Misc.

Rinn Recommends… Historical Fiction

Rinn Recommends...

This may or may not become a regular feature, or at least semi-regular. But it’s pretty much what it says on the tin – my various recommendations from different genres! Today, after finally finishing the beast of a book that is Outlander, I wanted to share my recommendations of historical fiction, a genre that is very close to my heart just behind fantasy and science fiction.

So prepare to travel back in time, and whisk yourself away by reading…

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Achilles, “the best of all the Greeks,” son of the cruel sea goddess Thetis and the legendary king Peleus, is strong, swift, and beautiful— irresistible to all who meet him. Patroclus is an awkward young prince, exiled from his homeland after an act of shocking violence. Brought together by chance, they forge an inseparable bond, despite risking the gods’ wrath.

They are trained by the centaur Chiron in the arts of war and medicine, but when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, all the heroes of Greece are called upon to lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause, and torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows. Little do they know that the cruel Fates will test them both as never before and demand a terrible sacrifice.

  • Time Period: Pre-8th century BC, when the Iliad was written.
  • Location: Various Greek city-states, Troy.
  • Why Should I Read It? This is a beautiful love story based on ancient works, and one of the most gorgeous portrayals of ancient Greece I have ever read.

Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield

Gates of Fire

At Thermopylae, a rocky mountain pass in northern Greece, the feared and admired Spartan soldiers stood three hundred strong. Theirs was a suicide mission, to hold the pass against the invading millions of the mighty Persian army.

Day after bloody day they withstood the terrible onslaught, buying time for the Greeks to rally their forces. Born into a cult of spiritual courage, physical endurance, and unmatched battle skill, the Spartans would be remembered for the greatest military stand in history–one that would not end until the rocks were awash with blood, leaving only one gravely injured Spartan squire to tell the tale…

  • Time Period: 480 BC.
  • Location: Sparta, Thermopylae.
  • Why Should I Read It? If you’re a fan of the film 300, then give this one a try. It is told from the point of view of a Spartan, captured by the Persians, and through him we get a glimpse into Spartan society. Definitely one for the ancient history buffs!

Blood and Beauty by Sarah Dunant

Blood and Beauty by Sarah Dunant

Is there a family in history more dazzling, dangerous and notorious than the Borgias? A powerhouse of the Italian Renaissance, their very name epitomizes the ruthless politics and sexual corruption of the Papacy.

The father, Pope Alexander VI, a consummate politician and a man with a voracious appetite both as Cardinal and Pope. The younger Juan, womanizer and thug, and their lovely sister, Lucretia, whose very name has become a byword for poison, incest and intrigue. But how much of the history about this remarkable family is actually true, and how much distorted, filtered through the age old mechanisms of political spin, propaganda and gossip?

What if the truth, the real history, is even more challenging?

  • Time Period: The 15th century AD.
  • Location: Rome.
  • Why Should I Read It? The Borgias were a fascinating family, and although the truth about them is now pretty much lost amongst all the gossip and scandal of the past, Sarah Dunant writes a fabulous version of their story. Just enough back-stabbing and political corruptness to keep you turning the pages, without being over the top.

La Reine Margot by Alexandre Dumas

La Reine Margot

Margot is one of several in line to inherit the crown in France, where Roman Catholics and Protestants are jockeying for power. Margot’s mother, Catherine de Medici, is intent on seeing her son take the throne once the reign of King Charles IX ends. After being married to a man she doesn’t love and starting a tryst with one she does, Margot contends with her mother’s at-all-costs plan to control the political fate of the volatile country.

  • Time Period: 1572 during the reign of Charles IX.
  • Location: Paris.
  • Why Should I Read It? It’s a fascinating period of history, and Dumas illustrates it wonderfully. I had to study this particular period for history at school, and ended up reading lots of books set in around it.

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Outlander

The year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is just back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach — an “outlander”—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of Our Lord… 1743.

Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire is catapulted into the intrigues of lairds and spies that may threaten her life, and shatter her heart. For here James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, shows her a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire—and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.

