One of my lovely blogging friends recommended this, though I’m really sorry I can’t remember who is was, or I would namecheck her as this is a real gem.
Prince Odysseus of Ithaca is about to have his world torn apart. He’s travelled to the oracle at Pytho to be anointed as heir to his island kingdom; but instead the Pythia reveals a terrible secret, one that tears down every pillar of his life, and marks him out for death. Outcast by his family, hunted by the vengeful gods, Odysseus is offered sanctuary by Athena, goddess of wisdom, and thrust into the secret war between the Olympians for domination and survival. Only his wits, and his skill as a warrior, can keep him ahead of their power games – and alive.
Odysseus staggers away from this rite of passage an outcast, when he was expecting it to be part of his preparation and training for ruling Ithaca, a small rocky island off the Greek mainland. So he is out of options when Athena appears and offers to provide him with sanctuary, in return for his service. I’ve always had a soft spot for poor old Odysseus, whose – like Heracles – pays a high price for serving the gods, becoming entangled in the Trojan War and then taking ten long years to return home, to the extent that his name has come to mean a long, important journey… odyssey.
This retelling, however, deals with the events that lead up to the Trojan War and explains why the Greeks were such a quarrelsome lot. Once Odysseus has sworn his allegiance to Athena, he is automatically regarded with enmity by other members of the Olympian family, given they spend much of their time plotting against each other, terrified they will lose influence and get swallowed up by competing deities with more worshippers.
In this dangerous, uncertain world, where young Odysseus no longer even has the safety of his own family, he is forced to spend far more time than he’d like with Athena’s other champion, the mighty Theseus. This depiction has the great warrior as a bullying drunken braggart, convinced he is irresistible to woman. I like the fact that the events leading up to the Trojan War are not just explained by the gods’ insecurities, but also by Troy’s growing power as a trading centre that threatens the economy of the Spartan kingdom and the surrounding states.
I am conscious that I haven’t conveyed the pace and drama of this retelling – in amongst the intriguing backstory and strong characterisation, there is a cracking action adventure, full of fights, plots, desperate schemes and dangerous situations. Odysseus, though strong and well trained, is also too short to be able to prevail against might of a gigantic warrior like Theseus in hand-to-hand combat. However, he is clever, quick-witted and able to spin a tale to get himself out of a tricky situation, which is just as well…
I loved this one. And if you have a fondness for well-told retellings of Greek gods and heroes, this comes very highly recommended. While I obtained an arc of Athena’s Champion from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
I love Greek mythology. I think many, if not most, modern stories come from those myths. People just told and retold the stories so many times, they don’t remember where it started. I love the cover too. So, was the writing good?
Oh yes! I wouldn’t have given it 9 out of 10 if it hadn’t been a very high standard.
Thanks 😊 It’s good to know!
‘if you have a fondness for well-told retellings of Greek gods and heroes,’ – yes, you know I do so I will definitely check this one out.
Oh good! Because I’d love to hear what you think of it, Lynn:)
This sounds so good! David Hair is so underrated, I’m so glad he has a new project out!
I haven’t read any of his other work, Mogsy – but I do have a paperback of a fantasy adventure by him. I’ll be checking it out after reading this…
This brings back so many fond memories of the mythology lessons from my far-off school days, and I think I would love this book to pieces! Thank you so much for sharing! 🙂
I think you would love this one! I also learnt about Greek myths from a remarkable teacher at school, too:))
Ever since I read Silence of the Girls, I’m interested in these Greek retellings. Beautiful review, Sarah, and I’m definitely adding this.
Thank you, Jennifer:). Silence of the Girls is one I haven’t yet read – and I need to get hold of:). Thank you for the reminder.
I always loved studying Greek mythology when I was in school. It absolutely fascinated me, so this retelling is calling out to me as well. Sounds like it has a bit of everything I love in a book and that 9/10 doesn’t hurt either. 🙂
I absolutely loved it. A lot of research has gone into this and the two authors have kept close to several of the original texts – shockingly so at times… But it really works.
You sure have been reading some good ones, Sarah. Glad to see this was one of those!
Thank you Laura – yes, I really have had a marvellous run of books recently. And this is one of them…
I’ve read FAR too many retellings of the Trojan War, so it’s great to hear that the book explores the before-events. Definitely want to give this a try! 😀
Oh, it’s worth it – soooo well done!
Oooo, I’m a sucker for Greek retellings!
And this one is really, really good…:)
FABULOUS review, Sarah!! I greatly enjoyed reading it!! ❤ ❤
I LOVE Greek mythology, and really need to make time to read retellings of it! All of those jealous, vindictive, scheming gods and goddesses…..sounds like a soap opera in the Greek skies! LOL.
This cover, plus the story, automatically made me think of Rick Riordan. Lol. I guess that other writers are purposefully having their covers resemble his, so that people will pick up their books. Nice marketing strategy, right? Lol.
Well, I'm adding this one to my Goodreads shelves! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!! CHEERS!!! ❤ 🙂
Thank you, Maria:)). This isn’t quite like Rick Riordan’s writing, so I hope that folks aren’t disappointed if they pick it up, thinking that’s what it is… But you’re right – it is definitely an Olympian soap opera!
I’m torn about this one. On one hand, you have a great gift for enticing readers (well, me) with your reviews, on the other – this might not be distinct enough of a retelling for me to enjoy it. I think I might prefer old tales retold in new, interesting settings.
I like the fact that they have stuck to the old stories and given them a particular spin. I’ve read two of the stories in this series and absolutely loved them.
By the way – if you do enjoy the old stories – Stephen Fry has done a marvellous job in presenting them in a fabulous series – Mythos, which is all about the creation myths of the Greek gods and how the pantheon came about and Heroes, which retells the stories of the main heroes. What I love about his series is that he also goes on to explain how the names used have seeped into our language. He went back to the original texts in his research (apparently he can read ancient Greek and Latin). Apologies for the above if you have already encountered them!