Friday, March 30, 2012

Hades: Lord of the Dead

This fourth graphic novel in The Olympians series seems to be about Hades but follows more the story of Persephone. The reasons for this focus are detailed in the interesting Author's Note that follows the main narrative. Persephone appears in so few Greek myths and almost never except in the underworld, even though she spends only half her time there. With her O'Connor finds a blank slate that he uses to paint a portrait of a slightly rebellious young woman who is happy to explore life on her own beyond the yoke of her overbearing mother. The oft-told tale of a god kidnapping a young goddess to make her his bride is a strange one, and it receives a fresh twist because of the author's insights.

The traditional high notes are here: Hades receives the Underworld as his domain after the defeat of the Titans. He seeks a wife and kidnaps the young Kore (who would change her name to Persephone). While Kore is with him, her mother Demeter, the goddess of agriculture and the harvest, grieves and the world falls into a state of barren winter. Hermes is finally sent to retrieve Persephone to revive Demeter and restore life to the Earth. But she has eaten a pomegranate, the food of the dead, and must remain in the Underworld for part of the year as consequence. This myth explains why there are seasons.

George O'Connor has created a number of graphic novels in addition to the well received Olympians books, Zeus, Athena, and Hera. His first one was the American history journal account Journey into Mohawk Country. He also has published a number of children's picture books. He keeps an online sketchbook of his latest projects here.

Reviews for this book have been overwhelmingly positive. Rob McGonigal wrote that "this is a great book and a solid series for any young adult interested in exciting stories that can springboard them into a world of literature." Madigan McGillicuddy described this book as "deliciously spooky" and "riveting." She also commented that it "adds a modern touch to the stories that the Greeks told about the Underworld." The tough critics at Kirkus Reviews awarded a starred review and called it "an outstanding addition to a first-rate series."

The book's publisher First Second provides an excerpt and discussion guide here.

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