  • Time Period: 1945 and 1743.
  • Location: Scotland – Inverness and the Highlands.
  • Why Should I Read It? Jamie Fraser. Is that enough? Oh, well… the only time I really enjoy romance is fiction is when it is in historical fiction, and this book basically has it all. A time travel element, a female lead who doesn’t take crap from anyone, sexy Scotsmen in kilts, castles, beautiful landscapes, adventure, intrigue… ahh just read it please.

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Emmuska Orczy

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Emmuska Orczy

Armed with only his wits and his cunning, one man recklessly defies the French revolutionaries and rescues scores of innocent men, women, and children from the deadly guillotine. His friends and foes know him only as the Scarlet Pimpernel. But the ruthless French agent Chauvelin is sworn to discover his identity and to hunt him down.

  • Time Period: During the French Revolution (1789-1799), but specifically in 1792.
  • Location: Paris, Calais and London.
  • Why Should I Read It? ODDS FISH, M’DEAR! Percy Blakeney is one of the best characters of all time – acting out a foolish aristocrat in order to keep his cover, he is really incredibly clever and charming. The whole book is a real adventure, and I also highly recommend the film version starring Anthony Andrews.

Empress Orchid by Anchee Min

Empress Orchid

To rescue her family from poverty and avoid marrying her slope-shouldered cousin, seventeen-year-old Orchid competes to be one of the Emperor’s wives. When she is chosen as a lower-ranking concubine she enters the erotically charged and ritualised Forbidden City. But beneath its immaculate façade lie whispers of murders and ghosts, and the thousands of concubines will stoop to any lengths to bear the Emperor’s son.

Orchid trains herself in the art of pleasuring a man, bribes her way into the royal bed, and seduces the monarch, drawing the attention of dangerous foes. Little does she know that China will collapse around her, and that she will be its last Empress.

  • Time Period: 1852.
  • Location: The Forbidden City and Beijing.
  • Why Should I Read It? It’s a fascinating look at one woman’s rise to power. For me it really appealed because I hadn’t read many books about China, and was interested in learning more. I would not recommended the sequel though!

Have you read any of these recommendations, or do you have any recommendations of your own?

Review

Review: Helen and Troy’s Epic Road Quest by A. Lee Martinez

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3 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

A road trip comedy, based on the works of Homer, featuring gods, monsters and creatures of Greek myth and legend, based in modern day America? I definitely had to request this one!

Helen and Troy’s Epic Road Quest had all the humour I expected. The mythology-based puns, the subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) references to previous Greek heroes, legendary ferocious beasts being not quite as tough as expected. It is a silly and fun comedy about a teenage girl, who just happens to also be a minotaur, and a teenage boy who are thrown together by a Lost God to go on a quest and retrieve some artefacts for him. In true heroic quest style, they are given little indication of what to do, where to go and how to get there.

Yet for all its humour, it does actually go a little deeper. Helen’s constant worries about her appearance and how others perceive her, due to her minotaurism, will be relatable to many a reader – although perhaps for reasons other than being a minotaur… She worries about what would happen if her and Troy ended up together, more about how people would see him than her. Both Helen and Troy are genuinely good people, but I didn’t feel I got to know much about them, past the scope of their interest in each other.

However, this was a good and light-hearted read, that I really appreciated due to all the mythology references. Considering my thesis involves classical religion and mythology, it was really nice to read something about it that wasn’t all stuffy and academic! Fans of Greek mythology will especially enjoy this, but I’m pretty sure it will appeal to anyone looking for a road trip story that’s just a bit different.

Review

Review: Smiler’s Fair (The Hollow Gods #1) by Rebecca Levene

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5 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

Smiler’s Fair is definitely not a book for the faint of heart. Opening with a rather gory and graphic birth scene, the gruesome detail continues without, showing the reader that this world is not an easy one to live in. Whilst ‘Smiler’s Fair’ may sound like a pleasant place, this is but a front for the grim reality. Prostitution, gambling, brawls and duels, all the seedy parts of life gather at the Fair. This is most definitely an adult fantasy novel, and all the more fun for it.

