Book Review: Heroes by Stephen Fry

Book Review (4)

Heroes is the second book in Stephen Fry’s  planned Mythos Trilogy and brings us stories of some of the Ancient Greek’s greatest and most iconic heroes (you don’t say? With that title?). The first book, Mythos, brought us a light-hearted and fun retelling of the Greek stories about the immortal Olympian gods and the titans – and Heroes continues in this same vein – while the planned (I believe… and hope!) third book will bring us the epic stories of the Trojan War and Odysseus’ journey home.

As a child, I absolutely adored the Greek myths and legends, and I had immensely enjoyed Mythos, so I was pretty excited for this book. I looked forward to reading all the classic tales of Hercules, Perseus and Theseus in Stephen Fry’s distinctive, unique voice. And that is mostly what I got – though I think it lacked the magic of the the first book. As well as the big names, we get a few heroes that I didn’t know, such as the ferocious huntress Atalanta, thrown in.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of reading this book was finding that I kind of knew many of the stories already. That might sound weird as the surprise and excitement of finding out is one the best bits of reading a book, but in this case it gave everything a strong nostalgic feeling. This was especially true with the story of Jason and the Argonauts and Hercules’ Twelve Labours. Both of which really rushed back to me as I read them!

Reading all these stories back-to-back, you do realise that there is A LOT of similarities between all these Greek heroes – I can’t count how many of them had a mysterious parentage that turned out to be one of the Olympian gods and they are actually the rightful heir to a kingdom controlled by an evil uncle. It all felt a little samey, but I guess the tales weren’t really meant to be told back-to-back and so it can’t really be used as a complaint!

Another similarity of note here is, with pretty much the exception of Hercules, all the heroes used their cunning and wits to win the day as much as their brawn. This, as Stephen Fry alludes to multiple times, tells us quite a lot about the Ancient Greek mind… and I guess why they became possibly more famous for their inventors, thinkers and philosophers than anything else! And even then, it is made pretty clear that Hercules isn’t stupid; he’s just blunt and forthright.

Unfortunately, as I said earlier, this book didn’t quite manage to capture the same magic that Mythos had. For me, this comes down to two things. First, the heroes didn’t have the same level of personality as the Olympians had in the previous book… Or in fact from their appearances in this book. The Olympians seem to burst with life and personality in this series, but the heroes all felt a bit plain. And this, may come from my second point: the stories whizz by and it feels like we never really actually meet the heroes properly. Stephen Fry is so busy getting through the details of where the hero sits in the whole Greek family tree (which is almost impossible to follow at times!) that he almost has to hurry through the stories. This is a real shame as I know Stephen Fry can wrote witty, charming and delightful characters (I still remember chuckling and loving every scene with Hermes in during Mythos) but he just didn’t quite pull it off this time.

Overall, this is a good book and I enjoyed reading it. I found myself feeling nostalgic rereading many of these tales from when I was a child, and I enjoyed learning about a few new heroes, so I would recommend reading it. It, however, is simply not as good as its predecessor.


5 thoughts on “Book Review: Heroes by Stephen Fry

  1. Emma's Library

    I didn’t realise there was a second book until recently when I saw it in both Waterstones and my small local bookshop. Having never really read any of the Greek myths before, I really enjoyed Mythos and I’m hoping the same can be said for Heroes too!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You know, just the other day I was holding this gem in my hands but decided to return it to the shelf. For fear, it wouldn´t meet the Mythos standard. Mythos is a fabulous read I keep reaching for every now and again. I´ll buy Heroes eventually ( a. It´s a Stephen Fry book. b. greek mythology? Yes, please. ) but I´m now in no hurry. Thank you for your review.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Book Review: Troy by Stephen Fry – Book Reviews | Jack's Bedtime Reading

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