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Odysseus in the Serpent Maze (Young Heroes (Harper Paperback)) Paperback – 1 Nov 2002
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Thirteen-year-old Odysseus and his best friend Mentor want to be heroes (actually, Odysseus wants to be a hero, and Mentor tags along) at the home of Odysseus's thief-king grandfather. After a partially successful hunt in which they help stop a monstrous boar, the boys are sent home across the sea -- except a storm washes them overboard, and leaves them stranded in a box in the middle of the ocean.
After they are captured by pirates, the boys find that they are not the only captives. There are a pair of princesses, the incredibly beautiful (but spoiled, petty and self-absorbed) Helen, and the less beautiful but clever Penelope. With the help of an incredibly smelly satyr and a self-rowing ship, Odysseus and his friends escape. But they inadvertantly stumble into more places full of things and creatures both astounding -- and terrifying.
This is a pretty fun read. It's a coming-of-age story/adventure story/mythological story, that takes up mythical threads and adds on to them as it skilfully shows the growth of the characters. The things such as Daedalus's lab and the boat that rows itself are done with exquisite atmosphere, as is the boar hunt and the semi-humiliating scenes that follow. Comedy, horror, adventure, and occasional awe are mixed in expertly.
Odysseus is reminiscent of Lloyd Alexander's Taran, with his brash eagerness to be a hero and a man among men, and his gradual maturation when he has to deal with actual danger. There's a good chemistry between him and Penelope; though it's not yet romantic, it's one of mutual respect and understanding which hints at their future relationship. Mentor is good as the voice of reason (except when Helen addles his mind) and Helen is great as a spoiled royal brat who thinks of her looks, suitors, and status as a princess. You WILL want to strangle her.
If your kids have ever enjoyed Greek legends, or if you're trying to interest them, this historical/mythical fantasy may be the ticket.
As the story starts out, Odysseus drags the much more cautious Mentor on a boar hunt that goes wrong, from there he is shortly hurled into an adventure in the making on what should have been a short trip home...he's summarily tossed overboard, deals with pirates, rescues the damsels in distress (however reluctantly), makes a friend in Silenus the Satyr, discovers something about Dadelus, and so much more! Ultimately will he be able to return home? Will he rescue Penelope and Helen or will Penelope rescue him? You simply must read this to find out.
I really did enjoy this one even as an adult...it's a little bit too early for my girl to read this, but soon enough, she'll be old enough to appreciate the intricacies of the story...and it really is a fast paced, page turning adventure that will keep you on the edge of your seat...there are many adult books that can't boast that, so that's quite nice to see in a children's/young adult novel! I think this is best read by kids somewhere between the ages of 8-12, with somewhere around 9 or 10 being ideal, depending on your child's reading ability. I also think it will appeal equally to boys or girls because while Helen is a prissy, girly girl,Penelope is no slouch and she's every bit as heroic as Odysseus!! Best of all, this isn't some watered down, diluted sugar sweet story...it's the real deal! There is real danger (Odysseus is beat to heck by the end of it) and real perilous adventure...and there is so much more. I recommend it without hesitation, I think it's an excellent resource for introducing Greek mythology and the heroes/characters behind the Iliad/Odyssey...it would be a great help there and just a fun read overall! It gets a big A+ from me! I loved it and I know my Girl will too when she reads it next school year!