We meet each main character in their own introductory chapter – all start at Smiler’s Fair, and all begin this new page of their lives because of it. There is Marven, a man who loves killing a little too much; Nethmi, a young woman who is about to be married off to a minor lord; Krish, a goatherd who feels his parents are hiding something from him; Eric, a male prostitute who is tiring of his current lifestyle and wants something more permanent; and Dae Hyo, hellbent on revenge for the slaughter of his people. With such a variety of characters, the reader is bound to find someone they feel for. However, with the characters changing as they went on their own personal journeys, I found my own allegiances changing, and my feelings towards two characters radically reversing. It was well done and completely drew me in, one minute I was hoping for a success and the next I couldn’t believe I’d liked that character at all.

Each of the characters are united by both Smiler’s Fair, and death. Whether it be an outright murder, a revenge killing or a desperate attempt to free themselves, there is something they all have in common. And like some of the authors of current popular fantasy series, Rebecca Levene is unafraid to kill off characters, whether they be minor or major. For example, one character I really liked was fine and dandy one moment, and the next he was gone, just like that. When an author can shock you like that, and leave you feeling genuinely sad or upset, you know they’re doing something right. She also has a talent for creating a wide cast of characters, each with their own personalities and aims, and with their own clear tones of voice.

Some authors have a writing style that just flows off the page, allowing the reader to read quickly without missing a thing. Rebecca Levene is definitely one of those authors. Although the world building was not as rich in detail as some other fantasy series and I never got an all encompassing feel of the world, it was still enough to flesh out the lands and their inhabitants. Whilst the first half is a little slow, taking its time to weave together various storylines and paths, the second half really picks up in terms of action and pace – and the ending opens up for book two very nicely.

A fantastic beginning to a new, highly original fantasy series, and highly recommended for fans of authors such as Joe Abercrombie, Scott Lynch or Robert Jordan. I have a theory about a link between the various different pantheons and characters, and I’d like to see if the next book will confirm it in any way…

Review

Review: Camelot Burning (Metal & Lace #1) by Kathryn Rose

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4 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

What’s not to like about an Arthurian steampunk novel? I was instantly intrigued by the premise of this story, and it didn’t let me down. I was so engrossed that I read half of the book on the train journey to and from London (three hours total). Weaving various characters of Arthurian legend into an original steampunk-based tale, as well as introducing some new, I thought it worked really well.

There are the familiar figures of legend such as King Arthur himself, Merlin (a bit of a drug-addled hippie, no surprise there), Guinevere, Lancelot and various other Knights of the Round Table. From the description of the knights with their dragon tattoos, leather outfits and bars through their ears, as well as kohl-rimmed eyes, I was constantly imagining them as bikers! Somehow this fit in pretty well with the steam and metal filled version of Camelot.

Vivienne, the main character, managed to fit into two sides of society: high society, as the queen’s handmaid, and a secret life as apprentice to Merlin. She was passionate about this secret side of her life, clever and inquisitive, and I just wanted her to completely step away from the court with its dresses and curtsies, embrace something that she obviously loved doing, and screw the consequences. She didn’t mope, she didn’t constantly fawn over her love interest and she just got things done. Talking of the romance, it was a blossoming interest, rather than insta-love (yay!), so much more enjoyable to watch develop – although it would be nice to learn a little more about Marcus.

Vivienne’s family were present but negligible – her parents a lord and lady, her brother a squire – and there is a nice twist in the story about three quarters of the way through that would have really benefited from knowing her family better. As it was, it just wasn’t shocking because I didn’t know anything about the family member in question.

One of my main issues with the book was the world building. Apart from Camelot and its immediate surroundings, the reader wasn’t really told much about the outside world. Jerusalem was mentioned, as was Lyonesse – but world felt so small. As as a result, Morgan le Fay’s threat didn’t seem too great, seeing as the whole ‘world’ pretty much just encompassed the castle of Camelot – how many people would it really affect if she took over? Another problem was magic – or more specifically, why magic was taboo. This wasn’t explained anywhere, so I never really got a sense of just how much danger Merlin or Vivienne were putting themselves in by practising. All I understood is that it was suddenly banned, not why or how, or even when. Magic could also be stolen, which was another thing that wasn’t explained.

