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Under the Spell of the Gods: 11 Tales for Fans of Classical Mythology

Caitlin Kleinschmidt is part of the sales team at Workman Publishing. She has previously held positions at Viking/Riverhead, Simon & Schuster, Oxford University Press, and Macmillan. A Navy brat, she lived on both coasts and credits the Dear America series for her lifelong love of history. She has a special place in her heart for narrative nonfiction, as well as books about Eastern Europe and ballet.

I distinctly remember the day I received my first book of Greek mythology for my sixth birthday: it was the day I fell under the spell of the gods. These epic clashes between reason and rapture have long proved fertile ground for the imagination and a number of fantastic writers have drawn their inspiration from this expansive world. Many focus on the Trojan War—the desperate decade-long struggle that doomed both the victors and the vanquished—while others draw their inspiration from more obscure sources in the classical pantheon. If you’re looking for a new and different way to experience these beloved stories, here are the books to read.


The Song of Achilles
by Madeline Miller
A brilliant reimagining of Homer’s enduring masterwork THE ILIAD, this dazzling debut novel is an action-packed adventure and an epic love story. Those who fell under the Trojan War’s epic spell will delight in this unforgettable journey back to the Age of Heroes.
The Song of Achilles
Madeline Miller

“I’ve always thought that a good book should be either the entry point inward, to learn about yourself, or a door outward, to open you up to new worlds. With THE SONG OF ACHILLES, Madeline Miller gave me both.”

Read the full review by Taylor Jenkins Reid here.

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Under the Spell of the Gods: 11 Tales for Fans of Classical Mythology

By Caitlin Kleinschmidt | May 28, 2015

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Gods Behaving Badly
by Marie Phillips

This highly entertaining novel removes the gods from the lofty heights of Mount Olympus and unceremoniously hurls them into the twenty-first century. Life is hard for a group of Greek gods stuck in a dilapidated North London townhouse and it seems there is no way out . . . until a meek cleaner turns their world upside down.

Gods Behaving Badly
Marie Phillips

This highly entertaining novel removes the gods from the lofty heights of Mount Olympus and unceremoniously hurls them into the twenty-first century. Life is hard for a group of Greek gods stuck in a dilapidated North London townhouse and it seems there is no way out . . . until a meek cleaner turns their world upside down.

MENTIONED IN:

Under the Spell of the Gods: 11 Tales for Fans of Classical Mythology

By Caitlin Kleinschmidt | May 28, 2015

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The King Must Die
by Mary Renault

In myth, Theseus was the slayer of Crete’s child-devouring Minotaur. This daring act of imagination explores the beloved Greek hero as an utterly lifelike figure: a king of immense charisma, whose boundless strivings flow from strength and weakness, but who is steered by a merciless prophecy.

The King Must Die
Mary Renault

In myth, Theseus was the slayer of Crete’s child-devouring Minotaur. This daring act of imagination explores the beloved Greek hero as an utterly lifelike figure: a king of immense charisma, whose boundless strivings flow from strength and weakness, but who is steered by a merciless prophecy.

MENTIONED IN:

Under the Spell of the Gods: 11 Tales for Fans of Classical Mythology

By Caitlin Kleinschmidt | May 28, 2015

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Ulysses
by James Joyce

This modernist masterpiece, whose title is derived from the Latin rendering of Odysseus, borrows its structure from the legendary king’s ten years of wandering after the fall of Troy. Every chapter has a corresponding theme from Homer’s epic poem for clever readers to discern; and Leopold Bloom, the character around whom the novel swirls, bears many elaborate parallels to the King of Ithaca.

Ulysses
James Joyce

This modernist masterpiece, whose title is derived from the Latin rendering of Odysseus, borrows its structure from the legendary king’s ten years of wandering after the fall of Troy. Every chapter has a corresponding theme from Homer’s epic poem for clever readers to discern; and Leopold Bloom, the character around whom the novel swirls, bears many elaborate parallels to the King of Ithaca.

MENTIONED IN:

Under the Spell of the Gods: 11 Tales for Fans of Classical Mythology

By Caitlin Kleinschmidt | May 28, 2015

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The Secret History
by Donna Tartt
Donna Tartt’s first, and I would argue her best, novel may not be a direct retelling of classical mythology, but its characters—a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite Vermont college—so wholeheartedly believe in the mighty power of the gods that they reenact an ecstatic Dionysian ritual in the woods behind their idyllic campus. Let’s just say that all does not go well.
The Secret History
Donna Tartt

If your favorite character is Jonathan Byers

The misunderstood, unhappy kid who yearns for an East Coast college where he can forget his modest upbringing and meet sufficiently interesting friends? Sounds like Richard Papen, the narrator of Donna Tartt’s first novel, THE SECRET HISTORY.

