Hello readers! I’m introducing a new kind of post on my blog today – Bookish Lists! It won’t be a regular feature, but I hope to do more of these whenever I have the time. Today, let’s take a look at some of my favorite Greek mythology based novels. Many of these are hugely popular works, but I hope those of you who are mythology fans will find something to add to your TBR!
1. The Percy Jackson series – Rick Riordan
Percy Jackson is a good kid, but he can’t seem to focus on his schoolwork or control his temper. And lately, being away at boarding school is only getting worse – Percy could have sworn his pre-algebra teacher turned into a monster and tried to kill him.
When Percy’s mom finds out, she knows it’s time that he knew the truth about where he came from, and that he go to the one place he’ll be safe. She sends Percy to Camp Half Blood, a summer camp for demigods (on Long Island), where he learns that the father he never knew is Poseidon, God of the Sea.
Soon a mystery unfolds and together with his friends—one a satyr and the other the demigod daughter of Athena – Percy sets out on a quest across the United States to reach the gates of the Underworld (located in a recording studio in Hollywood) and prevent a catastrophic war between the gods.
Can any Greek mythology retelling TBR be complete without mentioning this series? The Percy Jackson books have been a favorite of mine ever since I first picked them up when I was 12.
2. The Song of Achilles – Madeline Miller
The legend begins…
Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the kingdom of Phthia to be raised in the shadow of King Peleus and his golden son, Achilles. “The best of all the Greeks”—strong, beautiful, and the child of a goddess—Achilles is everything the shamed Patroclus is not. Yet despite their differences, the boys become steadfast companions. Their bond deepens as they grow into young men and become skilled in the arts of war and medicine—much to the displeasure and the fury of Achilles’ mother, Thetis, a cruel sea goddess with a hatred of mortals.
When word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, the men of Greece, bound by blood and oath, must 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 Fates will test them both as never before and demand a terrible sacrifice.
Built on the groundwork of the Iliad, Madeline Miller’s page-turning, profoundly moving, and blisteringly paced retelling of the epic Trojan War marks the launch of a dazzling career.
This is such a beautiful read, and not what I expected at all out of a book focused on the Trojan war. The writing is truly poetic and this book makes the list of one of the very few books to date that actually made me cry. Highly recommended!
3. Circe – Madeline Miller
In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child – not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power – the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.
Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.
But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.
Circe is a character little spoken of. I knew of her from The Odyssey as the witch who turned Odysseus’ men, as yet another who delayed his return to Ithaca. But through this book, Circe has a voice of her own. Though an immortal, her emotions, her dreams, fears, guilt, hope are all very much human – genuine and relatable. Madeline Miller’s Circe is the underdog you will want to sympathize with, to root for. This is a fresh perspective on an ancient tale and it made for a riveting read.
4. A Thousand Ships – Natalie Haynes
This is the women’s war, just as much as it is the men’s. They have waited long enough for their turn . . .
This was never the story of one woman, or two. It was the story of them all…
In the middle of the night, a woman wakes to find her beloved city engulfed in flames. Ten seemingly endless years of conflict between the Greeks and the Trojans are over. Troy has fallen.
From the Trojan women whose fates now lie in the hands of the Greeks, to the Amazon princess who fought Achilles on their behalf, to Penelope awaiting the return of Odysseus, to the three goddesses whose feud started it all, these are the stories of the women whose lives, loves, and rivalries were forever altered by this long and tragic war.
A woman’s epic, powerfully imbued with new life, A Thousand Ships puts the women, girls and goddesses at the center of the Western world’s great tale ever told.
Stories centered around the Trojan War have always interested me, so when I first heard of this book, it was an instant addition to my TBR. I love The Iliad and The Odyssey, but it has always annoyed me that the originals never bother to focus on or give voice to the women in the story, relegating them to little more than side characters. As such, this was a very welcome and much needed addition to see this story through a perspective that is less male-dominated.
