is incredibly well-written and well-conceived. You don’t need to be familiar with Hamlet to understand this story…but why would you not want to read Hamlet. Don’t skip the author’s note. I am excited to read more from Carly Stevens!

Thank you to the author for the gifted eARC.

Author: Caroline | Carolibrary

Hello! I’m Caroline! I am a teacher, a book lover, and a nerd. My passions include reading, writing, bookstagram, barre & yoga, baking, binging TV shows, and Star Wars. I love stories in all formats because they can transport you to a different world while helping you understand the world around you. I have always found books to be a particularly magical source of imagination.

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