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Thor, Viking God of Thunder: Vibrant, entertaining, informative

Thor: Viking God of Thunder by Graeme Davis

With all the attention being paid to Thor lately, thanks to the Marvel same-named films and his appearances in the Avengers movies, Osprey Publishing made a wise decision to make the god the subject of one of their texts in their MYTHS AND LEGENDS series, this one written by Graeme Davis. I had been a little disappointed in my first MYTHS AND LEGENDS text, dealing with Jason and the Argonauts (giving it a three-star rating), but I found Thor: Viking God of Thunder to be an overall improvement on that first experience.

The text, like all the Osprey books in the series, is slim, coming in at 80 pages, and begins with a brief introduction placing Thor in literary/historical/pop culture context. A short “cast li... Read More

King Arthur: Admirable

King Arthur by Daniel Mersey

King Arthur is another in Osprey Publishing’s MYTHS AND LEGENDS series, this one written by Daniel Mersey and illustrated by Alan Lathwell. Compared to the subjects of the prior two I’ve reviewed (Jason and the Argonauts, Thor), King Arthur is a much more complex and difficult figure to try and explain in concise fashion, seeing as how his stories span multiple centuries, cultures, styles, and how each leap from one to the other brings with it an accordant change in content and even characters. That being the case, I have to say Mersey does an admirable job in streamlining Arthur’s legen... Read More

Robin Hood: This is an excellent series

Robin Hood by Neil Smith

Robin Hood is one of the generally excellent series of MYTHS AND LEGENDS by Osprey Publishing, this one written by Neil Smith. It follows the same general format as the others, with a brief intro, retellings of the stories, examination of historical background to the stories and the setting, a brief look at the legend in modern multi-media retellings, all while interspersing throughout some sidebars to fill in some non-essential but often quite helpful and interesting information. Finally, the series almost always has some wonderful artwork associated with each book. Unfortunately, as I had an early e-book copy, I can’t say for sure how the art is in Robin Hood, but going simply based on prior works, I would imagine it is top notch (there are some very good line drawings in my copy, and references to some of the included artists, ... Read More

Troy: Last War of the Heroic Age

Troy: Last War of the Heroic Age by Si Sheppard

Troy: Last War of the Heroic Age by Si Sheppard, is the fifth or sixth book in the MYTHS AND LEGENDS series by Osprey Publishing. It does the usual good job, even if it is not quite as strong as several others.

The reason for its middle place in the rankings of these books though is really not so much Sheppard’s fault as it is a built-in conflict between Osprey’s goal of a concise retelling and exploration of these myths and the huge amount of material that makes up the story of the Trojan War. Just trying to shrink the Iliad down to 80 or so pages would be bad enough, but throwing in what happens before the Iliad picks up, what happens afterward, and all those side stories that Homer doesn’t bother with, and then, on top of all that, trying to offer up some historical and social context m... Read More

Wizards: From Merlin to Faust

Wizards: From Merlin to Faust by David and Lesley McIntee

I’ve been a huge fan of just about all the MYTHS AND LEGENDS series from Osprey Publishing, having given four stars to Troy, Robin Hood, and Thor; and 4.5 to King Arthur, with only Jason and the Argonauts standing out as a weak entry in the roll. Until now. The most recent text in the series (for me at least) is called Wizards: From Merlin to Faust, and I have to admit,... Read More

Jason and the Argonauts: Informative but uninspired, save for the artwork

Jason and the Argonauts by Neil Smith

Jason and the Argonauts, retold by Neil Smith and illustrated by José Daniel Cabrera Peña, is one of a sequence of books in a new series by Osprey Adventures entitled MYTHS AND LEGENDS. It’s a pretty straightforward text, and serves as a solid introduction to the story beyond the highly abridged versions one gets in schoolbooks. One wishes, though, for a bit more verve in the storytelling itself.

The introduction is a very brief (one and a half pages) essay placing the story in historical context in terms of when it is assumed to be set, gives a little information on the two authors mostly credited for the versions of the story as we now think of it (Apollonius of Rhodes in the 3rd century B.C. and Gaius Valerius Flaccus in the 1st century A.D.) and on which this tale is mostly based. Finally, it mentions the tale... Read More

Charlemagne & the Paladins: Excellent mythistory for kids

Charlemagne & the Paladins by Julia Cresswell

Charlemagne & the Paladins is another in the generally excellent MYTHS AND LEGENDS series from Osprey Publishing, this one written by Julia Cresswell and illustrated by Miguel Coimbra. Charlemagne & the Paladins displays the usual strengths of the series: a nicely condensed version of the story, informative sidebars, an easy to read style, and a good collection of complementary artwork.

The introduction begins by describing the wide geographic and cultural reach of stories about Charlemagne and his paladins, gives a bit of historical detail about the real-life emperor and his heirs, describes the process of “mythistory,” “where fact and fiction feed into each other,” and finally explains how most of the text will be made up of the French tales.

More detail on both t... Read More

Sinbad the Sailor: Another fine installment in the MYTHS AND LEGENDS series

Sinbad the Sailor by Phil Masters

I’ve read a good numbers of titles in Osprey Publishing’s MYTHS AND LEGENDS series and while the individual books vary in quality, that variation runs between good and excellent, making the series as a whole top notch. My latest read, Sinbad the Sailor, by Phil Masters, continues the positive run, falling somewhere in the middle of its predecessors.

The bulk of the book is a retelling of Sinbad’s seven voyages (including an alternate seventh voyage), keeping the original frame of Sinbad the Sailor telling the story to Sinbad the Porter, his poorer namesake. The retellings are solid, if not particularly enthralling. I would have liked more of a sense of voice for Sinbad, but they move quickly and fluidly. You can’t fault Masters for some of the repetition in the tales; they a... Read More