Odysseus, infamous trickster of Troy, vaunted hero of the Greeks, left behind a wake of chaos and despair during his decade long journey home to Ithaca. Lovers and enemies, witches and monsters—no one who tangled with Odysseus emerged unscathed. Some prayed for his return, others, for his destruction. These are their stories…
A beleaguered queen’s gambit for maintaining power unravels as a son plots vengeance.
A tormented siren battles a goddess’s curse and the forces of nature to survive.
An exiled sorceress defies a lustful captain and his greedy crew.
A blinded shepherd swears revenge on the pirate-king who mutilated him.
A beautiful empress binds a shipwrecked sailor to servitude, only to wonder who is serving whom.
A young suitor dreams of love while a returned king conceives a savage retribution.
Six authors bring to life the epic tale of The Odyssey seen through the eyes of its shattered victims—the monsters, witches, lovers, and warriors whose lives were upended by the antics of the “man of many faces.” You may never look upon this timeless epic—and its iconic ancient hero—in quite the same way again.
Homer claimed it tedious to tell again tales already plainly told, but I’d argue his perspective shortsighted as there is nothing tedious about A Sea of Sorrow. Though essentially a retelling of The Odyssey, the collaborative brings fresh perspective to Odysseus’ journey and presents thought-provoking ideas about the ancient world.
Song of Survival and Epilogue by Vicky Alvear Shecter: I grinned when I realized Vicky Alvear Shecter wrote the first story in A Sea of Sorrow. Her interpretation of Odysseus in A Song of War blew me away and I was immediately comforted by the knowledge that I was in the hands of an author I trusted with the material.
Having said that, I want to note that neither “Song of Survival” nor the “Epilogue” are relayed from Odysseus’s point of view. Shecter’s stories center on the family he left behind and the impact of his extended absence. Telemachus, as a boy in a matriarchal home, is at great disadvantage and I liked how Shecter’s narrative captured the social and developmental repercussion of his circumstances. I was equally impressed with the substance she gifted Penelope. Odysseus’ queen is often portrayed as a woman with her eyes fixed longingly on the horizon and I appreciated how dynamic and capable she came to be in Shecter’s hands.
* Best Moment in A Sea of Sorrow – Fell out of my chair laughing over the whore on Whore island. *
Xenia in the Court of the Winds by Scott Oden: Scott Oden was a new author for me and I’d honestly no idea what to expect going into “Xenia in the Court of the Winds.” Looking back, however, I want to caution readers from taking this piece for granted. The story is exceptional in both tone and composition and proves one of most thought-provoking submissions in all of The H Team collaborations.
Homer’s Polyphemus is a monster, but the depth Oden gifted his Kyklops turns the original source material on its head while exploring the cultural diversity that characterized ancient Greece. The idea sent chills of excitement down my spine and I thrilled at how Oden used history to authenticate his fiction and challenge his audience with the grim realities of culture clash and intolerance.
* Best Character in A Sea of Sorrow – Writing a hero is easy, reinventing a villain is an art. *
Hekate’s Daughter by Libbie Hawker: I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Libbie Hawker in person, but I’m familiar with her through social media and I love how “Hekate’s Daughter” illustrates both her personality and artistic strengths.
The story fearlessly dives into feminist ideology, but Hawker is careful to keep the content appropriate to the historic lens of her narrative. It’s a balance few are able to effectively pull off, but the end result is a story that invites the reader to interact with the narrative and take something very relevant from their experience of the material.
* Best Individual Theme in a Sea of Sorrow – Great ideas make thought-provoking fiction. *
The Siren’s Song by Amalia Carosella: According to Greek mythology, a siren is a creature that is half bird and half woman. They’re known for luring sailors to their doom through the seductive tone of their song and though their appearance in The Odyssey is brief, it is without doubt my favorite scene of the epic poem. Needless to say the pressure was on as I began reading Amalia Carosella’s “The Siren’s Song.”
This story, more than any of the others, pays tribute to Greek mythology and its influence on ancient society. The collection intentionally avoids the supernatural, but that doesn’t mean its characters don’t believe in the Gods and I loved how Carosella used that to her advantage in "The Siren's Song." There is a tragic symmetry to the piece, but it plays out beautifully and provides some of the most poignant moments in A Sea of Sorrow.
* Best Ironic Moment in A Sea of Sorrow – True to the source material, yet wholly original *
Calypso’s Vow by David Blixt: David Blixt’s “Calypso’s Vow” caught me off guard. Homer paints Calypso as an unconscionable temptress and the idea of jumping into her shoes didn’t strike me as an appealing means of passing the time. I was both hesitant and skeptical which is amusing to admit as it took all of a few paragraphs for the story to knock me clean off my feet.
“Calypso’s Vow” marks a turning point for Odysseus as he comes to acknowledge the wreckage he’s wrought on the world. It’s a story redemption, but it was his lover’s grace and emotional sacrifice that captured my imagination. Blixt effectively redefined Calypso and in so doing, crafted a story that cuts straight to the heart.
* Best Submission in A Sea of Sorrow – Absolute perfection. *
The King in Waiting by Russell Whitfield: Until now, The H Team collaboratives have featured a cast that wander in and out of multiple stories, but the nature of The Odyssey isolated most of the narrators and placed unusual pressure on the author tasked with anchoring the collection. Shecter penned the "Epilogue," but it is Russell Whitfield who gave voice to the phantom who casts his shadow over each of these stories and ultimately brings Odysseus home.
“The King in Waiting” sees Odysseus facing the realities of his legacy, accepting his role in Ithaca’s misfortune, and setting his kingdom to rights. It is an interesting emotional journey and I quite liked how it played out, but I was surprised at how Whitfield used Amphinomus to temper Odysseus’ triumph. Whitfield’s fleshing out of the younger man creates a bittersweet note in the fabric of the narrative, but I couldn’t help appreciating how he used Amph’s fate to bring Odysseus the direction he so desperately lacked.
* Best Surprise in A Sea of Sorrow – It ain’t over till it’s over. *
My first read this year, and coincidentally I had also read A Song of War, the H-Team's collective retelling of The Iliad, in January last year. A nice symmetry.
Back then, I had wished they would do The Odyssey next, and lo! here it is. For some reason, I was expecting the same authors, however. So it was a surprise to me to find only three of the familiar names were back for a second round of Homer: Vicky Alvear Shecter, who did Odysseus and now does Penelope and Telemachus, Libbie Hawker, who did Philoctetes and now does Circe, and Russell Whitfield, who did Agamemnon and now does Amphinomus and Odysseus. The rest of the authors are all new to me, though they were known to me by name only.
