An interesting trend we’re noticing in reader interest is novels about Greek mythology and retellings of the Trojan War. It’s a thing, really. Here are some titles related to this trend that are worth checking out.
The most well-known was a big bestseller last year - Circe by 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 obviously powerful like her father, nor 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 wily Odysseus.
Miller’s first novel, The Song of Achilles , occurs in Greece in the age of heroes and during the Trojan War. 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", according to Homer, 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 and share their destiny.
A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes is the Trojan women’s war, just as much as it is the men’s. This was never the story of one woman, Helen, or even two. It’s 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 Penthesilea 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.
Another feminist perspective comes from Booker Prize winner Pat Barker in The Silence of the Girls , also taking place and experienced by the captured women living in the Greek camp in the final weeks of the Trojan War. This story centers around former queen Briseis, who becomes a pawn in the machinations between Achilles and Agamemnon. Barker continues her story in The women of Troy, due out in August. We can’t wait.
Another tale of Briseis is For the Most Beautiful: A Novel of the Women of Troy by Emily Hauser. What if there was more to the tale of these heroes than we know? How would the Trojan War have looked as seen through the eyes of its women? We already have a good idea. Krisayis, the ambitious, determined daughter of the High Priest of Troy, and Briseis, interweave their tales alongside the classic story of the rage of Achilles and the gods of Olympus. What follows is a tale of love and revenge, destiny and determination, as these two women and the gods themselves come face to face in an epic battle that will decide the fate of Troy.
If you find yourself wanting more, check out more titles in our booklist called Epic Tales Retold .
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by Becky Aderman,
Adult Services Librarian, Culture & AV Division