Bringing Ancient Greece to Life

It finally started getting warm.  I think June might end up being okay.  The rain at least brings the green that I ache for all winter long.  Even when the snow feels cozy, I miss the green.  So there is green.

Myths and legends are the foundation on which we build our cultures and societies.  As such, they provide a framework from which we can make our own spins and interpretations of the well known stories and characters: gods, demi-gods, the foolish mortals, etc.  They contain the classic messages that still apply to us today.

The Greek myths discussed in the books I am reviewing for this post both have their own spins on Greek mythology.  One is an indie review where I was provided a free copy in exchange for a review on my blog, and the author suggested that I could compare his book with Percy Jackson and The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan, as he told me that some of his readers drew parallels between his book and that one.

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Icarus and the Wing Builder, Robert William Case

This is the story of Daedalus and Icarus in Ancient Greece, how Daedalus came to meet and adopt Icarus, their exile and their mutually hatched plot to build a pair of wings to be the first men to fly.  However, there is only one historical keeper of the tale, Daedalus.  Could he be the infamous unreliable narrator who has pulled in many a listener to tales?  Did he really fly too close to the sun to meet his demise?  Does Daedalus have another motive for telling that story? Icarus was originally an orphan, Daedalus was a man sent by the king to explore the secret of bronze after he is blamed unfairly for the death of one of his workers.  Both needed to find new places in the world.

Like other reviewers report, this is mythology but reads more like historical fiction.  The author very much wants the reader to get a feel for what it was like to live in Ancient Greece, the ceremonies, the structure of power and the rise and fall from favor.  What people had to do in order to survive.  If you want to benefit from the author’s research and get a feel for what it was like to live in these times, this book is absolutely a good fit.  There is romance, lots of adventure, and some rebellion against the status quo.  Be warned that this is actually the first in a trilogy, and while the ending does have a degree of satisfaction on its’ own, the excerpt of the next installment suggests there is more to the story. I don’t want to spoil what the next installment suggests, but the whole story is not told at the last page.

And I was able to hang in there even though the story is centered on male characters and their concerns, which is an endorsement coming from me.  I cared about what happened to them, even thought they were males with different power and opportunities.

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The Lightning Thief, Rick Riordan

In my opinion, the similarities between this book and Icarus and the Wing Builder nearly end at the facts that they both use Greek mythology for their characters and that they both bring these stories more to life for someone who has not researched them considerably on their own. For one thing, this is a middle grade/young adult novel, whereas Case’s book is an adult book. For one thing, there is sex and romance in Icarus that a reader of The Lightning Thief would not understand or likely care very much for.   And persecution, and other adult topics that kids do not relate to in the same way as they relate to issues in books targeted to them.

Percy is a sixth grade kid that has never fit in anywhere in the regular world of mortals, and finds out his true story of being a demi god the summer after sixth grade.  He finds it out because he is put in the middle of a conflict between the gods, goes to a camp for other demi god children, and meets other gods in the process.  I can see where this book has become so popular.  I had wanted to read it because many of the kids I work with have read it and very much loved it and have gained an interest in mythology from it.  I would share this book with my son, absolutely, in that it is relateable, interesting, and funny.

I have probably belabored the point on how important I feel it is to bring history and our culture into tangible detail for people to really understand where our civilization comes from.  As such, these books are both important works.  I got a better understanding of the context and the characters at play in Ancient Greece and what it may have been like to live there.

Comments/likes/shares are always greatly appreciated! Leave the love.


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