Second surprise was the not quite subtle negative portrayal of "wily Odysseus," a phrase that in some of the contexts it's in here reads as either sarcastic or self-deprecating, constrasting with the original. At first, I wondered if it might be at least in part because some of the authors aren't very familiar with Hellenism, and part because most are closer to Rome, who (I was amused to read Whitfield saying it too in his Author's Note) aren't exactly Odysseus' cheerleaders (Well, what can one expect? Romans wrote their own Homeric fanfiction painting themselves as descendants of a Trojan, the side that lost because of Odysseus' tricks). Or maybe it's a conscious authorial decision to show the other side, which is likely the primary reason. Whatever the case, in some of the stories there seems to be a deliberate effort to paint Homer's hero as more villainous than the blind bard intended, and in other cases it's merely that he comes off the worse by showing the opposite point of view.
And, as a third observation, it's my opinion that this collaboration doesn't read as smoothly, like a single novel written by multiple hands as Song was. I don't think it has to do with the degree of collaboration and ability of the authors to blend in their stories without bumps left not ironed out. I'm inclined to think it's due to the episodic nature of The Odyssey, which is an adventure travelogue that's all over the place, contrary to the narrower and more compact narrative of The Iliad. But even so, it does feel considerably "loose" narratively, thinly connected, and that is definitely due to the writers.
You see, if The Iliad is the story of a long war and has several protagonists, The Odyssey is the story of one man and his adventures. There is where the book's biggest flaw lies, for me. It's that Odysseus is included in a way that he works as a very shaky link between all the stories instead of the one that bridges each. It's not necessarily a flaw of showing him through other characters's eyes but how this is handled. Take for example the larger-than-life Achilles, who never got a POV in the other collaboration, yet he never felt like he was less of a presence for that. By contrast, Odysseus is like the reason for the founding of the Society for the Loathing of the King of Ithaca.
Ah, well. The more familiar with Homer, the likelier to have a few observations on these seven stories, too...
SONG OF SURVIVAL by Vicky Alvear Shecter 3.5 stars
If I had to sum up my reaction to the opening salvo, I would say that I liked Penelope, but not her story.
And then I'd add that I found Telemachus rather detestable. A bit of a shock given that I do like this character, and remember that when I first read Homer as a child, it was Telemachus whom I could relate to because of his youth and his growing pains. I recall him as a resourceful and courageous boy struggling to become a man of substance without a father in a chaotic home. What fatherless children cannot understand that? This Telemachus, however... Who is this irritating spineless whiner who catches feelings from being used as a boy-toy? And he's all that because he has no father, of course, whilst the other boys who also have no fathers aren't whiny, weak, and gay. Telemachus did have a male role model, and his mother made sure he'd be educated properly, so while he didn't have his dad to guide him in the manly arts of war and statemanship, the correlation drawn here that fatherless = weakling is problematic. And it reflects poorly on Penelope as a parent, which probably wasn't intentional.
Speaking of, I was saying I loved the characterisation of Penelope. She's steely yet sweet and cunning; she had to be if she could endure 20 years of hopeless wait. The interpretation of the weaving the shroud element from the myth was quite simply brilliant! I'd put it up there with Amalia Carosella's interpretation of the Sirens as the two most creative interpretations in the book. The interpretation of the "suitors," on the other hand, was unconvincing and not entirely plausible if we consider the prize plum to pick. It reads more like a case of hubristic misfire, of someone believing themselves smarter than most only to have the genius plan explode in their face and end up having a worse problem than in the beginning. Not exactly conducive to getting readers to perceive your character as clever and strong as you want her to be.
XENIA IN THE COURT OF THE WINDS by Scott Oden 4 stars
I must be amongst the few who didn't think it'd be about a woman called Xenia or Ksenia. But I didn't guess this would deal with the one-eyed monster Cyclops from the myth, either, and instead had thought it'd be some reinterpretation of Odysseus' time at the court of King Aeolus. I was only partially right: the king is featured here. But the story isn't about him or his kingdom.
I was aware that the H-Team were doing a magic- and gods-free retelling again, and I was dying to find out what they would do with the mythical beasts & monsters. With the Trojan War it was easy enough: just omit the gods as really existing beings, easy peasy. But The Odyssey is overflowing with fantastical creatures, pure gods, demigods, half-god/half-monster hybrids, sorceresses, giants, freak natural phenomena... I can only begin to guess the amount of brainpower that went into creating realistic alternatives to all of that. And I do think Scott Oden came up with a decent interpretation for a real Poliphemus. He's still a giant, and still one-eyed, but he's not a cannibal monster sired by Poseidon. His origins and why he is what he is are very plausible and convincing, in my opinion.
In this story is when we first see Odysseus, though briefly. And he doesn't come out on the right side of things, though there's some attenuating factors and it's mostly due to his men that the negative events happen. I also liked that the POV of this story is a child, which gives it a fantastical aura in some parts because, as Glaukos is a boy who still sees the world through a naïve kid's eyes, the POV is prone to thinking the supernatural stuff he sees is really due to gods and magic instead of being perfectly explainable stuff as it'd be evident if the POV were older.
HEKATE'S DAUGHTER by Libbie Hawker 2 stars
The weakest story in the book. Half of it is the terrible characterisation and the rest the implausibility of the main plot element.
Circe could compete with Telemachus for the gold in the Whiners Olympics, and pretty much for reasons not too dissimilar: she is motherless. But, for what the life of a bastard was like in those times, little Circe is extremely privileged. She is loved by her stepmother, loved by her half-sister, and treated well by her half-brothers. Her father the chieftain is distant, but he doesn't mistreat her. In fact, nobody mistreats Circe. She may be a bastard, but she's still a chief's bastard reared in the chieftain's household with all the privileges and comforts of tribal royalty. There's no Cinderella stepfamily domestic nightmare for this girl at all. Honestly, her hand-wringing and woe-is-me pity parties come into existence because she's not like her sister and doesn't have the same bright prospects as her because of bastardy, but she thinks it's because she's a witch.
Libbie Hawker didn't give a credible reason for Circe to be seen as a witch. It's said that Circe's mother was a whore, and that fact was hidden by her siblings to spare her feelings, and rumours appeared that her mother was a witch out of the blue. Really, what was the reason for Circe's mother to be called a witch? Everyone seems to have known she was a courtesan, and only her brothers used to tell her her mother was a goddess to console her, which seems to be the origin of the "witch" rumour. Uh? I was confused. And Circe herself never gives people a reason to call her a witch. They simply start calling her a witch, full stop, and she whines about her husband starting it out of spite for not getting her sister's hand instead. Well, girl, you're a bastard, did you really expect to be married off to a king and for him to worship the ground you walk on?
