OF GODS AND HEROES
Outskirts Press (2019)
Reviewed by Skyler Boudreau for Reader Views (02/2020)
“Of Gods and Heroes: An Unbiased Retelling of the Story of the Gods and Heroes of Ancient Greece” by Elias Pagonitis is a novel that follows the journey of Asopichos, a young Greek, from childhood to adulthood. Beginning with the death of his father, the story chronicles Asopichos’s life as he leaves his beloved home on Lake Helike and moves to the Theban city of Boeotia. His new life brings him both tragic and pleasurable experiences as he both explores what it means to be gay in Ancient Greece and trains to become a great warrior like his father.
The concept of the novel is intriguing and draws in prospective readers easily. Pagonitis also succeeds in creating an atmosphere reminiscent of Greek epic. Beyond that, however, “Of Gods and Heroes” is somewhat lacking as it is not a cohesive story. Asopichos does not have a clear goal or motivation. He rarely makes any decisions that result in taking direct action, but instead simply reacts to scenarios placed before him. Having such a passive character as the narrator makes “Of Gods and Heroes” read less like a novel and more like a description of a series of events. Nothing moves the story forward.
Asopichos’s character is also confusing. His morals and opinions change constantly without explanation. For example, when he first arrives in Boeotia, he witnesses a slave auction and is left distraught by the practice. Yet only a few pages later, he is seemingly fine with it and embraces slavery as a casual part of everyday life. There isn’t any character development that shows why his view has changed. Similar reversals take place throughout the novel.
In addition to having many grammatical errors and typos, the prose itself is also difficult to understand. It’s written too ornately. While that may have been the style of the Greek epics the author was attempting to capture, it does not translate well in this format. Details get lost in elaborately written descriptions of objects with minimal relevance to the events or characters within the novel.
The majority of the characters communicate with each other via long quotes from Greek scholars, philosophers, or poems rather than through originally written dialogue of their own. Many of their interactions are cryptic, and instead of creating any tension, it slows the story down. After each lengthy quote, the original author is cited, and the quote is explained with another section of heavily overwritten prose.
The conclusion and climax of “Of Gods and Heroes” happens simultaneously. There is not a clear arc or passage of rising and falling action, as there is nothing moving the story in a concise direction with an eventual end goal. This is confusing and leaves the reader with many questions.
“Of Gods and Heroes: An Unbiased Retelling of the Story of the Gods and Heroes of Ancient Greece” does succeed in achieving the tone and atmosphere the author seems to be aiming for. Unfortunately, they simply don’t translate well into novel format.