Sunday, January 10, 2016

Book review: Food for the Gods by Karen Dudley (historical fantasy)

back of the book blurb...

Having been chopped up and served to the gods for tea, Pelops, Prince of Lydia, is kindly remade by the Olympian dinner guests and gifted with a talent for the culinary arts. But after heading for the bright lamps of Athens, Pelops discovers that life is not exactly golden for a celebrity chef in the golden age of Greece. Ruthless patrons and jealous rivals are bad enough, but when a couple of the less responsible gods offer to help him make a name for himself, Pelops begins to realize that when the gods decide they owe you a favour, you'd better start saying your prayers.

I was thrown headlong into the story from page one. Food for the Gods serves as an excellent introduction to Greek mythology and ancient Greek culture. (I wished some of the references were more thoroughly explained -- but maybe that's what search engines are for.)

Dudley possesses a charming sense of humour and that helped to make this an entertaining read.

"Great Me!" [Zeus] was ranting his eyes still flashing dangerously "Why is it always my problem? Who did this, Zeus? Why did they do that, Zeus? Can you sort this? Who killed that mortal? Why did my festival get ruined? How do we stop the Erinyes? Give me a break! I'm not all-knowing like sodding Odin, am I?"
"Um...Odin?" I asked weakly.
 "Dude up north," Hermes explained...
(p. 226)

Gods walk among them. Although, most mortals are oblivious. (It would help if they glowed.)

"[T]hey're gods. They don't have to glow. You can tell they're gods just by looking at them."
(p. 356-367)

I wonder what would happen if we lived our lives that way -- with the sense that gods walked among us, but we couldn't identify them. Would it make us more understanding, kinder, more generous?

How can the narrator identify the gods? Who is the mysterious greying man in a grey chiton? Is he a ghost? Most mysteries are solved by the end of the book. Most are... Sadly, we never discover what the Lion on the Cheese Grater is.

At times, transitions were too abrupt and I was left wondering where I was.  But on the whole, Food for the Gods is an entertaining read. And Dudley writes humour and violence with skill.

When writing historical fantasy, you first start from real life, with real situations gleaned from various historical sources. Of course, you don't stick to that -- it wouldn't be fantasy if you did -- so you incorporate the fantastic elements as you go, tweaking facts as needed.
-author note
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Advice on choosing books for children.

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Writing Picture Books:  A Hands-on Guide From Story Creation to Publication by Ann Whitford Paul

Activities in future chapters assure me you have a story to revise (p. 4)
[A]n editor may write saying she loves your manuscript but feels it needs work before she can offer a contract.... [W}rite thanking her for her time and trouble with your manuscript. Indicate you will think about her suggestions. (p. 233)