It'd have made some sense if Circe had started to be called a witch because of her interest in herbs, her preparing potions and remedies with plants and flowers because of the old witchcraft prejudice against healers, apothecaries and herbalists. But she's believed to be a witch long before she gets interested in herbs and healing. That doesn't make sense, and leaves the plot hole unfilled. The reason for her being sent to the island of Aeaea, where she'll eventually live exiled and be found by Odysseus is also... mmm, how to put it? Let me describe it briefly instead: Happy Lesbians' Island, come visit only if you have something to trade and don't stay. No men are allowed. Because we hates men, Precious. Tricksy, false...
I get that there was an attempt to write a feminist interpretation of the Circe legend; but the outcome was poor. A privileged bastard who can't accept she won't be like her perfect sister, is entitled, and who thinks she's a witch because people say so even if nobody treats her as such until her stupid husband, who is exiled to a island where she'll take several handmaidens and become a man-hating lesbian, who doesn't want children so as not to pass on "witch's blood", but ends up having one because Odysseus had to be rapey for plot convenience, and who wants to turn her child into a instrument of revenge... is feminist? I think not. The premise and the execution are divorced.
THE SIREN'S SONG by Amalia Carosella 5 stars
Heartbreaking and with a brutal conclusion, but also the best story in the book. By far. It retells the legend of the Sirens, the half-woman/half-bird creatures who lured sailors to their deaths by leading them to crash on the rocks of the island.
The version Amalia Carosella devised for a real, non-mythical version of the Sirens is more and more horrific as you read and learn what those women have to do, how they live on, and how they came to inhabit that small rock in the middle of the oceanic nowhere, with only Circe and her hateful handmaidens for neighbours. I was cheering for Aglaope, the youngest Siren, from the very first line until the No, no, no, oh, no, noooooo moments.
To me, it's the most creative plot as well, and my favourite. I would never have imagined a non-fantastical solution like that. The author sure knows her Hellene gods and monsters like the palm of her hand, and it shows: the characterisation of the Sirens, and Aglaope in particular, was perfection. A word of warning, though: it's strong stuff for the stomach.
CALYPSO'S VOW by David Blixt 4 stars
This story is more psychological, more an exploration of the inner world of the characters than a plot. A really good one, I should add.
Blixt has one of the best proses in the book, and knows how to handle "intimate" & psychological storytelling. I knew he is an actor as well, and thought it was due to his theatrical experience that he was adept at quoting and turning his characters into quote-tellers, but on reaching the Authors' Notes at the end, I learnt he was inspired for the bits of reciting (and the plot) by a song from his youth which I plan to listen to out of curiosity.
As for his characterisation of Odysseus, the story is from Calypso's POV, and it's her story more than the Ithacan's, but here is when his redemption truly begins. The Odysseus we see in the previous stories through the likes of Glaukos and Circe is a complete bastard, in the figurative sense of the word, but when he arrives to the island of Calypso, he's been shaken hard and is ready for being a better person after his terrible deeds of past years and become again the Odysseus we like. In Homer, Calypso is a nymph, but Blixt has "humanised" her and made her into a queen who, like all royals, believes herself divine but not a goddess (much like Aeolus' case is dealt with), and since Odysseus is convinced his misfortunes are due to oathbreaking and the subsequent punishment by the gods, he wants to redeem himself by proving himself an oathkeeper. Calypso pushes forth his redemption, though at a cost to herself. I really liked this interpretation, a lot.
THE KING IN WAITING by Russell Whitfield 4.5 stars
Ever wanted to read the version by Penelope's suitors? Then you're in luck, because this story starts from the POV of one of them. A nice one. All the suitors are depicted as insufferable people in The Odyssey, and they are (most of them) just like that in this story as well. But whilst Homer makes no exceptions, Whitfield does: he created one that's a good man and earnest to prove himself useful because he genuinely respects Queen Penelope, with whom he also fancies himself in love. I hadn't expected how his story ended, though, nor that the story would be double-POV and include Odysseus in disguise after the "suitor."
This author proved he's very good at characterisation in the past, he confirmed it this time with his handling of the dual POVs, and he was also the one to introduce sensuality bits the most, because it's in his story when we see a love scene that's not fade-to-black or flashback in passing. If you asked me, I'd have preferred Whitfield to be placed in the middle or near the end rather than the end, and have David Blixt handle Odysseus by the end of the book and concluding his redemption, because the last story seems to be catching the Odysseus carried over from Shecter rather than from the previous chapter, a disconnect probably due to the need to leave things lined up for the epilogue.
EPILOGUE by Vicky Alvear Shecter 3.5 stars
Not a very satisfying conclusion for my tastes, but it served the purpose of wrapping up the book like it started: with Penelope. The story is over and done with by this point, and the epilogue mostly only ties up the loose threads as to how Penelope felt about having her husband back. I think it could've been possible for the previous chapter to be the conclusion with a few more paragraphs, but for that Whitfield would've probably had to add her POV.
So, overall it wasn't quite on the same level as the book about Troy for me, but was still good, and I can definitely appreciate how far more challenging The Odyssey can be to writers. I'm now wondering if the H-Team would ever consider completing the epic cycle with The Aeneid? Yes, yes, I know it's Virgil's retelling of Homer and you folks have already done Homer twice and it'd be fanfiction of a fanfiction. Ha! But... hey, it's not a bad idea.
It nearly took me a year but I think 1) I went through a reading funk (I barely made my 30 book challenge last year and that was mostly because of the audiobooks and comics I read) and 2) I kept getting stuck in the more boring (IMO) stories (namely the Kyklops and the Sirens ones). Libbie Hawker’s Circe story is FANTASTIC and probably my favorite of this complication.
In short, I definitely enjoyed it despite how long it took me to finish.
In 2018, for the first time, I got a chance to read The Iliad, a book that 1) makes me sound pretentious AF and 2) was surprisingly easier to read than the Bible and many other more modern books I've ever read. Reading that lead me to read the first assembly of short stories, A Song of War. As with many compendiums of short stories, that had some good, some meh, and some boring.
Today, after starting this poor book nearly a year ago, I have finished it. Like with "A Song of War", some of the stories knock it out of the park (Hawker's Circe short story is absolutely divine) and some are incredibly strange (the Kyklops and the Siren stories). However, I think that, although I spent nearly a year on this series of essays, the stories were generally better than the ones in "A Song of War".
I suppose before reading this, I should have picked up the Odyssey, but I did not. I walked into these stories mostly blind, with a very scant knowledge of what happens. (My high school/college education included nothing about the Odyssey, so what I know is from cultural osmosis.) While that might have made it more difficult for me to know what would happen, it didn't deter my enjoyment overall of the stories.
