HERALD by N.F. Houck

HERALD

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The god Hermes tells his life story along with those of many prominent figures in Greek mythology.

A lifelong student of classical mythology, Houck writes in the author’s note following this fictional autobiography of one of the most human-oriented gods: “Anyone who’s studied Greek mythology knows one of the most fascinating and frustrating things about it is that, for the most part, it isn’t linear.” Likewise, many rousing tales of gods and monsters have come down through the ages in complicated verse. Houck tackles these epic structural challenges head on in this accessible prose narrative of Hermes, messenger of the gods. Though widely known as the god of merchants, Houck brings Hermes’ raft of personal traits and supernatural talents to the fore, making him at once exceptionally human-like and divine. The son of Zeus and Maia, practically from birth Hermes demonstrates his wily and worldly nature in executing whatever feats Zeus asks as he comes to realize his gifts of flight, invisibility and, most uniquely, the ability to sense ghosts. This last attribute leads Hades to dub him Hermes Psychopompos, or herald of the Underworld, giving him the all-important mission of guiding souls to the land of the dead, a responsibility he assumes with gratitude and pride. Hermes’ compassion as a guide wins him devotion among the living, and his telling of his role in the grand adventures of Perseus, the rescue of Dionysus, the birth of Athena, and the conception of Eros, Priapos, Hermaphroditos and Pan, makes him an affable, sympathetic protagonist. The author doesn’t hesitate to take liberties with various storylines and genealogies to drive home, at times, heavy-handed themes of requited love and forgiveness, but in the end he produces a mythic story that coheres.

Three parts autobiography, two parts Greek primer and an engaging read for all ages.

Pub Date: Feb. 5th, 2006
ISBN: 978-1-41167-169-0
Program: Kirkus Indie
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