Author: Mark Knowles
Published: November 11th, 2021 (Head of Zeus)
Synopsis: An action-filled retelling of the famous Greek myth, Jason and the Golden Fleece, brilliantly reimagined by Cambridge classicist, Mark Knowles.
He has come to take what is yours.
Kingdom of Iolkos, Thessaly. 1250 BC
Twenty years ago, the Kingdom of Iolkos was attacked and the young prince – Jason, son of King Aeson – was smuggled from the palace.
Now, Jason has become a fearless seafarer and explorer. He returns to Thessaly, bitterly determined to make his rightful claim to the throne. But King Pelias won’t give up the rule of Thessaly easily. So he gives Jason an impossible challenge: to win back his throne he must steal the Golden Fleece from the distant kingdom of Colchis.
Jason assembles a band of Greece’s best warriors for his crew aboard the Argo. But even with these mighty athletes by his side, Jason will have to overcome the brutal challenges hurled his way and quickly distinguish friend from foe. His mission and his life depends on his wits and skills with a blade…
Thank you to the publisher, Head of Zeus, and NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
The kingdom of Iolkos is ruled by King Aeson. When they are attacked by the king’s half-brother, Pelias, Aeson’s wife sends away their newborn son, Jason, to keep him safe. Twenty years later, a grown Jason arrives in Iolkos to compete in the games and discovers his true identity. But Pelias sets an impossible challenge for him to complete in order to reclaim his throne: to travel to the distant kingdom of Colchis and steal the mythical Golden Fleece. A great ship called the Argo is built for the quest as Jason assembles a crew of great warriors from across Greece. But this will be a journey fraught with dangers and an inexperienced Jason must quickly find his footing amidst this crew to complete the monumental task in time.
While the tale of Jason and the Argonauts is not really my favorite Greek myth compared to some of the others, I was eager to read this book, because a retelling of this tale has so much potential. It started out pretty strong as the first few chapters really drew me in, but from the moment the quest actually began – which should have been the most exciting parts of the book – it just went downhill. The writing was decent enough, but I felt that the narrative lacked emotion. Greek myths are often tragic in nature, and Jason’s quest for the Golden Fleece has its share. So it’s very telling when an important character died on page and I barely felt moved by it. Consequently, this also made it hard to connect to any of the characters, much less sympathize with them.
It more or less follows the familiar story, but I felt like the book was going through a list of adventures that the Argonauts get into, just checking them off one after the other until they finally get to Colchis, where the real point of the quest is. This made Argo a painfully long read, and it really should have been trimmed down by a lot.
But the real sticking point of this book for me was how nearly every mythological aspect has been stripped out. It’s a fascinating approach to be certain, but this story is such a classic that removing these elements leaves a void in the narrative that wasn’t quite filled in. It did not have the fantastical feel that I’ve found in most Greek mythology retellings, which was very disappointing. There was also a modern touch to the dialogue at times that I did not like – it was bad enough there were barely any mythological or magical aspects left, which made it hard enough to really immerse myself into the story, and jarringly out of place dialogue made it even worse.
Despite this review mostly being negative, I did enjoy reading this book and following Jason’s adventures. This is the first time I’ve seen this sort of approach to the genre, and it makes the events seem so much more realistic. But quite honestly, the drama of the gods and monsters and everything in between is the best part of Greek myths, and to have that completely removed, leaving a work with a feel closer to historical fiction just did not work for me. However, this is purely a personal preference and if this approach to retelling Greek myths sounds interesting to you, I would definitely recommend it.
Argo releases on November 11th, 2021.
Do you plan to read this book? Let me know in the comments below!