I received a copy of this book from the publisher (Chronicle Books) and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Stephen Fry is such a treasure. There’s something about his style of storytelling that can make even the most grotesque tales a delight to read. And when given the opportunity to listen to him reading his own words, I never pass it up. His verbal storytelling is even more entertaining than his writing, and I so enjoyed being able to simultaneously read and listen to this book and its prequel, Mythos.
Where Mythos told the stories of the Greek pantheon, from their inception to their deeds, Heroes recounts the tales of, well, heroes. Greek mythology relies almost as heavily on the exploits of heroes as it does on the fickle interference of the gods. In this book, Fry covers most of the more famous heroes of Ancient Greece. The greatest hits, if you will. Over the course of its more than 400 pages, Fry recounts in Heroes the tales of Perseus, Heracles, Bellerophon, Orpheus, Jason, Atalanta, Oedipus, and Theseus. I was at first confused by the omission of Achilles and Odysseus, but it was recently announced that Fry will be publishing a further volume, Troy, about the events of The Iliad and The Odyssey. But of the heroes covered, Fry did an excellent job really digging into their lives and presenting them as three-dimensional characters, shying away from neither their attributes nor their weaknesses. It’s easy to see how much research and care was put into the writing of this book and Mythos, and they manage to be both accessible to those unfamiliar with the stories and a fun way to revisit for those who are well exposed to the material.
“You see?’ said Prometheus. ‘It is your fate to be Heracles the hero, burdened with labours, yet it is also your choice. You choose to submit to it. Such is the paradox of living. We willingly accept that we have no will.”
Besides the sassy approach Fry takes to his storytelling, one of my favorite elements of both this book and Mythos is the inclusion of so much etymology. The origin of words and phrases has always fascinated me, and the same must be true of Fry for him to have includes so much information regarding those derivations. However, I honestly could have lived without some of that information. For instance, the origins of the terms Milky Way and galaxy as referring to Hera’s sprayed breast milk is something I did not know. Not sure I needed to know, but I know it I do. And I can’t un-know it.
Heroes seems a bit overly silly in tone compared to Mythos, but it’s still fun. I can’t get enough of Fry’s recounting of Greek mythology, and I will undoubtedly be rereading both of these books periodically. I can’t wait to get my hands on Troy, Fry’s retelling of the the Trojan War and the events that followed. These books are such a wonderfully easy way to brush up on your knowledge of Greek mythology, and ensure that you have a lot of fun while learning.
You can order this book from: Bookshop.org (Support independent bookstores!) | Amazon UK | Amazon US | Audible | Libro.fm (Another way to support independent bookstores!) | Book Depository (Free shipping)