Book Recommendations - Greek Mythology Themed
May 20, 2015 3:00 PM   Subscribe

My 12 year old daughter is ready to move past her Warrior Cats Series. She's very much interested in Greek Mythology. Her reading level is that of a college student.

She's tried reading Illiad but found it difficult and repetitive. She didn't make it to the half way mark. She's very much into stories that include healing plants and sword fighting. Please give us your best suggestions for what she may like. She's a fast reader and likes the books to be pretty long. Series are fine as well. Thank you!
posted by myselfasme to Writing & Language (25 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Sounds like she might like the Percy Jackson books? They're a modern take on "What if Greek myths were real, and demigods existed today?" A fair amount of swashbuckling mixed in with gods/magic and tween/teen humor.
posted by Zephyrial at 3:08 PM on May 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

I can't believe she hasn't already read Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and The Olympians, but I envy her discovering them for the first time (his other series, Heroes of Olympus is also good, as is his Egyptian-themed Kane Chronicles).
posted by padraigin at 3:09 PM on May 20, 2015

I would recommend Mary Renault- The King Must Die was a favourite of mine from being about that age. It's a historical retelling of Theseus and the Minotaur, based around the discoveries at Knossos, and it's very vivid and easy reading. Also her Alexander trilogy, maybe a bit later.
posted by tardigrade at 3:09 PM on May 20, 2015 [4 favorites]

[Disclaimer: She may feel the Percy Jackson books are a bit too "YA" for her, if she's reading at a college level and attempting the Iliad. That being said, I am 26 and found them pretty enjoyable.]
posted by Zephyrial at 3:09 PM on May 20, 2015

I liked The Frogs at that age. I also read Lysistrata, but I really didn't get it at that age.

You have to read it first, but The Firebrand, by Marion Zimmer Bradley.

Some of the Anne McAffrery books might do well, in particular the Crystal Singer or the Songsinger portions of the Dragon Universe (the rest you will have to read for adult content, the Dragon Rider series, etc.). But the Melony portions of that series are okay for youngers.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 3:35 PM on May 20, 2015

FWIW the Odyssey is easier going than the Iliad, most people read it first.

When I was her age I devoured retellings of the Greek Myths - I think I read Edith Hamilton about that time. Perhaps a little pre-digested, but not written intentionally to the YA market.

A lot of the classic myths are re-told in Ovid's Metamorphoses. It's long, but episodic, and the stories tend to stand by themselves.

With any of the source materials, the translation can make a big difference. Prose translations may "read" easier but tend to be dull, especially the older translations which tend to appear in the cheaper paperback editions (because they are out of copyright) - look for modern and especially modern verse translations.

Maybe it goes without saying, but almost all of these, if they're not specifically edited for the YA market, will contain "adult themes".
posted by mr vino at 3:37 PM on May 20, 2015 [5 favorites]

It's out of print, but you can pick up a used copy of Richard L. Purtill's The Golden Gryphon Feather for little more than the cost of shipping. It's a beautifully told and impeccably researched tale of the court of King Minos, complete with Ariadne, the bull, and various gods and demigods. When I was twelve and loved Greek mythology and read at a college level, it was a breathtaking find. It's also the first book of a trilogy.
posted by timeo danaos at 3:57 PM on May 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths is kind of a classic overview of Greek mythology. It's not narrative fiction; it's a survey of the main characters and creatures of Greek myths and legends, so it might be a nice complement to whatever else you manage to find. It's for children (Amazon says 10 and up), so it's not quite college level, but it is very well written -- I wouldn't mind having a copy on my shelf.
posted by uosuaq at 5:00 PM on May 20, 2015 [5 favorites]

Rosamund Hodge wrote an interesting story based slightly on Greek mythology -- mythology retellings are huge in YA in general, Aimee Carter, Kendare Blake, Josephine Angelini, a bunch I can't think of offhand.
posted by jeather at 5:01 PM on May 20, 2015

D'Aulaires, as mentioned by uosuag, is really the standard intro to Hellenic Mythos. (Well, it blew my mind, anyway). The artistic style might skew a bit young if you're fickle, so you have to be mature enough to appreciate it's worth. (D'Aulaires also went on to do a really cool Norse Mythos book too.)

Edith Hamilton's Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes is the next level adolescent pantheon, kinda 1942 old-school in tone, but she does a nice view of how Ovid smoothed out some of the rough edges of the pagan narrative, and those retro engravings by Steele Savage are really quite exquisite!

Bullfinch's Mythology is a swell old overview which branches out from the Hellenic mythos into Arthurian legends and The Mabinogion.

The Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology
is the best doorstop tome where you end up when you've gone far enough, and are ready for hours, days, & years in timeless pondering.
posted by ovvl at 6:17 PM on May 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Land of Heroes: A Retelling of the Kalevala by Ursula Synge is amazing.
posted by ovvl at 6:36 PM on May 20, 2015

Gene Wolfes Soldier In The Mist series is concerned with the Greek gods.