A highly enjoyable take on Arthurian legend, recommended for steampunk fans or anyone interested in retellings/alternate tellings of mythology. Despite the lack of world-building, it has a fast-paced and thrilling conclusion, some great steampunk inventions and a clever interpretation of the mythology – the Metal & Lace series is definitely one I’ll be continuing.

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday #17: Mythology in Fantasy

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday is my own feature, posted every other Friday. It’s pretty self-explanatory: I do a feature on something to do with the genre. Sometimes it will be a book recommendation, sometimes showcasing a book or series I’ve loved and other times it might be a discussion post. You’re more than welcome to join in with this feature, let me know if you make your own Fantasy Friday post!

Today I want to talk about: mythology in fantasy.

It’s no secret that I love mythology. I just find it absolutely fascinating, no matter the culture. One of my focuses at university was ancient Greek religion, and I also wrote my dissertation on the Graeco-Egyptian god Serapis. So today I want to share some fantasy books that are based on or inspired by mythology. Some are set in their respective countries, others are more modern takes, and some invent their own mythology! I also plan on doing a post on various mythological creatures that appear in fantasy in the future.

I found LOADS of books based on Greek mythology, as well as Arthurian legend, but it was quite tricky finding ones based on Egyptian mythology, as most books based on Egypt were ‘historical’ fiction. I say ‘historical’ because the ancient sources and evidence from Ancient Egypt are a lot less concrete than say, the Tudor period.

I also found barely any books based on Roman mythology that weren’t, once again, historical fiction (this time without the speech marks, Romans wrote a lot more down!) – lots of Roman mysteries out there! – but I think that’s because Greek and Roman mythology are very closely entwined. The Romans took a lot of their myths and legends from the Greeks, albeit with different names – and when people talk about the gods they tend to use the Greek names. For example, Percy Jackson is the son of Poseidon but he would be the son of Neptune if we were talking about it in terms of Roman mythology. So for this reason, I’ve grouped them together.

Greek & Roman Mythology:

The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan Percy Jackson and the Battle of the Labyrinth Troy: Lord of the Silver Bow by David Gemmell Ilium by Dan Simmons King of Ithaca by Glyn Iliffe The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

The Heroes of Olympus series and the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan tell a modern day story of teenagers who discover they are demi-gods. The first focuses on the Roman gods, and the second Greek – implying that the pantheons are totally separate. I absolutely love Rick Riordan’s books, they’re just so much fun and are PERFECT for fans of mythology. David Gemmell’s Troy series is as it sounds – an account of the Trojan War, told from multiple viewpoints. I’ve had the trilogy for years and still haven’t gotten round to reading it… Ilium is the first book in a duology by Dan Simmons, a sci-fi/fantasy account of the Trojan War set on Mars. I loved Simmons’ Hyperion series, and The Iliad is one of my favourite classics, so I need to hurry up and read this one. King of Ithaca by Glyn Iliffe is the tale of Odysseus before the Trojan War – I read this one a few years ago and really enjoyed it. And oh, The Song of Achilles, you beautiful, beautiful book. Madeline Miller has written a haunting love story from the point of view of Patroclus, a Greek prince. Read it and cry.

Egyptian Mythology:

The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan The Chaos of Stars by Kiersten White The Age of Ra by James Lovegrove

Yep, Rick Riordan has not only written about Greek and Roman mythology, but Egyptian too. His Kane Chronicles tell the story of two siblings with an archaeologist father, who discover that the Egyptian gods are real – and are pretty angry. I haven’t read this series but going on Riordan’s other writing, I really need to. Chaos of Stars by Kiersten White is a book that I spotted on another blog a while ago and promptly forgot about until researching books for this post. It follows a girl who is the human daughter of Isis and Osiris – and the cover is just gorgeous. The Age of Ra by James Lovegrove is another interesting sounding book – it works on the premise that all gods are real – or rather were, until the Egyptian pantheon defeated them all. They now have control over the Earth.

