Ode to a Flame-born Son, or What to read when I’ve got no more Hades to play?

I'm sad to admit, dear reader, that it took me 3 years from its initial release before I finally answered the call and dove mind, body, and, dare say, soul into Supergiant's hit game Hades.

But wait, what's this have to do with the library?

Stick with me.

I feel as though there is a moment in time in a child's development where a kind of mythology fever flares up. Whether it's sparked by standard curriculum of learning what mythology is, or being introduced to the folklore from various cultures around the world, I know for me there is a core memory of learning Greek mythology and being totally entranced. It makes complete sense when you think of mythology as storytelling: these stories were meant to dazzle and delight. Of course, they were also meant to teach, but the best way to teach is through entertainment, right? I experienced this fever and it remained a slow burn in my brain well into adulthood. It was reignited when I picked up Stephen Fry's Mythos in 2019. With my interest in Greek mythology still simmering, the lure of Mr. Fry narrating these stories immediately propelled me further to borrow the audiobook. Dear reader, I was not disappointed. Yet despite this fascination, it took me another 3 years of constant recommendations from my partner before I launched the game.

Hades follows Zagreus, the son of Hades. He is fed up with his place in the underworld and the constant sour and disappointed demeanor of his father. He is determined to make it to the surface. In his way are demons and abominations, Furies and retired heroes, keeping him from escaping. His quest catches the attention of the Olympic gods and goddesses. They remind Zagreus he's a god and gods belong on Olympus! And they are more than happy to goad their grumpy brother/uncle by bestowing boons to aid him in his journey.

Earlier this year, Supergiant announced Hades II. Yes - a sequel! Again, picking a lesser known member of the pantheon of gods, this game will follow the plight of Zagreus's sister, Melinoë, as she saves the universe from the escape of the titan, Chronos! The excitement? Palpable. The wait? Unbearable. How shall we satiate our hunger? Books, of course!

I told you I'd get it back to the library.

Greek Mythology Picks

Hecate the Witch, book cover

Hecate the Witch by Joan Holub

For younger readers looking for fun fictional versions of the Greek goddesses, Joan Holub's Goddess Girls series is a great start. There are plenty of titles in this series, each of which focuses on one of the major or minor Greek goddesses and deities. Stories often reflect on the original myth of that particular goddess and then puts them in fictional situations, making them more approachable for grade school readers. There is even a series for younger readers - Little Greek Goddesses - that will appeal to emerging readers. These are a light and fun introduction to the various characters of Greek mythology.

Hephaistos: God of Fire, book cover

Hephaistos: God of Fire by George O'Connor

Stepping up in complexity and age, is George O'Connor's series: Olympians. Each Greek god and goddess is given a volume in this series, which provides the origin story and other tales involving that particular god or goddess. This series is another fantastic way to get to know each of the gods and goddesses in Greek mythology with striking illustrations and engaging stories. These are also a great companion for those readers who are getting into the Rick Riordan universe of Percy Jackson, Apollo, and the other Heroes of Olympus and maybe found a favorite deity and want to dive into more specifics.

Lore Olympus, book cover

Lore Olympus by Rachel Smythe

It's the drama that keeps us coming back to these hot mess deities, right? Greek mythology is all about the drama and interpersonal relationships in and around Olympus. Rachel Smythe's Lore Olympus series delivers on the drama and the romance. This series for teen readers is a retelling of the relationship between Hades and Persephone. This relationship has been the focus of countless poems, scholarly deep dives, and, yes, video games (Hades). It is because the original story of Hades and Persephone left out almost all of Persephone's agency and perspective and only saw what was done to her, rather than what she did for herself, which leaves this story ripe for reimagining. Smythe takes her turn with this modern retelling perfect for teens and adults alike who love a good intrigue.

The Song of Achilles, book cover

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Taking that same trip of reimagining Greek mythology and legend, we have the Miller's tale that takes the perspective of the events leading up to and including the Trojan War to Patroclus, friend and lover to Achilles. Achilles was a demi-god and warrior seemingly indestructible, thanks to his lineage, and one of the major players in the Trojan War. In true Greek mythology fashion, there is non-stop action, drama, and love as everyone is careening headlong into war. Perfect for older teen and adult readers who simply want to dive headfirst into a rich story with a fresh perspective.

Mythos: the Greek Myths Reimagined, book cover

Mythos: the Greek Myths Reimagined by Stephen Fry

If what you're looking for is less speculation fiction and just getting into a deep dive on the original tales and stories, Stephen Fry's Mythos is what you need. For an added vibe, I also recommend borrowing this as an audiobook. Fry's calming, yet engaging cadence and his humor only add more life to these larger than life tales. He starts from the very beginning, at the start of creation in Greek mythology with the primordial gods of Chaos, Nyx and Erebus, Hypnos, Thanatos, etc. The very start of the start. Then getting into the Titans and from there, of course the rise of Zeus and the Olympians. He gets into the nitty gritty and the absolute dirty of each of the gods and goddesses. He does not shy away from being explicit when the stories call for complete candor. Fry also infuses his retellings with Greek culture and history, giving the why to why these stories might've been created and how they were shared. Following up with Heroes and then Troy you get the full complement of Greek mythology.

Want More?

The Quest for the Golden Fleas, book cover
Athena & the Magic Land, book cover
The Lost Hero, book cover
The Hidden Oracle, book cover
Pandora's Jar: Women in Greek Myths, book cover
The Iliad, book cover
The Wicked + the Divine, book cover
The Sandman, book cover
Circe, book cover