The entire set of short stories is based on the premise: What if the characters believe in gods, but all the miraculous or godly events were just explained by fantastical storytelling or other mundane events? It's a neat conceit, one that the authors here generally did well. (Not sure I bought the Kyklops and Sirens stories, but I do feel like the authors tried very hard, based on their explanations at the end of this book.)
The opening story with Penelope and her son, Telemachus, was well done and enjoyable, a good opener for this set. We move onto the Kyklops, a story told in oral history form, a grandparent to a grandchild. It was probably here that my first big hiccup happened; I struggled to get through this story as it was so peculiar.
Then there was Libbie Hawker's standout Circe piece. Absolutely stunning. I cannot give more compliments for this piece of work - I adored every moment I spent with Circe! I've read some of Hawker's works, which I've had (unfortunately) mixed feelings for, but this was sheer brilliance.
The Siren's story was another one of those odd ones, another area where I slowed to a halt. Then I picked up steam again at Calypso's story, and then finally, the end when Odysseus returns to his court.
For people who enjoy the Iliad and the Odyssey, I definitely recommend this compilation, even with the minor blips of the Kyklops and the Siren stories (I really feel these authors had the hardest job of translating their fantastical stories into something more realistic). Again, even though I spent a LONG time reading these, I don't attribute that to the fault of this selection. The stories were at the end, enjoyable and a rollercoaster of emotions.
A Sea of Sorrow: A Novel of Odysseus is a collaborative work by six authors who style themselves The H Team: David Blixt, Amalia Carosella, Libbie Hawker, Scott Oden, Vicky Alvear Shecter, Russell Whitfield and Gary Corby (Introduction). Each story focuses on one of six “supporting” characters in The Odyssey.
The individual stories are united by a number of common themes and all present the stories in a realistic, prosaic way, shorn of the mythological element of Homer’s version. Here the gods do not intervene in human affairs, although the characters retain their belief in the gods. There are no monsters, just men made monstrous. There is a real life explanation for all the events and the motivations are all too human.
One theme running through all the stories is the concept of xenia or guest-friendship. It is clearly illustrated in one of the tales I particularly enjoyed, Xenia in the Court of the Winds, which focuses on Polyphemus, the monstrous Cyclops of Homer’s The Odyssey. However in Scott Oden’s story, Polyphemus is no monster but re-cast as a sympathetic, human figure who has suffered cruelly at the hands of Odysseus and now finds himself a helpless refugee dependent on others (surely a theme of contemporary relevance). Arriving on the island of Aeolia, Polyphemus is greeted with anger and suspicion by the islanders and it is only a boy, Glaukos, who responds in the true spirit of xenia to Polyphemus. As Glaukos explains, ‘Xenia…is the duty one man owes to another: that he offer the hospitality of his oikos, his household, to a stranger in need.’ When Polyphemus recounts his tale, it becomes clear that one of Odysseus’s crimes was to abuse the guest-friendship offered to him.
Another story I really liked was Penelope’s story, Song of Survival by Vicky Alvear Shecter. Deserted by her husband, we see Penelope’s cleverness and everyday practicality as she deals with the issues facing the kingdom of Ithaca. Penelope has a refreshingly no-nonsense view of her husband’s character and comes pretty close to the mark as she wonders how he will account for his absence should he return. “Will you blame a god for what was surely your decision – and probably on a whim – to pursue more glory? Will you spin fantastical accounts that absolve you of the consequences from the choices you made? Of goddesses who seduced? Monsters who attacked? Beasts who betrayed?”
Odysseus’s reputation as a ‘trickster’ is another theme of the stories. The amiable teller of riddles is revealed as a deceiver and liar. ‘His tales were as smooth as a fine wine. But always there was a hint of something just under the surface – something sour, but too subtle to the palate to call it a bald-faced lie.’
The most sympathetic rendition of Odysseus is in the story, Calypso’s Vow by David Blixt. Here we see Odysseus racked by guilt at the death of comrades, his betrayal of Circe, his failure to assist the Sirens and his hubris(another theme of the stories). Recognising himself as a habitual oath-breaker, Odysseus’s time on Calypso’s isle becomes a self-imposed test of his ability to be true to an oath. For once, his skills and experience are used in the service of others.
I really enjoyed reading this collection of imaginative stories which, although the product of different writers, share a common style that gives a feeling of continuity. I think readers familiar with The Odyssey will enjoy the new perspectives the stories provide on established characters. Equally, I believe they will encourage readers not familiar with The Odyssey to seek out Homer’s original.
I received an advance reader copy courtesy HF Virtual Book Tours in return for an honest review.
I've come to look forward to these exciting books written by an ever-changing group of authors, The H Team--some of whom I've read before and some who introduced me to a whole new batch of books I quickly added to my TBR pile. In A SEA OF SORROW, authors Amalia Carosella, Libbie Hawker, Russell Whitfield, David Blixt, Scot Oden, and Vicky Alvear Shecter bring an ancient world to life with the stories of victims left in the wake of the Greek hero, Odysseus.
I loved each of the six stories within this book. Having a different author for each tale means the reader gets to hear about their lives in truly different voices, showing you their true personality, inviting you into their world and making privy to their private thoughts. Each will give you a different perspective on the world you thought you knew and perhaps change your thoughts on Greek Mythology altogether.
I cannot say enough good about this book and the anthologies that preceded it. If mythology is your thing, you will go crazy for this book. If mythology isn't your thing, it will be after you read this book. Devour it and be happy that your time was well spent.
"A Sea of Sorrow" is the story of Odysseus. It is an anthology and the latest offering from the H team, a bunch of powerhouse historical fiction writers. Like their previous offerings, this anthology packs a punch and I am so happy to see anthologies cross over to the historical fiction realm where they don't seem to be found often. After reading this book and the other H team books, it is very perplexing to me as to why this is.
It is no wonder that Odysseus makes for a great retelling. His story has everything: adventure, mystical beings, and a great journey. This book covers many of the monsters and men that Odysseus meets while he makes his way home. Oden covers the KyKlops (who is given much more depth and motive than the original). Carosella explains what sirens really might have been, which is fascinating. And then of course, there is Blixt's story of the infamous Calypso. While Odysseus acts as a shadow over much of the book, he doesn't actually appear all that much. Shecter's first story covers Ithaca while Odysseus is away and what it does to his wife and son. She follows his return in the Epilogue, when he comes to terms with what he left and the effects it had. We finally get to see Odysseus in Whitfield's story as he returns home and what he is met with.