Arthurian Legend:

The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley The Winter King by Bernard Cornwell Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper

A true Arthurian epic, Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Mists of Avalon is told through the eyes of several women in Arthur’s court. There are actually seven books to the series, the last three finished by a different author, and the first book alone clocks in at just over one thousand pages. The Winter King by Bernard Cornwell takes a slightly different take on the familiar story, told after Arthur has been banished from his own kingdom, and Merlin has disappeared. And finally, Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper is, unlike the other two books, a children’s tale about siblings who discover clues to finding the Holy Grail. I remember reading this when I was younger, but unfortunately I don’t remember a lot about it!

Norse Mythology:

The Gospel of Loki by Joanne Harris The Broken Sword by Poul Anderson Ice Land by Betsu Tobin

Joanne Harris’ The Gospel of Loki is a wonderful retelling of Norse legend, from the point of view of the trickster god Loki. With his tongue-in-cheek sense of humour, he recounts many familiar tales of Scandinavian mythology. The Broken Sword by Poul Anderson follows not Loki, nor any of the other gods, but a human man named Scafloc who must make deals with the ice giants in order to save himself, others and the gods. Now I have to admit when looking for books to fit into with Norse mythology, I was immediately drawn to Ice Land by Betsy Tobin by its gorgeous cover. It’s an epic quest to save the land sort of story, infused with Icelandic history and mythology.

Other:

American Gods by Neil Gaiman The Alchemyst by Michael Scott Smiler's Fair by Rebecca Levene

By ‘other’, I mean completely made-up mythology for the sake of literature, not based on one particular pantheon. Neil Gaiman’s American Gods is one such example. I want to read this one so badly, Gaiman’s writing is just outstanding and it comes very highly recommended! Whilst the life of Nicholas Flamel is not one of mythology, there are many rumours of his being a legendary alchemist that many stories, including The Alchemyst by Michael Scott. I got this book as a freebie from BristolCon last year, and it has a pretty high Goodreads rating. Unfortunately the author’s name always reminds me of The Office and makes me giggle… And finally, Smiler’s Fair by Rebecca Levene is a new release from Hodder (who ever so kindly sent me a copy!), and features a story of gods reborn as humans. I’m so excited to read this one, so I’m hoping to do so before I go off to university.

Do you have any recommendations for fantasy based on mythology? Do you have a particular favourite branch of mythology or legend? There are so many more books I could have listed, but I just didn’t have enough time!

Past Features

Turning Off The TV #8: BBC’s Merlin

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Welcome to my regular Thursday feature, Turning off the TV! In this feature I recommend books similar to TV shows or films you may have enjoyed, both series and specific episodes. Today’s post comes a little late, thanks to some website errors that had me tearing my hair out, and also may have had me in tears at one point (even though everything is backed up, I’m kind of terrified of one and a half years of work just going down the drain). But now it seems to be okay… I really hope I haven’t spoken too soon.

The TV series this week is: BBC’s Merlin.

Merlin is a reimagining of the legend in which the future King Arthur and Merlin are young contemporaries, however Arthur’s father Uther Pendragon has banned magic in Camelot on pain of death. It shows the growth of King Arthur from a young, self-absorbed boy to the mighty king in the legends as well as Merlin’s colossal role in the creating the powerful Camelot.

This may not be a series I’ve watched myself (I’ve only occasionally caught bits of episodes, mostly when it first started), but I love Arthurian legend. Which kind of leads me to question just why I haven’t watched this…

The Arthur Trilogy by Kevin Crossley-Holland

Arthur: The Seeing Stone by Kevin Crossley-Holland Arthur: At the Crossing Places by Kevin Crossley-Holland Arthur: King of the Middle March by Kevin Crossley-Holland

I first read these books when I was about ten or eleven, and have read them many times since. I still have my original copies. They’re not a straight retelling of the Arthurian legend, and in fact don’t follow King Arthur himself but a young boy called Arthur, whose life is strangely linked with the monarch. Merlin is a prominent figure in the books, as the friend of his father, and who gives Arthur a piece of obsidian that seems to set off the course of events. It’s a picture of twelfth century life, as well as a look into the myths and legends of King Arthur and his court. And now I want to re-read the trilogy thanks to writing this… Just another re-read to add to the list!

