Recommended for Gifted Readers - Alternate History & Mythology
(Originally Presented at Spring 2004 Beyond IQ conference for gifted students)

(M) - Mature Readers; long book, may have sex, drinking, or drug use

Alternate History - different ways to look at the past, to see how things might have turned out:

  • Blackwood, Gary: THE YEAR OF THE HANGMAN - It is 1777, and the British have won the Revolutionary War. Captured by Benedict Arnold, he is ordered to spy on Ben Franklin and the other revolutionaries who are hiding out in New Orleans, which still belongs to the French. Will he believe the British are handling the colonists the right way, or will he decide the rebels have something to fight for?
  • Card, Orson Scott: SEVENTH SON - In an alternate colonial America where the Native Americans have their own nation and have not been exterminated by white colonists, a blacksmith's son discovers he may have magical powers for making things and for building a new world.
  • Flint, Eric: 1632 - Just suppose some unknown force wrapped itself around, say, a West Virginia mining town and dragged it and everyone who's come to attend a wedding there back in time, setting it down right in the middle of Germany during the 30 Years' War. How would people survive without all the power sources of the modern era? How would they keep themselves from being overrun by greedy mercenaries and kings? How would they change the people they deal with? (M)
  • Flint, Eric & Drake, David: AN OBLIQUE APPROACH (and sequels) - Two future beings come to change the past, one to the kingdoms of India, and one who comes to the Byzantine Empire's greatest general, Belisarius. It shows him what will come if the armies from India do as their masters bid, using advanced weapons like gunpowder to conquer the world. Can the Byzantines develop their own technology and alliances to keep western civilization from being destroyed? Belisarius is determined, and he has a lot of smart, determined friends to help him. (M)
  • Roberts, John Madox: HANNIBAL'S CHILDREN - What if Carthage had beaten Rome during the Punic Wars? What if the Roman Empire had never happened, and the Roman people had become a slave state under Carthage? What if the Greek scientist Archimedes hadn't been killed by Romans, but had continued to invent? (M)
  • Turtledove, Harry: THE GUNS OF THE SOUTH - This book made alternate history popular. Until recently, South Africa lived under apartheid, separating whites from blacks and treating blacks viciously. After decades of world protest, South Africa ended it. This book was written before that. In it, apartheid supporters from the future decide the only way they can silence world opinion is if the United States is still a slave country. They go back in time to give Robert E. Lee assault rifles so the South will win the Civil War and create a racist U.S. They didn't remember that people in the past were not stupid, and many of them are able to duplicate technology if they are given the chance; and they forgot to read what Robert E. Lee thought of slavery. It's a brilliant book, though it is (M), and it makes us ask ourselves all kinds of questions about what might have happened.

    Mythology - books with themes from myths and legends:

  • Alexander, Lloyd: (stories based on the Welsh Mabinogion) THE BLACK CAULDRON, THE BOOK OF THREE, THE CASTLE OF LLYR, TARAN WANDERER, THE HIGH KING - About an assistant pig-keeper and his friends, who blunder into being heroes.
  • Applegate, K.A.: EVERWORLD - Popular kids' series; teens thrown into a world in which gods and legendary figures from world folklore mess with their lives--introduction to various gods and mythologies.
  • Bradley, Marion Zimmer: THE FIREBRAND - The Trojan War as seen through the eyes of Cassandra, the prophet who no one ever believed. (M)
  • Bulfinch, Thomas: BULFINCH'S MYTHOLOGY - Basic resource for Greek and Roman myths and legends.
  • Cooney, Caroline: GODDESS OF YESTERDAY - A girl takes on identity of princess Callisto when Callisto and her family are killed. She is rescued by Menelaus who brings her to his home and his wife, Helen. Helen takes her to Troy when she runs away with Prince Paris, and the girl is there before the Greeks attack. Creepy view of Helen and vital telling of the Mycenean world.
  • Cray, Roberta: THE SHIELD AND THE LION - Out-of-print, for readers who like thick books; a Trojan-War-like story of father-daughter fighter teams used by the gods of the city, an exploration of soldiers living among civilians, people finding (and losing) themselves in wartime, effects of long-term sieges, a peacetime king faced with a conquering enemy who possesses alien magic, political maneuvering in wartime
  • DeLint, Charles: SOMEPLACE TO BE FLYING - Folk figures, spirits and gods like Jack Daw and the Crow Girls are alive and well in Canada, at war with their enemies, manipulating human lives, and doing odd things just for the pretty. (M)
  • Galloway, Priscilla THE SNAKE DREAMERS - Modern-day approach to the Greek legend of Medusa and the Gorgons with a little Perseus for flavor.
  • Hamilton, Edith: GREEK MYTHOLOGY - classic (with Bulfinch) Greek and Roman myths and legends, more approachable than Bulfinch.
  • Homer: THE ILIAD and THE ODYSSEY - epics of the Trojan War and its aftermath, what got me started on this wild ride.
  • Kay, Guy Gavriel: The Fionavar Tapestry (THE SUMMER TREE, THE WANDERING FIRE, THE LONGEST ROAD) - Deals with characters from a wide range of myths/legends/folklore (including King Arthur, Guenevere, and Lancelot), as travelers from our world face a crazy god. (M)
  • Kindl, Patrice: LOST IN THE LABYRINTH - Xenodice is the sister of Ariadne and the Minotaur, friend of Daedalus and Icarus, who sees the arrival of Theseus. He plays her family against each other, wanting to kill the Minotaur, while Xenodice worried about her half-brother the Minotaur, who is getting more violent and uncontrollable.
  • Linskold, Jane: CHANGER, LEGENDS WALKING--Modern fantasy in which the world's gods, myths and legends are very much alive and living among us, from Arthur who was originally Gilgamesh to Thor who's in pro wrestling to some very dark folk indeed, like Loki, to sasquatches online. (M)
  • McLaren, Clemence: INSIDE THE WALLS OF TROY - The Trojan War as told from the points of view of Helen and Cassandra
  • Miles, Patricia: THE GODS IN WINTER - Retelling of the Greek myth of the kidnapping of Persephone. Her mother Demeter's long mourning is spent in a Welsh house, where the modern children she looks after stumble over what's really going on (reprint edition later this year, with a Preface written by Tammy!).
  • Napoli, Donna Jo: SIRENA - Tale of Greek sirens and the Trojan War; Napoli has also written a number of fairy tale retellings.
  • Renault, Mary: THE KING MUST DIE, THE BULL FROM THE SEA - the legend of Theseus, who defeated the Minotaur and spirited away the princess Ariadne. (M)
  • Sherman, Josepha: MERLIN'S KIN - Stories of great wizards from around the world.
  • Simpson, Margaret: MAHABHARATA - Approachable retelling of Hindi mythical cycle, so far only available from Scholastic in the UK.
  • Voigt, Cynthia: ORFE - Retelling of the classic Greek tale of Orpheus, recast in modern times as a rock musician.
  • Walton, Evangeline retells The Mabinogion, the Welsh mythological saga, for older readers -THE PRINCE OF ANNWN, THE CHILDREN OF LLYR, THE SONG OF RHIANNON, THE VIRGIN AND THE SWINE.
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