Alright, today, I’m going to take you back a few years by talking about “The Lightning Thief.” I’m pretty sure that 90 percent of the knowledge our generation has about Greek mythology comes from the Percy Jackson series, which has turned author Rick Riordan into an almost-godlike figure in the literary world. What other author can say they’ve single-handedly educated millions of readers on a topic that otherwise may not have piqued their interest? He’s even written equally good books with Egyptian and Norse mythology, but that’s for another week. With the best plot twists of my impressionable years, skillful intertwining of mythology and modern times and top-notch characterization (his first-person narration is probably one of my favorites), you really missed out if you haven’t read any of Riordan’s books. (A moment of silence for the movie that shall not be named.)
However, it’s not too late! The best part about his works is that, honestly, you could read them at any age and they’re still just as entertaining and high-quality. If you’re looking for some other excellent novels that take inspiration from Greek and Roman mythology, here are some of my recommendations.
“The Song of Achilles” and “Circle” by Madeline Miller
I’ve got two books from Miller on this list, and I would include all of them if she had more. Her prose is as lyrical as her source material, and her storytelling is perfectly suited to tell another imagined story of the epic Trojan War: A love affair between the Greek warrior Achilles and Patroclus. Miller manages to juggle all of the otherwise confusing names and aspects of the legend to weave together a masterful reimagining in its own right, with a childhood friendship, hero origin story, battles of war and a love story through it all. Despite the gritty details, sometimes strange parts of Greek mythology and tragic romance, you’ll be enraptured from start to end.
“The Heroes of Olympus” and “The Trials of Apollo” series by Rick Riordan
I know I said that this would be a list for Percy Jackson fans, but that didn’t mean I can’t include more of Riordan’s books, right? The Heroes of Olympus is his sequel series to the original books, and “Trials” is his third continuation, incorporating Roman mythology along with more Greek myths. Riordan never ceases to amaze me, as he can churn out these books without fail every year, and they somehow manage to get better or at least manage to stay the same quality as the other books (my standards are high for him, at this point). They are always suspenseful, action-packed, funny, heartfelt and the cliffhangers always kill me (in a good way). He utilizes multiple point of views in these series, and I learn to love all the characters in their own ways.
Another important aspect of his writing is that it matures and develops over time. The plotline surrounding Nico in “The House of Hades” proved revolutionary for a children’s/Young Adult book, as it was one of the first to include a gay main character. He’s done a great job with diversity, with representation of characters with physical and learning disabilities, of different races, different religions and different sexual orientations. Riordan does well with his inclusion, making sure to be as accurate and respectful as possible.
“Circe” by Madeline Miller
This feminist tour-de-force reads like a legend itself, telling the history, and reimagining another kind of story, of Circe, a sorceress from Greek mythology who is usually painted in a negative light (probably because she turned a bunch of men into pigs). But Miller manages to provide an in-depth, and rather tragic, backstory for our protagonist, who turns into a heroine in her own right. This book is a little bit slower, maybe because it spans a larger period of time and doesn’t have a war as its backdrop. However, there definitely is some important action and the introspective tone is necessary for the book. The way Miller manages to weave together such a believable story out of some spotty myths is commendable, and the ending is perfectly bittersweet.
“The Odyssey” by Homer, translated by Emily Wilson
An actual Greek myth on the list? Yes, we’re going to get educated! This particular edition from 2017 is special because Wilson is the first woman to publish a translation of the epic poem into English. The story itself is a classic I think everyone should read, as it is the original heroic journey, rife with monsters, magic and angry gods and goddesses. Wilson’s translation manages to capture the beauty and enchantment of the original myth, but also provides a telling look into the portrayal of characters and their relationships with each other.
Hollie Lao is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.