The Pendragon Cycle series by Stephen R. Lawhead

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I spent the large majority of my time in sixth form (optional school years at the ages of seventeen and eighteen) in the school library, which is probably not much of a shock. I was always drawn to this series – but they NEVER had the first book. Always book three onwards, occasionally book two, which was really frustrating because I really wanted to read it. It is a six book series, using Arthurian legend and other myths like that of Atlantis, to create the story.

The Once and Future King by T.H. White

The Once and Future King by T.H. White

A classic series of epic fantasy and legend, the first book being The Sword and the Stone, this is a massive retelling of the traditional story. A young boy named ‘Wart’ is tutored by Merlyn – and goes on to be crowned Arthur, King of the Britons. This is in fact the book that the Disney film of the same name was based on.

Are you a fan of Merlin? Do you have any recommendations to add?

Review

Review: The Gospel of Loki by Joanne M. Harris

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5 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

I cannot get enough of books based on ancient mythologies or cultures. I’ve devoured countless books on ancient Greece and Rome, the Olympian Gods, the Trojan War… but as you can see, the reading is often focused on one specific area of history. A fascination with the myths and legends of all over the world has followed me all my life; even those cultures of which I know little are endlessly astounding. Norse mythology sits somewhere in the middle. Whilst I know more about it than say, the stories of ancient Babylon, I know a Hel (harhar see what I did there… I’m so sorry) of a lot more about those of ancient Greece or Rome.

So it was with great delight that I spotted The Gospel of Loki on Netgalley. A book narrated by the trickster god of the old Norse pantheon certainly sounds like an incredibly unique premise, and I’m sure the recent releases of Avengers Assemble and the Thor films have piqued people’s interest in this particular deity (but PLEASE don’t go into this book expecting to see Marvel-Loki. I don’t know why you would… one is a comic book character, the other an old god.)

But anyway. If you’re interested in this book but know nothing about Norse mythology, then there is no need to worry – the author (or rather Loki) provides a handy guide to the various characters at the very beginning, as well as setting out the origin story of the religion. From the cover (which is absolutely gorgeous), I was expecting something quite heavy and traditional, but in actual fact Loki’s tone of voice is light and witty, and he even uses frequent colloquialisms and slang. Although I did feel like phrases such as ‘Yours Truly’ and ‘so shoot me’ were used a little too often, I loved Loki’s narration through the various legends of the old Norse religions. He may be arrogant, thoughtless and the ultimate trickster god, but at times I actually felt a little sorry for him. Unlike the other deities, Loki was not born into the family, but adopted as Odin’s brother. From the very beginning the others regard him as untrustworthy, what with him previously being a demon and a bit tricksy, and yes sometimes he deserves their hostility – but actually, there were times where he was treated rather unfairly and the other gods felt more like the demons.

What I most enjoyed about this book was the humour – and I think that is what it will make it so accessible to many different types of readers. It could have been a stuffy book about the myths and legends of Scandinavia, but with a brilliantly clever twist of Loki as the narrator, and his wonderful sense of wit, it both teaches and entertains. The casual weaving of modern day slang with these ancient epics gives it a timeless feeling. At some times it feels like a big family drama, with all the little (and not so little) arguments between the various gods!

Taking most of its inspiration from the legends of the Poetic Edda and Prose Edda, The Gospel of Loki is a gorgeous ‘retelling’ of ancient myths, that feels both timeless and modern, with a brilliantly unique viewpoint.

Like me, Ron is impressed. I told myself I wouldn’t use a Marvel-Loki gif so… err… yeah. This seemed appropriate.

 

Review

Review: Aphrodite, Goddess of Love (Olympians #6) by George O’Connor

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4 out of 5 stars | Goodreads
I am a big mythology buff, as well as a fan of graphic novels, so I was instantly drawn to this book when I saw it on Netgalley. It is part of a series about each of the Olympian gods, this one focusing on the first appearance of Aphrodite, through her immortal life until her role in the Trojan War, narrated by the three of the Muses.