5. Lore – Alexandra Bracken
Every seven years, the Agon begins. As punishment for a past rebellion, nine Greek gods are forced to walk the earth as mortals, hunted by the descendants of ancient bloodlines, all eager to kill a god and seize their divine power and immortality. Long ago, Lore Perseous fled that brutal world in the wake of her family’s sadistic murder by a rival line, turning her back on the hunt’s promises of eternal glory. For years she’s pushed away any thought of revenge against the man–now a god–responsible for their deaths.
Yet as the next hunt dawns over New York City, two participants seek out her help: Castor, a childhood friend of Lore believed long dead, and a gravely wounded Athena, among the last of the original gods.
The goddess offers an alliance against their mutual enemy and, at last, a way for Lore to leave the Agon behind forever. But Lore’s decision to bind her fate to Athena’s and rejoin the hunt will come at a deadly cost–and still may not be enough to stop the rise of a new god with the power to bring humanity to its knees.
Many early reviews described this as Greek mythology crossed with Hunger Games and I found it to be a very apt description. One might expect, perhaps, something along the lines of Percy Jackson, but if you’ve read many of the original myths, this depiction of the Olympians is actually much closer. Alexandra Bracken has woven a truly fascinating world with such depth and a complex, layered plot that I have to applaud, especially since this is a standalone taking place over the span of a mere seven days.
6. Ariadne – Jennifer Saint
As Princesses of Crete and daughters of the fearsome King Minos, Ariadne and her sister Phaedra grow up hearing the hoofbeats and bellows of the Minotaur echo from the Labyrinth beneath the palace. The Minotaur – Minos’s greatest shame and Ariadne’s brother – demands blood every year.
When Theseus, Prince of Athens, arrives in Crete as a sacrifice to the beast, Ariadne falls in love with him. But helping Theseus kill the monster means betraying her family and country, and Ariadne knows only too well that in a world ruled by mercurial gods – drawing their attention can cost you everything.
In a world where women are nothing more than the pawns of powerful men, will Ariadne’s decision to betray Crete for Theseus ensure her happy ending? Or will she find herself sacrificed for her lover’s ambition?
Ariadne gives a voice to the forgotten women of one of the most famous Greek myths, and speaks to their strength in the face of angry, petulant Gods. Beautifully written and completely immersive, this is an exceptional debut novel.
Ariadne’s story is a rather tragic one, and the author did a wonderful job of showing how little agency women had over their own lives in those times, and how nearly every misfortune she suffers is a result of the manipulations and egos of men. The good thing about this is that it requires practically no knowledge of the original myth and it covers everything a reader might need to understand the story, so it’s great for beginners to the genre.
7. Daughter of Sparta – Claire M. Andrews
Seventeen-year-old Daphne has spent her entire life honing her body and mind into that of a warrior, hoping to be accepted by the unyielding people of ancient Sparta. But an unexpected encounter with the goddess Artemis—who holds Daphne’s brother’s fate in her hands—upends the life she’s worked so hard to build. Nine mysterious items have been stolen from Mount Olympus and if Daphne cannot find them, the gods’ waning powers will fade away, the mortal world will descend into chaos, and her brother’s life will be forfeit.
Guided by Artemis’s twin – the handsome and entirely-too-self-assured god Apollo – Daphne’s journey will take her from the labyrinth of the Minotaur to the riddle-spinning Sphinx of Thebes, team her up with mythological legends such as Theseus and Hippolyta of the Amazons, and pit her against the gods themselves.
A reinterpretation of the classic Greek myth of Daphne and Apollo, Daughter of Sparta by debut author Claire Andrews turns the traditionally male-dominated mythology we know into a heart-pounding and empowering female-led adventure.
A more recent addition to this list, since it has been out only for a couple of months, but I was very impressed with this feminist retelling. I’m really excited to see where this story goes next, especially since the title indicates that Daphne might be running into some even bigger names as she heads to Troy on her next quest.
Have you read any of these books? Are there any others you enjoyed not on this list? Let me know in the comments below!