My favorite story in the book was Libbie Hawker's story of Circe, Odysseus's sorceress. Hawker seeks to explain that Circe doesn't truly see herself as someone with supernatural powers of the kind Odysseus gives her in the Odyssey. As with many people of the day, Circe believes in the higher powers of the gods and goddesses but with more of a grain of salt than the stories of Odysseus would previously have us believe. Hawker hits on something that has seemed to hit women throughout time: don't do something a man wants? You must be cold. You must be a bitch. Circe definitely doesn't do what Odysseus and his men want so was she really a witch or did Odysseus just make that up because he didn't get what he wanted? I think this story hit me hardest because its something that has very much been on my mind in the political realm that we are currently living through. Oh, it's so good!
And do yourself a favor: read the author's notes. It was fascinating to see what the authors were thinking about when they were writing each of their sections. If you're looking for adventure and a way to see an old myth in new light, this is the book for you.
I haven’t read anything by Homer and while I know the basics of Odyssey and his journey, there is much to learn. Mostly I know Circe, Calypso etc by name but that’s about it. In a way, it’s a good thing since I don’t have anything to compare these characters to.
My favorite chapters were with Penelope. I loved seeing how she manages to keep the throne during all those years her husband was away. She had to be clever to do that since the majority of Ithaca’s men were gone to war or died on the journey. And she was realistic enough to wonder how he would explain his absence during all those years away.
Another awesome collaboration from the authors. David Blixt, Scott Oden, and Amalia Carosella were new authors for me. Another great book by The H Team and I’ve really come to look forward to these books.
I first read The Iliad and The Odyssey when I was in high school. It’s been a while since I’ve revisited either tale but they will be there for me whenever I decide to. I do remember being enthralled with Odysseus’s travels while my friends looked at me like I had two heads. High school….
A Sea of Sorrow brings the tales of Odysseus to life but in a very different way than our old friend Homer. There are six short stories in the book each one taking a piece of the legend and telling it from the opposite point of view. Instead of reliving the tale through the acts and deeds of Odysseus we see rather the impacts of them.
What makes this book special is that since each story is written by a different author it does have a different voice so that even though the book carries through the story of Odysseus the various characters are there to tell it their own way. It brings the familiar story to life in a whole new way. And don’t worry if you haven’t read Homer – you will still enjoy this book. It might even spur you on to read the original.
A Sea of Sorrow is an enthralling collection of stories that I will keep to revisit. What is so nice about a book like this is that you can pick it up to read one of the tales and be satisfied. But trust me, you will want more.
A Sea of Sorrow: A Novel of Odysseus is a collection of 6 stories by 6 different authors. These stories include: Song of Survival by Vicky Alvear Shecter Xenia in the Court of the Winds by Scott Oden Hekate's Daughter by Libbie Hawker The Siren's Song by Amalia Carosella Calypso's Vow by David Blixt The King in Waiting by Russell Whitfield There is, also, an Introduction by Gary Corby and an Epilogue by Vicky Alvear Shecter. I have to admit, this book is not the genre I normally read. Nor have I read anything by any of these authors. I am so glad I decided to go ahead to read it because I loved it. I enjoyed every one of these stories. If I had to pick a favorite, I think I would have to go with Amalia Carosella's The Siren's Song. I cannot wait to find more by her and the others. Great read! 5 plus stars. I received this book from the publisher. This review is 100% my own honest opinion.
I enjoyed this collaborative title a lot more than I did A Song of Troy. Something about it really worked.
Vicky Alvear Shecter writes the first section, following Penelope and Telemakhos, and whilst it isn’t overly ambitious in re-writing the myth or providing a fresh perspective like some of the other entries are, she absolutely nails the voice. It reads like The Odyssey. It was all very familiar, and perfectly pitched. She won bonus points from me for her correct depiction of pederasty. Here’s the thing about homosexuality in ancient Greece – the ancient Greeks didn’t use the labels that we do today. Whether you were attracted to men or women mattered much less than whether you were the dominant or submissive partner – at least, it did if you were a man; you wanted to avoid coming across as womanish at all costs, what women wanted and desired both in heterosexual and homosexual relationships seems to have been frequently ignored. Ordinary male homosexual relationships as we might understand them today did occur (see the Theban band), but in several regions they were frowned upon and only a very specific type of homosexual relationship was allowed – one between an adolescent boy and an older man. This seems seriously sketchy to us today, but the ancient Greeks surprisingly approved of this arrangement. The reason is because it was seen as educative – the older man would teach the youth not only about sex but everything he needed to know about growing up and being an adult man, sponsor him in athletic contest, introduce him to important contacts, and the youth would serve as muse and inspiration for his own work. A more equal dynamic tended to be frowned upon more often (depending on where in the Greek world you went), because it was not for a noble purpose like education, but for pleasure and indulgence. Woe betide you if you were the submissive partner – that supposedly meant that you were so greedy for pleasure, so decadent in your desires, that you were incapable of self-control and would abase yourself by taking the ‘womanly’ role. It’s no wonder that modern day authors are reluctant to tackle this quirk of ancient Greek culture! An equal homosexual relationship could be seen as damning, with a good dose of sexism thrown in, while an unequal one between a teenager and a man was actively encouraged! Plaudits to Vicky for actually accurately including a pederastic relationship, although, in a nod to modern sensibilities, the youth, now cast off as too grown up, is a more palatable twenty years old.
Scott Oden and Amalia Carosella’s stories I feel like I should mention together, because both tackle two of the most fantastical elements in The Odyssey – the cyclops and the sirens – and attempt to make them historically plausible. I’m not sure if I could say that I enjoyed them. They swept me away, strongly grounded as they were in story-telling and oral traditions, and felt very surreal. I know it’s an odd statement to make – more realistic versions of fantastical events seem more surreal – but because these stories are so changed from the original, and are almost entirely new, they felt odd in the context of the familiar Odyssey whose fantastical episodes I know so well. Thought-provoking, both of them.
I’ll be honest, David Blixt’s section on Calypso was the most forgettable for me. I didn’t really have any criticisms, but I just wasn’t as invested in the story, maybe because I know how much Odysseus’ seven long years with Calypso drag down his adventures and account for much of his decade’s absence between Troy and returning to Ithaka. Speaking of Ithaka, I thought that Russ Whitfield’s finale mirrored the way that Shecter spot on found the voice of The Odyssey. It proved an excellent wrap up to the whole book.
As for Libbie Hawker’s section on Circe – yes! Emphatic yes. I cannot say enough good things about it. I have not read many of Libbie’s other novels yet, but I was frustrated with her Hatshepsut quartet. I got the sense that she could write really well – there were flashes of brilliance – but it was so patchy and unpolished, pacing especially was an issue. Here I feel vindicated. From start to finish Libbie’s short story of Circe was compelling, vividly realised, characters well fleshed out, pacing on point – yes, yes, yes! I’m going to say something that I have no doubt will annoy some people – Libbie’s Circe is better than Madeline Miller’s Circe. I am so pleased. I have to cite this story as the best one of the whole book. Well done!
