Tag Archives: mythology

xo Orpheus edited by Kate Bernheimer

xo Orpheus edited by Kate Bernheimer: I did not have high hopes for this, as I’d only read books by two of the authors, and didn’t like either one of them. Still, this is a decent (though overlong) collection of stories inspired, however vaguely, by mythology from all over the world. Like all anthologies, there are some fantastic tales (The Sisters by Sabina Murray and The Last Flight of Daedelus by Anthony Marra are particular favorites), some truly dreadful ones, and a bunch that are just okay. The trouble with anthologies is that so many people who write short stories forget to include the story part: it’s just a bunch of descriptive passages with nothing ever actually happening. I would not have complained had the selection here been trimmed down a bit, but I understand the appeal of a nice round number like fifty. I also question the decision to order the tales by myth, meaning for example that all the Icarus tales were next to each other. Of course, this was not consistent: the story inspired by Demeter & Persephone was near the beginning, while the one just about Persephone came much later. I most appreciated the afterwords provided by each author or translator, explaining the connection to their chosen myth (or with mythology in general, as some chose to do). In short, I found this to be an interesting literary experiment, if not to my particular taste. Do not pick it up expecting modern retellings of classic myths. Instead, think of it as a general anthology with mythological elements thrown in.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Servant of the Jackal God by Keith Taylor

Servant of the Jackal God by Keith Taylor: A collection of interconnected short stories about Kamose, archpriest of the Egyptian funerary god Anubis. They more or less follow Kamose’s attempts to discover who tried to frame him in the first story, but if he solves the mystery I missed it. All the same, the stories are interesting and a nice blend of Egyptian history and mythology. My favorite stories involved Si-hotep. His tales strayed a little bit from the main story arc, but the creatures and magic involved were great. If you love ancient Egypt, this is probably a good book for you.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Hounded by Kevin Hearne

Hounded by Kevin Hearne: Atticus looks 21 years old, but is actually closer to 21 centuries old, thanks to a deal with a certain god of death. He runs a small bookstore in Arizona in between dealing with a number of gods, werewolves, vampires, witches, and other unexpected characters. The basic idea is that every deity from every religion actually exists, though Atticus mostly has to deal with those of the Celtic variety, since he is Irish himself. In this tale, Atticus must face Aenghus Og, an angry god who has been after him to retrieve a certain magical sword for centuries. I got a huge kick out of this book. Atticus is snarky and sarcastic, and the constant play on mythological archetypes never failed to entertain. I would not hesitate to read the rest of the series. If you’re a fan of The Dresden Files, you’ll probably enjoy this one as well.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Otherworld Tales: Irish the Demon Slayer by C.T. Markee

Otherworld Tales: Irish the Demon Slayer by C.T. Markee: Preteen Irish and his friends Streak and Huff are minding their own business when suddenly they find themselves in the middle of an ancient Celtic prophecy in which they must join forces with Cuchulain in the Otherworld to defeat the evil forces of the Underworld, and rescue Irish’s little sister on the way. The story moves quickly, with never a dull moment even between action scenes. I particularly enjoyed the connection with the trees, Cuchulain’s casual attitude toward facing deadly enemies, and the fairly realistic language of the preteens (or maybe I just felt a connection because I still say “dude” far more than is strictly necessary). I thought Huff’s dumb jokes were kind of pointless, but otherwise the characters were distinct and fun. Definitely something a middle-schooler would enjoy.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Dream Angus by Alexander McCall Smith

Dream Angus by Alexander McCall Smith (unabridged audiobook read by Michael Page; 3 hours on 3 discs): A sort-of retelling of the myth of Angus, Celtic god of dreams and youth and love. The chapters alternate between the story of Angus’s life and more modern vignettes that somehow incorporate Angus in various forms. Though Angus is supposedly a god of love, all the vignettes were rather sad: love lost, doubt, infidelity. I felt very disconnected from the whole thing, really. The parts about Angus’s life came across more like someone was describing the myth to me, while the other stories were so vague (and dreamy, if you’ll forgive me) that I never quite got into them. In short, this book was decent, but did not convince me to seek out other books by this same author.

A note on the audio: Page, on the other hand, was quite good. His English and Scottish accents were lovely, and his Canadian accent was even somewhat convincing. (This is high praise; I have come across very few UK actors who can speak with a convincing North American accent.)

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Don’t Know Much About Mythology by Kenneth C. Davis

Don’t Know Much About Mythology by Kenneth C. Davis (unabridged audiobook read by John Lee; 20 hours 20 min on 17 discs): Wow, this book is long. I mean, it’s interesting, but there’s so much information covering so vast a scope that reading it is like running a marathon. Each section covers a geographical region such as Africa or Western Europe, with the countries boasting the most well-documented mythologies getting the most treatment, such as Egypt, India, and Greece/Rome. Each section includes a timeline, a “who’s who” of gods and goddesses, relevant quotes, and answers to common questions like “was there really a Trojan War?” Though many comparisons are made, there is no separate section for Judeo-Christian mythology, having covered it in depth in his other book, Don’t Know Much About the Bible. Davis holds nothing back, describing a representative sample of each culture’s myths in (often hilarious) detail. For example, I was surprised (and kind of disgusted) by how many creation myths involved excrement and other bodily fluids of the gods, and laughed at the tales of the trickster god’s magical penis. The little asides and pop culture references were also often amusing. Though admittedly not meant to be a thorough compendium of mythology (and I would have loved for the “New World” section to have been much longer), it is certainly an excellent start. The writing is very accessible and has made me want to read more of the original myths, particularly the Norse and Egyptian tales. A word of warning, though: once you read the section on Egypt, you will never see the Washington Monument the same way ever again.

On the audio version: It’s always interesting to listen to the same people read vastly different books. Lee is an excellent narrator, with the added personal bonus of making me feel like the book was being read to me by Dawsey Adams. The two short myths at the back, specially recorded just for the audiobook, were fun and well worth listening to, even if the African one about the lion was kind of tragic.

The Magical Worlds of Harry Potter by David Colbert

The Magical Worlds of Harry Potter by David Colbert: The name is somewhat misleading; this is a cute mini-encyclopedia of the real mythological roots of many aspects of the Harry Potter books. While I didn’t learn a whole heck of a lot of new information, I would definitely recommend this book to any Harry Potter fan, especially younger ones. The writing is friendly without being dumbed down, the articles are short but concise, and the breadth of information is impressive. If nothing else, it instilled in me a renewed interest in mythology, and the extensive bibliography and notes provide a good jumping-off point for further research.

On note: the copy I read was written between the releases of Goblet Of Fire and Order of the Phoenix, and thus is it full of spoilers from the first four books and contains a sprinkling of (sometimes misguided) predictions for the latter three volumes. There is a revised version, but I don’t know if it covers the entire series. Keep that in mind when reading.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Brush Up Your Mythology by Michael Macrone

Brush Up Your Mythology! by Michael Macrone: Oddly enough, this book appears to have been originally titled “By Jove!”, which would have been far more fitting. Though you will learn (or relearn) a number of famous tales, the purpose of this book is not to function as a primer, but rather to describe the Greek/Roman mythological roots of common English words and phrases. And in that capacity it does an excellent job, covering terms from the obvious (dionysian) to the obscure (syringe), with a healthy peppering of amusing commentary interspersed. If you’re a fan of language or mythology, this is a fun read.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

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