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Book Review: Jason and the Golden Fleece


Reading Level

Ages 9-12

One of the world's oldest myths is brought to life for younger readers in this retelling of Apollonius's The Argonauts. It is the story of Jason and his ship of heroes questing for the Golden Fleece. This story predates even the Iliad and is one of ancient Greece's most prized hero stories. And, as with most of those, the story involves lots of blood and killing.

If you the reader go into the story knowing this, as well as a little about the basic of life and geography in ancient Greece, you'll enjoy this story very much. It is certainly action-packed, and it showcases both the brawn and the brains that many of Greece's heroes were said to possess. It also incorporates magic, witchcraft, and discussions with the Greeks' greatest gods.

The book is written by James Riordan, who has published a handful of books for younger readers, including the relatively recent Twelve Labours of Hercules. He certainly knows his subject matter and puts together sentences that vividly set the many exotic scenes. He tends to ask the reader to rely on knowledge that he or she might not have in some cases, however; you would do well to know the basics of ancient Greece in order to fully understand all of the details contained herein. (Those who don't can still enjoy the tale, though, and might even find that they want to learn more about those strange details not enunciated fully.)

This is a great story, in the grandest tradition. A hero calls the best and brightest to him so they can join him on a historic quest: to obtain and unattainable prize. They brave many dangers and sail many miles, cast about by fickle winds and waters, achieving through cunning what they cannot through brute force. Familiar names appear on the crew list: Hercules, he of the famous Labors; Castor and Pollux, the famous twins who are immortalized in the night sky; Orpheus, the famous lyre-player who saves the crew from certain death by playing his famous instrument as loudly as he can. The list goes on, as does the number of adventures that the crew has. It is simply amazing that they survive so many dangers and brave so much peril and finally get what they want—only to discover that the price of attaining that goal isn't entirely what they thought it would be. Again, a Greek story in the grandest tradition.

The illustrations are very vivid and bring these long-dead heroes to life, placing the reader right there on the bow of the ship with Jason and the Argonauts, fighting their battles with them and escaping alongside them. Look closely and you will see also inspirations from famous art depicting these famous events. The illustrator, Jason Cockcroft, has done his homework on both the art and the words of this story, and it shows in a very good way.

This book makes a good addition to any study of the world of ancient Greece, particularly because the story of Jason and his quest for the Golden Fleece is often a footnote anymore and deserves included alongside stories of the Trojan War and the labors of Hercules and other more famous tales.

Buy this book from Amazon.com

 
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