One might ask, 'why another book about Troy; another book about Odysseus?' Well, in answer to that question, I would say, 'because of the variety of ways the story can be told.' In A Sea of Sorrow we have that variety - here are told the tales of Odysseus without the elements of mythical monsters or capricious gods and goddesses; not that the monsters and gods are missing from the stories but are only in the minds and beliefs of the participants of the tale. So, we find Polyphemus, not as a man eating ogre, but as a wronged shepherd; someone we can find pity for. The same holds true for Circe, the Sirens and Calypso; their stories too, shed the supernatural causes and bring the reader into the depths of the suffering experienced at the hands of the Hero of Troy. The authors present the events of Homer in a manner that not only renders them more believable; more human, but they also wondrously elicit the emotions and anguish of each tale, breathing even more life into the well known mythic version. In each of the stories, I found something new, a tidbit of information; an idea or thought, enhancing the entertainment. Another well done collaboration by the H-Team. 4.3 stars
About the Authors
Amalia Carosella graduated from the University of North Dakota with a bachelors degree in Classical Studies and English. An avid reader and former bookseller, she writes about old heroes and older gods. She lives with her husband in upstate New York and dreams of the day she will own goats (and maybe even a horse, too). Amalia’s novels include Tamer of Horses, Helen of Sparta, By Helen’s Hand, and Daughter of a Thousand Years.
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David Blixt‘s work is consistently described as “intricate,” “taut,” and “breathtaking.” A writer of Historical Fiction, his novels span the early Roman Empire (the COLOSSUS series, his play EVE OF IDES) to early Renaissance Italy (the STAR-CROSS’D series) up through the Elizabethan era (his delightful espionage comedy HER MAJESTY’S WILL, starring Will Shakespeare and Kit Marlowe as inept spies). His novels combine a love of the theatre with a deep respect for the quirks and passions of history.
Living in Chicago with his wife and two children, he describes himself as “actor, author, father, husband. In reverse order.”
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Libbie Hawker writes historical and literary fiction featuring complex characters and rich details of time and place. Libbie’s recent novels include Daughter of Sand and Stone, Mercer Girls, A Song of War, White Lotus and Persian Rose.
She lives in the San Juan Islands of Washington State.
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Russell Whitfield was born in Shepherds Bush in 1971. An only child, he was raised in Hounslow, West London, but has since escaped to Ham in Surrey.
Gladiatrix was Russ’s first novel, published in 2008 by Myrmidon Books. The sequel, Roma Victrix, continues the adventures Lysandra, the Spartan gladiatrix, and a third book, Imperatrix, sees Lysandra stepping out of the arena and onto the field of battle.
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Scott Oden was born in Indiana, but has spent most of his life shuffling between his home in rural North Alabama, a Hobbit hole in Middle-earth, and some sketchy tavern in the Hyborian Age. He is an avid reader of fantasy and ancient history, a collector of swords, and a player of tabletop role-playing games. When not writing, he can be found walking his two dogs or doting over his lovely wife, Shannon.
Oden’s previous works include the historical fantasy, The Lion of Cairo, and two historical novels, Men of Bronze and Memnon. He is currently working on his next novel.
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Vicky Alvear Shecter is the author of multiple books set in the ancient world, including the YA novels, CLEOPATRA’S MOON, based on the life of Cleopatra’s only daughter, and CURSES AND SMOKE: A NOVEL OF POMPEII and the adult historical collaborations, A SONG OF WAR, A YEAR OF RAVENS, and A DAY OF FIRE. She has written a mid-grade series on mythology (ANUBIS SPEAKS, HADES SPEAKS, and THOR SPEAKS) as well as two award-winning biographies for kids. She a She is a docent at the Michael C. Carlos Museum of Antiquities at Emory University in Atlanta.
We have all heard of Odysseus' journey and the fanciful tales he brought back while being away for 20 years after the War of Troy. We have heard the stories from Odysseus' point of view, now the H Team brings us the stories from the point of view of those that he told the tales about. Through Penelope, we find out how she ruled singularly as a Queen, through Telemachus, we learn what it was like to grow up without a father and King, we learn the stories behind the Kyklops and Sirens and the witch Circes as well as Calypso.
I have loved reading the past stories that the H Team has cooked up and couldn't wait to read what they have developed for Odysseus. Seven different stories and points of view woven seamlessly together to tell of Odysseus from the other side. To me, this was an ingenious way of getting to know the real Odysseus, as he was known as a trickster. In this context, the gods and goddesses still existed, however, some of the mythology was dispelled. I enjoyed reading every different story on their own and couldn't wait to see who would give me insight into Odysseus next. The themes of Odysseus' tales stayed true, pride, oath, service, gratitude, survival and perseverance are still strong subjects throughout each tale. While I appreciated each story, there were several that stuck out for me. Penelope and Telemachus' tales were those of survival. I was impressed with Penelope's cunning and skill to stop her people from attacking her home in the absence of a king and her ingenuity to make money for her land. Telemachus was an interesting character for me, I felt his pain at his father's departure and wanted him to grow into a leader as much as Penelope did. Circe's tale also entranced me. Instead of a witch who trapped Odysseus on an island, Circe has been banished to the island with her handmaids and has been making do on her women-led island. When Odysseus arrives, he is a problematic for the women and uses them at his will. Overall, I was amazed at how Odysseus' story changed from the point of view of the other characters and how I was still entranced by the amazing journey and stories that have been created.
This book was received for free in return for an honest review.
Having thoroughly enjoyed A Song of War, the prior release from the H Team, I was super excited to see that they were taking on the epic story of The Odyssey. Growing up I had always inhaled the tale of Odysseus and his adventures returning home to his waiting family after ten years of war. I first want to address my thoughts on the individual stories before getting into my overall thoughts.
Song of Sorrow by Vicky Alvear Shecter
It makes complete sense that the collection begins with the story of Penelope and Telemachus and how they deal with the suitors for her hand. Without this story you do not have the emotional reunion when Odysseus does eventually come home. Unfortunately for me, this was always the most boring part of the tale, and not a favorite story here either. Shecter did a great job of giving Penelope and Telemachus depth of character, which did make me care about their evolution at the end. The problem here is that nothing happens in this story and as it is the first in the collection, not grabbing my attention is really an issue.