I wasn’t sure of the target audience when I requested this one, but I’d say it was aimed at middle grade and above – many of the stories are toned down for the reader, for example Aphrodite’s birth is originally quite a bit more graphic than it appears in this book. It is definitely not one for young children though – I feel like the names and events would be too much to take in, and much of the humour would probably go right over their heads. It was quite nice to have these humorous moments that relied on a previous knowledge of Greek mythology: for example, Ares’ and Aphrodite’s flirting as a nod to their later affair, hints of Zeus’ infidelity, Aphrodite wondering why she has little effect on Athena, Hestia and Artemis, who were the three virgin goddesses. Despite this, I think it is a great way for those unfamiliar with Greek mythology to learn a little about it.

The representations of the Olympian gods were quite ‘standard’, as you’d expect them to appear, with the exception of Hera. Often represented as beautiful, being the ‘motherly’ wife of Zeus (despite some of her horrific acts), Hera looks more like a stern school-mistress in this, with her sallow skin, gaunt cheeks and hair pulled high and tight. It was an interesting representation, more accurately representing her personality and jealous character than some other works.

As for the artwork, it wasn’t outstanding but the forms were nice and the artist chose a lovely colour palette. My favourite image was the first full one we saw of Aphrodite, just as she comes out of the ocean with a dress made of seawater and flowers sprouting up at her feet.

Recommended for mythology fans, and a great read for anyone wanting to read more about the Greek legends. The author includes a small notes section and profile on Aphrodite at the back, for anyone wanting more information.

Past Features

Weekly Roundup #29

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My ‘Weekly Roundup’ is where I share the books I have received in the past week, whether bought, gifted, borrowed etc.

I’m back from York! I had a great time staying with my friend, and I didn’t buy any books! I almost bought a book on Roman Britain in the Yorkshire Museum, but I kind of have enough of those already so managed to stop myself…

Won

  • Elantris by Brandon Sanderson – I won Anya’s Brandon Sanderson giveaway, and chose Elantris as my prize as I felt like a standalone rather than a series – I have too many series to catch up with at the moment. Thank you Anya!
  • Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield – this is the first First Reads book that I’ve won in a year, so thank you Goodreads for this one.

And just a couple of things I bought in York…


Delicious strawberry and lychee tea from the Hebden Tea Company.

A York Lucky Glass Cat! They have different colours depending on your birth month. From York Glass.

And I got super excited to find this in the museum – there used to be a temple to Serapis in York, and Serapis is the god that I wrote my undergraduate dissertation on.

‘To the holy god Serapis, Claudius Hieronymanius, legate of the Sixth Legion Victorious, built this temple from the ground’
Review

Promo + Mini Review: Wayland – The Tale of the Smith from the North by Tony Mitton and John Lawrence

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5 out of 5 stars | Goodreads
I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.
Just as the blurb says, this book is beautiful. I was lucky enough to be sent a copy by Random House, and as I do not feel I can write a properly detailed review on such a short book, I’m combining it with a promo post. The verse is stunning in itself, but combined with the gorgeous illustrations it really comes to life. For someone such as myself, who loves mythology and folklore, it would make a beautiful gift. I’d never heard the tale of Wayland before reading this – apparently it was brought to England by Vikings – and I hope that many others are exposed to the story through this book.
Honestly, the cover does not do the illustrations inside justice. John Lawrence is one of the leading wood-block engraving illustrators in the world and the exquisite illustrations within, which could tell a story all by themselves, reflect that.
Tony Mitton, who wrote the verse for the book, is an award-winning poet, and his words are the perfect combination with Lawrence’s artwork.

I would rate the book five out of five stars. Despite being short, it is wonderfully told and beautifully illustrated.

Still not convinced? Have some wise words from Philip Pullman:

 

“I’ve read nothing so enthralling for a long time. Tony Mitton’s verse rings with the power and clarity of an ancient ballad, and is perfectly matched by the force and splendour of John Lawrence’s illustrations… I think it’s a marvellous piece of work, and I’m sure anyone who reads it will agree.”

 

Wayland – The Tale of the Smith From the North is due for publication on September 5th 2013, published by David Fickling Books, and priced at £14.99.
Amazon |  Tony Mitton’s website | John Lawrence’s website