Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Hephaistos by George O'Connor

George O'Connor's projected twelve-book series about the Greek gods, aka "The Olympians," reaches its penultimate book [1] with this year's Hephaistos: God of Fire.

I've written about all ten of the prior books, recommended them all, and gushed maybe a bit as well: see this link for more details.

So I could easily say something like "hey, remember what I said about the earlier books? well, it's still true here."

And it is all still true: Hephaistos is smart, deeply-researched, well-drawn, and gripping. It tells mythological stories for a middle-grade audience without writing down to them and in a manner that can be enjoyed by people much older than that. (Me, for example.) It even has great backmatter, full of panel-specific notes and a detailed list of references and History of the Marvel Universe-style fact pages for the major characters. (Collect them all!)

This one combines the title character's life, mostly narrated by himself, with the story of Prometheus -- who of course will not get his own book in this series, since he's a Titan rather than an Olympian. O'Connor makes it all one story, one coherent narrative, as he's done with all of these books: one of his great talents is in finding a thematic through-line for all of these figures, turning a collection of myths and legends told over hundreds of years for different purposes by different people into something coherent and simple and true.

If you have middle-schoolers, or smart upper grade-schoolers, make these books available to them. (I mean, don't tell your kids to read these books unless you have particularly odd, nerdy kids. You might do better by forbidding these books, frankly.) If you like mythological retellings, and are of any age, you should check them out yourself.

[1] I see I forgot to use two of my favorite words, antepenultimate and the even better pre-antepenultimate, when writing about this series the last two years. Bad form, Andy.

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