Xenia in the Court of the Winds by Scott Oden
Wow, can I just say that I missed a lot in this story – namely that Xenia is not a character, which is what I thought the narrators name was for quite some time (for the record, his name is Glaukos and xenia is like the right of offering fellowship to a visitor). So that might have made a tiny bit of difference in my appreciation of this story. I appreciated that Polyphemus comes to this land to tell the story of what Odysseus and his men did, but I wasn’t a fan of the way the tale was told. Glaukos is telling the tale to his grandchild of when he was a little boy and Polyphemus came to his land, in that tale Polyphemus tells the story to Glaukos and the villagers of when Odysseus came to his land. I felt so far removed from these characters because of the way the story was told that I didn’t make any connections to them to care how they were affected. I waited and waited for something to happen, only for it to happen in the last few moments of the story before it ended. It didn’t feel like enough of a payoff to have waited that long for. I loved that Polyphemus has a backstory of being from Egypt and how Oden built the myth of the Kyklops.
Hekate’s Daughter by Libbie Hawker
This story (and the next 3) were where my enjoyment was really situated. Hawker fantastically built a believable story of how a woman could have been believed to be a witch based on circumstances way beyond her control. Circe didn’t want to be married to the man she was wed to by her father. When that inevitably fails and she is sent away to an exile, she finds who she truly is. Once Odysseus and his men showed up on the island I felt like the pacing slowed down and I again lost some interest in the story…until he set sail again.
The Siren’s Song by Amalia Carosella
Easily my FAVORITE story in the collection! What is funny to me is that this is the part of the tale, of those included in this collection, that Odysseus has the least interaction with – actually never directly engaging with the Sirens. This gave Carosella so much latitude to work with, but also really required her to build these shell characters into someone the reader could care about, as if they had read the Odyssey they wouldn’t have already had indepth knowledge of them. This was also the first story that I felt had forward momentum the whole way through with events transpiring throughout. I felt that life or death struggle these women were facing and really cared about their outcome. Excellent contribution to the collection.
Calypso’s Vow by David Blixt
Odysseus easily spends the most time with Calypso of all the people who he encounters in his travels home. I think this story should have had the longest page count because there is so much to tell here. Odysseus really finds himself here. He changes throughout each of his encounters with the people on his journey, but this one really gets him to a place where he feels like he is finally the man to return home to Penelope. I liked that Calypso has a heart and doesn’t want Odysseus to leave, but knows she is not the woman for him and that eventually he must return home. Watching the evolution of the two characters throughout this story was breathtaking.
The King in Waiting by Russell Whitfield
This is where the real action happens and where we get to see Odysseus return home to deal with everything that has happened in his absence. Whitfield has to pull together this Odysseus who has been handled in some way or another by 5 other authors before him and make him one man. He has to bring to the reader than man that you can finally get behind, because Odysseus is really not all that likable when seen through the eyes of the people he has hurt, even here too. While David Blixt began the redemption of Odysseus in the previous story, Whitfield brings it full circle. The scene where the suitors were dealt with was very satisfying, and gruesome.
Epilogue by Vicky Alvear Shecter
Shecter brings us full circle at the end with Penelope trying to understand and take in all that has happened, how Odysseus has changed, and how does she accept a man who has been gone for almost 20 years. It was a very satisfying and sweet closure to the collection.
I did have some struggles with this collection, which were definitely from personal experience with the source material. When you read The Odyssey, it is obviously a heroic tale of a great man, so to see him in a negative light from the majority of the character narrators here is jarring and difficult to acclimate to. I think that these authors did a fantastic job of seeing the story from the other perspective and getting past that veil of heroism. Odysseus and his men either directly or indirectly caused harm to so many people on their journey home. Having come off of previously reading A Song of War, and a FANTASTIC Odysseus crafted by Shecter in that collection, I was primed to see him as this great man. I also was so looking forward to seeing Shecter’s Odysseus again, although Whitfield did do an excellent job with him as well. Unlike in the other collections where many of the characters often have direct interactions with each other, for most of the narrators the only connection is Odysseus. This is why I was very exited to see the Circe and Sirens stories intertwined; I think this was a fabulous choice and an excellent way to flesh out the story of the Sirens as well. These authors were able to take characters who are traditionally imbued with magic or some otherworldly element and make them into real human beings with flaws or other characteristcs that might lead them to be mislabeled. The magical elements are removed from the story, which could make some of the elements of these tales difficult to root in the real world, but they did it. Whether it was through falsehoods spun on purpose to create fear, not understanding someone who is different in culture, or just the way someone tells a tale to make themselves look better, everything made sense in a real world way. The first two tales were a little boring for me and failed to pull me in, but the collection as a whole was well done.
This review was previously posted on The Maiden's Court blog and a copy of the book was received for the blog tour.
Song of Survival by Vicky Alvear Shecter: 4 stars The first story follows Penelope and Telemachus, and how each of them are struggling after Odysseus’ long absence from home. I really loved Penelope: she was a strong and capable woman, not at all passive and as cunning as her husband. The plot she conceived to safeguard her throne was very smart, and it was a clever explanation for how her future suitors came to be. Telemachus, on the contrary, was a weak character: bereft of a father figure, he didn't know how to be strong and respected. Even if he wasn’t likeable, I felt for him and found his characterization totally believable.
Xenia in the Court of the Winds by Scott Oden: 2.5 stars I didn’t much care for this one. The writing style was beautiful, and the reinvention of Polyphemus was definitely original, but I wasn’t drawn to the story or to the characters.
Hekate’s Daughter by Libbie Hawker: 3.5 stars Circe's portrayal in this story was very sympathetic and a definitive twist on the original story. I appreciated it and I felt for what Circe had to go through both before and after her exile, but at the same time I would have liked her to be more charismatic or more of an anti-heroine. But it was still a good reinterpretation.
The Siren’s Song by Amalia Carosella: 4 stars While not my favourite story, Carosella’s was without a doubt the most original piece of the collection. I was immediately drawn to the story and I was very impressed by the reinvention of this famous myth. It was just a wonderful idea. The story was terribly tragic and brutal, and I felt all the pain of the sirens. It was hard to read at times.
Calypso’s Vow by David Blixt: 3 stars A good story, with many interesting themes. Calypso’s characterization was uncommon and her contrasting feelings easy to relate to. However, the story was quite short and I think that’s why I didn’t connect to it more.
The King in Waiting by Russell Whitfield: 4.5 stars My favourite of the collection. I also adored Whitfield’s piece in A Song of War, so I really need to get my hands on his full lenght novels! The story featured Amphinomus, one of Penelope’s suitors, and Odysseus, as he finally returned to Ithaca. Both characters were wonderfully portrayed. I loved the fact that Amphinomus’ narration gave a closer look at the suitors, and that his good character put a twist on Odysseus' glorious return. As for Odysseus, this is the only story which gets inside his head, and I was glad for it. He was a complex character, and, while I resented some of his worst actions, I also felt sorry for him.