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Lavinia
by Ursula K. Le Guin

In The Aeneid, Virgil’s hero fights to claim Lavinia, with whom he is destined to found an empire. She herself never speaks a word. Now, the acclaimed writer and recent winner of the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, Ursula K. Le Guin, gives Lavinia a voice in a novel that takes us to the half-wild world of ancient Italy, when Rome was just a muddy village near seven hills.

Lavinia
Ursula K. Le Guin

In The Aeneid, Virgil’s hero fights to claim Lavinia, with whom he is destined to found an empire. She herself never speaks a word. Now, the acclaimed writer and recent winner of the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, Ursula K. Le Guin, gives Lavinia a voice in a novel that takes us to the half-wild world of ancient Italy, when Rome was just a muddy village near seven hills.

MENTIONED IN:

Under the Spell of the Gods: 11 Tales for Fans of Classical Mythology

By Caitlin Kleinschmidt | May 28, 2015

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The Firebrand
by Marion Zimmer Bradley

Just as The Mists of Avalon reimagined Arthurian legend through the eyes of marginalized and misunderstood female characters, Marion Zimmer Bradley reinvents the epic Trojan War through the eyes of Cassandra, Troy’s doomed princess, priestess, and seer.

The Firebrand
Marion Zimmer Bradley

Just as The Mists of Avalon reimagined Arthurian legend through the eyes of marginalized and misunderstood female characters, Marion Zimmer Bradley reinvents the epic Trojan War through the eyes of Cassandra, Troy’s doomed princess, priestess, and seer.

MENTIONED IN:

Under the Spell of the Gods: 11 Tales for Fans of Classical Mythology

By Caitlin Kleinschmidt | May 28, 2015

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The Penelopiad
by Margaret Atwood

Penelope is portrayed as the quintessential faithful wife in Homer’s Odyssey, her story a salutary lesson through the ages. Margaret Atwood tells the story through her eyes, asking: “What was Penelope really up to?” In this splendid twist, Penelope’s story becomes haunting, told with wisdom and compassion.

The Penelopiad
Margaret Atwood

Penelope is portrayed as the quintessential faithful wife in Homer’s Odyssey, her story a salutary lesson through the ages. Margaret Atwood tells the story through her eyes, asking: “What was Penelope really up to?” In this splendid twist, Penelope’s story becomes haunting, told with wisdom and compassion.

MENTIONED IN:

Under the Spell of the Gods: 11 Tales for Fans of Classical Mythology

By Caitlin Kleinschmidt | May 28, 2015

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The Lost Books of the Odyssey
by Zachary Mason

This brilliant and beguiling novel reimagines the hero Odysseus and his long journey home after the fall of Troy with great wit, beauty, and playfulness. Zachary Mason creates alternative episodes, fragments, and revisions of Homer’s original that, taken together, open up this classic myth to endless reverberating interpretations.

The Lost Books of the Odyssey
Zachary Mason

This brilliant and beguiling novel reimagines the hero Odysseus and his long journey home after the fall of Troy with great wit, beauty, and playfulness. Zachary Mason creates alternative episodes, fragments, and revisions of Homer’s original that, taken together, open up this classic myth to endless reverberating interpretations.

MENTIONED IN:

Under the Spell of the Gods: 11 Tales for Fans of Classical Mythology

By Caitlin Kleinschmidt | May 28, 2015

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Helen of Troy
by Margaret George

This lush, seductive novel reveals the legendary beauty whose face launched a thousand ships. Through her eyes and in her voice, we experience the young Helen’s discovery of her divine origin and terrifying beauty, her passionless marriage and flight to Troy. It is an intelligent, perceptive evocation of a woman whose life was destined to create strife and destroy civilizations.

Helen of Troy
Margaret George

This lush, seductive novel reveals the legendary beauty whose face launched a thousand ships. Through her eyes and in her voice, we experience the young Helen’s discovery of her divine origin and terrifying beauty, her passionless marriage and flight to Troy. It is an intelligent, perceptive evocation of a woman whose life was destined to create strife and destroy civilizations.

MENTIONED IN:

Under the Spell of the Gods: 11 Tales for Fans of Classical Mythology

By Caitlin Kleinschmidt | May 28, 2015

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