I love Greek mythology. Have I ever written that here? I'm not sure. Actually, there aren't many mythologies I don't find interesting. Arthurian legends make me tingle. I went through a long phase of learning about Native American myths after I started listening to The Cult back in tenth grade. The Celtic myths are perhaps the most fascinating to me, but they're so disjointed in their stories. Greek mythology, though: its stories are complete and complex and full of metaphor. And not just the mythologies. The heroes—Hercules and Perseus and Theseus. Sophocles dramas (Antigone is my favorite). And Homer's epics; I've read the translations of the Iliad, the Odyssey, and the Aeneid, plus countless modern interpretations.
So when, one day when I was filling the New Books shelf at work, I stumbled across Carrie Vaughn's book Discord's Apple, I could hardly resist it. You remember the story: It wasn't really Helen that started the Trojan War, it was the three goddesses Athena, Aphrodite, and Hera, arguing over who was the fairest and thus should possess the Apple of Discord. Just the book's title grabbed my interest, but the inside copy had me at hello: Ithacans and Greek Goddesses and King Arthur and the Wandering Jew and a curandero mixed into a story about a near-future world on the brink of war? Sign me up!
Evie, the novel's protatonist, returns to her tiny Colorado home town, Hope's Fort, when she discovers her father is dying of cancer. A successful comic-book writer, Evie keeps in touch with the news of the larger world—which seems to be imploding upon itself, with countries on the brink of nuclear war—by way of Bruce, who illustrates her books. Thinking she will be taking care of her father, she instead begins to learn about the mysterious contents of her grandparents' basement. It is, in reality, a store room of ancient magical artifacts. As the modern world begins to break itself apart, the storeroom begins drawing the old mythological beings to itself, and Evie gets caught up in the resulting chaos.
This isn't the usual type of book I read. The story is intriguing but the writing is fairly straightforward. (I kept wishing that Alden Bell would rewrite it.) It's a little bit fluffy, and the intertwined bits of Evie's comic book were sort of bleh to me. The book didn't make me want to read any more of Carrie Vaughn's oeuvre.
That said, I really enjoyed this novel. It is a perfect summer read: fast, intriguing, mysterious, plus all those mythological characters. The story is woven together; some chapters are set during the Trojan war and some in Evie's world, with bits of family history and that comic-book plot line as well. One chapter is set on Mount Olympus and another at Stonehenge. I know not everyone likes this sort of structure but it is one of my favorites as it allows for connections between histories and stories that you might otherwise miss. There are explanations of what happened to the Greek gods, where magic came from, and how mythological characters got their power. (I don't necessarily agree with the ideas, but they were intriguing nevertheless.) And the constant referencing to stories, folklore, and myths brought back many tales I'd forgotten I was fascinated by. I think, in the end, what made me love Discord's Apple was how it suggested the reality of magic and then showed how that reality might change the world.
So! If you're looking for a good beach read, and your requirements for beach reading don't include heaving bosoms, rapturous dames, and overwrought romance—but do allow you to reach back to remember the stuff you learned in your high school mythology unit—this might just be the book for you.