Epilogue by Vicky Alvear Shecter: 4 stars Short but intense, it manages to give a believable and realistic portrayal of Penelope’s conflicting feelings after Odysseus’ return. I liked the fact that it wasn’t a typical happy ending, but more of a bittersweet one. A good conclusion to the collection.
First of all I want to say that I'm a huge fan of these books. A Day of Fire: A Novel of Pompeii, A Year of Ravens: A Novel of Boudica's Rebellion and A Song of War: A Novel of Troy. They were all really great and I simply adore them! Second, I want to say that usually I review each story individually but I'm not doing that this time around. I'm doing things a little differently with A Sea of Sorrow, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, I think.The primary reason for this is that I didn't actually slow down enough to sit down and write decent reviews for each and every story. But this shows how much I enjoyed reading the book—whenever I finished one story I couldn't wait to dive into the next one. I just couldn't help myself. I was hooked!
Half of the authors of the book were unfamiliar to me, which is another thing I love about these books. I always get to know new authors that I want to read more books from. In this case David Blixt, Amalia Carosella and Scott Oden were new to me. Libbie Hawker, Vicky Alvear Shecter and Russell Whitfield I was already familiar with. I always really enjoy their writing. I was probably more excited to read the stories of the unfamiliar authors because I didn't know what to expect from them but they certainly didn't disappoint me.
I enjoyed each and every story but of course I had some favorites that left me feeling very impressed. These favorites were Hekate's Daughter by Libbie Hawker, The Siren's Song by Amalia Carosella and Calypso's Vow by David Blixt. They were all pretty tragic but also beautiful in a way, I thought. Especially the story of Calypso was brilliant to me. I loved it so much. But to be clear, I enjoyed each and every story. Not one was disappointing but these particular three left an impression with me.
Overall, A Sea of Sorrow: A Novel of Odysseus was one amazing read. Like the synopsis says, "six authors bring to life the epic tale of The Odyssey seen through the eyes of its shattered victims..." which I think is such a unique and clever concept. I also love how the stories and authors don't fully focus on the mythology and supernatural but give it a realistic twist that made the stories all the more stunning.
A six author historical team are back and are now tackling the people and myths that surround The Oydessy From faithful Penelope, waiting for her Odyesseus to return, to Circe, the Sirens, and Calypso all rising from the ashes of legends to set the record straight, this was a real tour de force. Historical fiction at it's finest! As is my fashion, I will break down each story and assign it a star rating.
Song of Survival and Epilogue Vicky Alvear Schecter 4 stars
Alternatively told through the eyes of Penelope, trying to keep her throne and Telemachus, son of Odyyesseus and Penelope, wanting to be the great warrior his father was, Schecter paints the dangers of life on Ithaca in such detail that I grew worried as to what would happen if Oydesseus never returned. As much as I detested being inside the head of Telemachus, I truly adored the way Schecter has written Penelope.
Xenia in the Court of Winds Scott Oden. 2 stars
Full honesty, I didn't remember this one by the time I got to the next story.
Hekate's Daughter Libbie Hawker. 5 stars
Libbie Hawker 's Circe is one that you just have to meet and by far my favorite character in the this work. She so bewitched me that I have a feeling that her voice definitely drowned out the most in the previous story.
The Siren's Song by Amalia Carosella. 4.5 stars
I have never been able to quite "get" the whole mythology of sirens until AC totally grabbed me from the first line of this one. I loved the idea of how the Sirens came to be and their connection to Persephone who is probably the greatest of the Greek stories.
Calypso's Vow by David Blixt 5 stars
Forgive me, Libbie Hawker but David Blixt's Calypso does place Circe in checkmate. This one just had a great story attached and I hope Penelope will forgive me for saying that Calypso certainly was a good rival for Oydesseus' affections.
The King in Waiting Russell Whitehead 4 stars
He gets to write Odyesseus and it's quite captivating with some great battle scenes. The character of Amphinomus was a good balance in the narrative and it was sad that both men couldn't get a happier ending.
This book was a trip back in time. I feel like I know Penelope, Odysseus, Circe and all the others. not as characters, but as people. It's really impressive how these six authors wove together the threads of the Odyssey into a beautiful, heart-breaking, and coherent tapestry that will hang in the back of my mind for a very long time. Well done, H Team!
I love all books from the H Team and their latest instalment didn't disappoint I fell in love with each character as they encountered the wily Odysseus in his travels. And Russell Whitfield's gripping ending left me gasping for more! Brilliant!!
This is another in a collection of stories by several authors providing details and different viewpoints around a famous work, in this case the Odyssey. We hear what happened to the Cyclops from his POV - he wasn't a monster, just a very large man who happened to have had an injury to one of his eyes. And Circe didn't turn men into pigs, Odysseus just saw a herd of pigs stampeding when he came ashore. In fact, Odysseus is kind of on the sidelines until the second half of the final story. I wish I had been more familiar with the original story and that I knew better how to pronounce Greek names.
This wasn't my favorite of this type of book but it wasn't my least favorite, so a solid 3 stars. There are only 6 viewpoints in this one so it's got a different feel but it's still enjoyable and worth reading.
Anthology centered on retelling the Odyssey through differing POVs and with a couple fresh ideas. Some stories kinda stiff but liked Oden, Carosella, Shecter’s contributions the most. Rest just okay; readable but not terribly innovative. ★★★½
I'll admit to being a bit wary of reading this one, since Kate Quinn wasn't one of the authors. After I reading a couple of reviews, I decided to dive in and enjoyed it greatly. My favorite is either Xenia in the Court of the Winds, which has a very different look at Polyphemus, or The Siren's Song, where I found myself rooting for Aglaope to succeed even though I already knew she was doomed to fail. I was a bit disappointed that the Lotus Eaters didn't get a section of their own, but apart from that this was an excellent collection. I would love to see the H team take on either the tale of Orestes (I'd love to see their interpretation of Hermione) or maybe the Wurzburg witch trials next.
A solid 4 stars. This book wasn't as enthralling for me as the previous efforts of the H-Team, but I liked it. Another reviewer said that the stories didn't flow as seamlessly as the other works, and with that, I agree. However, I still enjoyed the stories individually. Particularly, I loved "Xenia in the Court of the Winds," a sympathetic look at the story of the Cyclops, and "Hekate's Daughter," Circe's story in her own words. I also enjoyed reading a version of the Odyssey narrative that didn't include evidence of interference of the gods, even though the characters still harbored belief in their intervention. This aspect made the story read less like myth, and more like historical fiction.