I was a mythology fan as a pretee. and got into Roman myths and Nordic and African myths as well. There are lots of cool retellings for these age groups that make them less boring. Oh and comic book versions of the Mahabharata! I loved those.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:05 PM on May 20, 2015

Seconding Hamilton and Bullfinch -- I totally forgot about those, ovvl! Again, they're very readable all-round summaries of mythology, not novels, but still very worth it (and unlike the full-color D'Aulaires, should be easy to find cheap -- Bullfinch is basically free on kindle).
posted by uosuaq at 8:35 PM on May 20, 2015

TAMORA PIERCE! Specifically the Wolf Speaker series. They're well written, easily read, lots of girl characters and sword fighting and animals. Not hugely Greek mythology but uses some elements and creatures from there. And healing magic. The Circle Opens series might do good though. Actually, just all of the Pierce. Twelve might be borderline for a few concepts but that's about when I plan on introducing Pierce.
posted by geek anachronism at 11:09 PM on May 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Percy Jackson series.

Heroes of Olympus series
posted by kschang at 1:02 AM on May 21, 2015

Came to recommend Mary Renault so will echo the above- The King must die and the sequel, The Bull from the Sea were some of my favourites at that age.

Megan Whalen Turner has a terrific series in a faux medieval/ancient Greek setting- starting with The Thief. Four published and more to come eventually. They are marketed as young adult but I wouldn't let that put you or your daughter off.

Terry Pratchett's Tiffany Aching series may hit the spot? Starts with Wee Free Men. Not so long but at least there's plenty of them.
posted by Coaticass at 1:20 AM on May 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

Mind you the Pratchett books aren't especially influenced by Greek mythology in particular. You'll find plenty of other myths referred to though.
posted by Coaticass at 1:23 AM on May 21, 2015

Former Greek-myth obsessed kid here:
I suspect that Joseph Campbell's The Power of Myth might knock her socks off. It's a little mature for a 12 year old, but kids should be given those sometimes -- and since she's already a slightly mature reader, she's at a fantastic point to start thinking about archetypes more broadly. There's also an excellent PBS miniseries based on the book.

Apart from that, I recommend looking for a book on Norse mythology too, if she hasn't discovered it yet.
posted by veery at 6:12 AM on May 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

Ovid's Metamorphoses (I recommend the Humphries translation.) Odyssey over Iliad. (I like Fitzgerald, but tastes vary, and there are lots of translations out there.)

She might be interested in other mythos/legends. The Once and Future King is a good kid-friendly introduction to Arthurian legends. The Prose Edda might be a good place to start with Norse myths. The Tain bo Cualinge might be fun for her, depending on her interests.

Also, Greek/Roman histories might also appeal. I'd start with Herodotus for Greek; Suetonius for Roman -- if she is able to browse and find the fun parts rather than read from start to end, she'll be richly rewarded.
posted by cgs06 at 6:21 AM on May 21, 2015

There have been some good retellings of classics lately. It'll help if she has a general understanding of the story behind them, but usually having read the original isn't necessary.

Love in the Time of Global Warming - Francesca Lia Block: retelling of the Odyssey from Penelope's perspective (very loosely based), modern setting

The Song of Achilles - Madeline Miller: retelling of the Iliad, focuses on the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus

The Penelopiad - Margaret Atwood: retelling of the Odyssey from Penelope's perspective

Lavinia - Ursula K. Leguin: retelling of the latter half of the Aenead from Lavinia's (Aeneas's new wife) perspective

Alcestis - Katharine Beutner: retelling of the myth surrounding Alcestis who, classically, was known as the perfect, loyal wife
posted by carrioncomfort at 6:29 AM on May 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

The Blue Sword is more reminiscent of Middle Eastern mythology, but it's got tons of sword fighting and talks about the local plant life being used for various purposes. (Including, I think, healing.)
posted by Orange Dinosaur Slide at 6:58 AM on May 21, 2015

The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp has lots of sword fighting, but is set in modern times and based on Arthurian legend.
posted by soelo at 8:03 AM on May 21, 2015

Edith Hamilton for the win. Percy Jackson for the modern-day take. Also this list.
posted by Lynsey at 9:40 AM on May 21, 2015

And this list.

She's tried reading Illiad but found it difficult and repetitive.

Try a translation of Herodotus. It's a longish book (for a 12 year old) and a ripping yarn in places.
posted by eclectist at 9:53 AM on May 21, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! She's read Percy Jackson but not Heroes of Olympus series. She's going to take a day or two to review everyone's suggestions. You guys rock!
posted by myselfasme at 10:29 AM on May 21, 2015

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