There’s something completely timeless and utterly attractive about mythology, folklore and the stories passed down through generations. Maybe a particular story originated in religion, or maybe through  honoring heroic courage or, who can say, maybe the teller was an exasperated mom who needed to keep her kids from getting into trouble by captivating them with a fairytale that would keep them wide-eyed (or, on the other end of the spectrum, a soothing one that would keep them shut-eyed.) Whatever the case, the tales of old live on, precious and fiercely protected by their cultures and the people who nurture them even to this day.

Some of these keepers of the flame are the authors mentioned below. By harkening back to mythos and mystique, they reckon with the relics of ancients while relishing the entertainment value each still has to offer readers opening a new book instead of opening an iPhone app. That’s part of the power of a good story; it can take many forms and still enchant the audience, though the audience today lives quite differently than the audience of the original story did.

The options on this list come from a diverse group of countries and use a diverse set of genres to relate some age-old themes, characters and adventures. Diversity and tradition? Mythology and modernity? Men who prove their mettle through comedic and dramatic misadventures? Women who are queens in every sense of the word? Sign up for the above with a book listed below!

The Once and Future King
by T.H. White

T.H. White’s retelling of the legends of King Arthur is widely and wisely thought to be a stalwart pinnacle of the fantasy genre. The lore of Camelot comes to life with vivid imagery, visceral emotions and verified correlation with the origin story. Kings, queens, knights of the round table fighting for a country long ago and across the ocean … there’s nothing not to love in the quest for life, land and, of course, love itself. 

A boy known as Wart is tutored by a mysterious warlock known as Merlyn, and thus the ruler we know as Arthur begins to come into his own. Along the journey of his education in magic and majesty, he teams up with a random dude called Lancelot and falls in love with a random lady called Guinevere. Who are we kidding, has anyone not heard of all these characters? Arthur faces treachery in the form of plots against the kingdom and plots against his marriage, and though the book is based on the 1485 volume Le Morte d'Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory and was first published in 1958, you’ll fall for it as quickly as you would the newest release by your favorite still-living author. 

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Death by Chaos
by Renaii West

Tasha, Elizabeth, Dawn and Miranda were the irrevocable goddesses of their southern CA liberal arts college. The four distinctive ladies are based on four literal goddesses of ancient Greek mythology, Aphrodite, Athena, Eris and Hera, not respectively; have fun figuring out who’s who as you encounter the complex and charismatic personalities who have their hands full with the events that unfold. In a tragic twist of fate just before graduation, a student is found murdered on campus. Suspicion falls in their midst. Destinies are changed forever. The case goes cold for the next two decades leaving secrets kept and suspicions lingering. And one of the four continues to be haunted by the chaos of that night and what followed.

With an upcoming reunion and an arrival of a stranger on a motorcycle bringing even more turmoil to her life, she believes the time is right to finally revisit the past, uncover the secrets, expose the truth, and while she is at it, rekindle the lost passions of her roommates. To do this without drawing the attention of those who wish the case to remain unsolved will require good acting, deception and maybe a little divine intervention. (Read BookTrib's review here.)

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The Angel of Losses: A Novel
by Stephanie Feldman

With its “wheeling stars, magical rabbi, disgraced angels, black dogs and European hinterland,” (Kirkus Review) this novel is reminiscent of Marc Chagall’s visionary art. Marjorie and Holly are keenly devoted sisters, until Holly unexpectedly marries Nathan, an orthodox Jew from a mysterious sect. When Holly gives birth to Eli, her first child (named after the girls’ grandfather), Marjorie is afraid that she’s lost her sister forever. 

Searching through their grandfather’s possessions, however, Marjorie finds a notebook with stories about the White Rebbe, a religious guru and carrier of the Sabbath Light who owes a promise to the mythical Angel of Losses. When young Eli falls gravely ill, Marjorie must venture deep into the past and back to the present to reconnect with her estranged sister and save her nephew’s life. This novel has all the magic and mythology one could hope to find,  but goes far beyond the familiar material you may have heard of before.

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The Last Odyssey
by James Rollins

James Rollins is no stranger to posing brilliant “What if?” questions that have long fueled his string of perennial bestsellers. With The Last Odyssey (Morrow), though, he has outdone himself by posing that maybe, just maybe, the events portrayed by Homer in The Iliad and The Odyssey were fully real.

That’s the dilemma facing Gray Pierce and his stalwart Sigma Force after a medieval shipwreck is discovered in the ice of Greenland. The contents of the ship that once fueled a war long past become fodder for any number of conflicts in the present, as the literal, and figurative, gates of hell are opened. Readers are treated to a relentless rollercoaster of a read that never lets up or lets us down. (Read BookTrib’s review of this rollicking thriller here.)

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The Mere Wife: A Novel
by Maria Dahvana Headley

Don’t judge a book by its cover, but do glance at the cover of this book to get a glimpse of and begin to embrace this fiery, feisty and feminist retelling of the ancient and powerful Beowulf. If you’re familiar with the source material because you were forced to read it in school and recall it as pretty much just a battle-weary book about a somewhat bullheaded man, you’re in for a startling reevaluation with this acclaimed and astonishing twist on a classic.

Here, the stars of the show are two women. Grendel's mother is reimagined as newly pregnant war veteran Dana, who will do anything to protect her son. Meanwhile, Willa, a wealthy suburbanite married to a man destined for doom, is herself destined to remarry the reimagined Beowulf while also navigating unthinkable trauma while trying to safeguard her own son. Her falsely happy “kingdom” of Herot Hall is put under fire the way the ancient civilization in England was, and the ensuing drama is the same stuff of legend. 

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The Immortals of Meluha (The Shiva Trilogy)
by Amish Tripathi 

If you don’t have much knowledge of Hindu lore, you’re in for a warm welcome from Amish Tripathi. He has a whole world of novels for you to experience, and The Immortals of Meluha is just the tip of the iceberg. The, well, legendary guru Deepak Chopra himself reported that these are “Archetypal and stirring … Amish’s books unfold the deepest recesses of the soul.” Meanwhile, BBC has named the author “India’s Tolkien,” and we all know how proud the Brits are of their hobbits. 

Set in 1900 BC, this epic-in-translation tells of a once-thriving empire created many centuries earlier by Lord Ram, a monarch for the ages. Now the realm and its rulers face horrific terrorist attacks from their enemies to the east. To make matters worse, they seem to have teamed up with a despicable breed of near-humans who are monstrous and highly skilled martial artists. The land of Meluha places its final hopes in a still-more-ancient chosen one and hero, but time is running out. A mysterious man named Shiva enters the scene; could he be the answer to their desperate cries for help?

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Where the Wild Ladies Are
by Aoko Matusda, translated by Polly Barton

This collection of stories is definitely a stark change of pace. If you’re expecting stodgy, dull and dated language when you think of “myths,” then these inspired tales are the wake-up call you need. Aoko Matusda draws inspiration from archaic Japanese folklore but spins it into a web of cutting-edge, short-and-sweet (and a more than a little bit spicy) vignettes of modern women facing current crises on a large and small scale with a little help from an unlikely source.

Struggling with the myriad of mundane tasks that pile up? Members of the spirit realm might noisily poke their supernatural sensibilities into your everyday, common-sense situations and scenarios. Shapeshifting, magical vegetation, ghosts of busybodies past … you’re in good company and intangible hands when you encounter this volume in which humans live side by side with the dead. It’s hard to explain the whimsy, wisdom and wisecracking that occurs within the pages of this revamped Japanese mythology, but it’s highly recommended that you take a chance on it and be delighted with what you discover. 

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