Stephen Fry never seems to write as mellifluously as he talks. Or is that just me expecting him to sound at all times like Jeeves? Judging by the praise heaped on his books elsewhere, I’m in a minority, but I have to say I find his prose rather choppy and awkward; as though it had missed one final polish to buff it to perfection. (Perhaps it sounds better when read out loud.) Style aside though, this retelling of several Greek myths is fun to read. And illuminating. I never knew, for instance, that Sisyphus – doomed to roll the stone up that hill for eternity – certainly earned his fate.
If I have a real quibble, it’s with the fact that while there’s a family tree for the Second Order of gods – also confusingly called the Titans, a name not shown on the chart but used in the text – and the Olympians who followed them, there’s no chart for the First Order of gods who preceded them both. So unless you know who everyone is before you begin, you’re going to spend the first fifty pages endlessly flicking back and forth trying to determine who’s given birth to whom and where they all stand in relation to each other. And if you ever want to look someone up, the lack of a Table of Contents and an Index means that you’re going to spend a LOT of time leafing through the pages. It’s such a strange decision that I can only think the sub-editor had a hankering for a latte and signed off on the book before nipping out the back door sharpish.