Book Review: The Mythic Dream Edited by Dominik Parisien and Navah Wolfe

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Madeleine L’Engle once said, “When we lose our myths we lose our place in the universe.” The Mythic Dream gathers together eighteen stories that reclaim the myths that shaped our collective past, and use them to explore our present and future. From Hades and Persephone to Kali, from Loki to Inanna, this anthology explores retellings of myths across cultures and civilizations.
Featuring award-winning and critically acclaimed writers such as Seanan McGuire, Naomi Novik, Rebecca Roanhorse, JY Yang, Alyssa Wong, Indrapramit Das, Carlos Hernandez, Sarah Gailey, Ann Leckie, John Chu, Urusla Vernon, Carmen Maria Machado, Stephen Graham Jones, Arkady Martine, Amal El-Mohtar, Jeffrey Ford, and more, The Mythic Dream is sure to become a new classic.

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I’m always looking for anthologies, particularly fantasy ones because I find it to be an excellent opportunity to discover new authors. So, when I happened upon this one during my endless browsing on goodreads, I knew I had to read it. I was also impressed when I saw that it was a collection of mythology retellings, which reminded me a lot of another anthology A Thousand Beginnings and Endings (also happens to be my favorite).

This one has more stories inspired by Greek/Roman mythologies with a touch of Norse, Irish, Chinese and Indian in between, but I didn’t find that my unfamiliarity really hindered my reading experience. And while it has hits and misses like any other collection, it does have a few standouts and I’m definitely gonna be checking out the full length novels by some of these authors. I also liked the LGBT+ rep across multiple stories and the group of authors was equally diverse. I’m not sure exactly who would be the right audience for this but if you are a fan of mythological stories, then you’ll probably enjoy this more. And if you love reading stories by Hugo/Nebula and other award winning or nominated authors, then you’ll find a lot of them in this collection.

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Phantoms of the Midway by Seanan McGuire

With a very weird setting of a moving carnival and elements of magical realism, this is an f/f retelling of the Hades and Persephone myth. I can’t say I was able to guess the mythology behind it while reading the story itself but it does explore the relationship between an extremely over protective mother and her very sheltered daughter.

⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Justified by Ann Leckie

While I can’t say I understood on what kind of fantasy world this took place or what type of advanced creatures these were, I liked the idea of a noble warrior being fed up of killing and wanting to live alone, and another trying to checkmate the extremely narcissistic ruler of this world. There was also another certain creature which reminded me of a talking BB-8 and I thought that was cool.

⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Fisher-Bird by T. Kingfisher

This was a fun entertaining story, akin to a children’s fable and I didn’t understand any underlying message behind it until I read what myth this was based on – then it all clicked. Can’t say the main character in the story felt a lot like Hercules though.

⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

A Brief Lesson in Native American Astronomy by Rebecca Roanhorse

In a technologically advanced society where humans can prolong their life with digital means, this is the story of an obsessive lover who can’t let go and whose whole life revolves around his dead lover. Definitely creepy but quite well written.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Bridge of Crows by JY Yang

Even without any knowledge of the underlying myth, I thought this was a very well written story about what true love is, does it make a difference when there is a power imbalance in a relationship, and how sometimes it’s important to take down a whole corrupt system than just righting one wrong. Beautiful story.

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Labbatu Takes Command of the Flagship Heaven Dwells Within by Arkady Martine

Retelling of two epic Sumerian poems, this story of a fierce, arrogant and deadly pirate captain of a starship was very entertaining but also emotional, showing that sometimes found family is more important than blood. I can’t wait to read the author’s full length novels.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Wild to Covet by Sarah Gailey

Wow.. this was just stunning. A retelling of Achilles’s story told through the POV of Thetis, this is about how we force women to lose themselves in the name of motherhood, whether it is their choice or not. It’s really a chilling tale and I absolutely loved the themes explored in it.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

¡CUIDADO! ¡QUE VIENE EL COCO! By Carlos Hernandez

Based on the legends of El Coco, this story about a father suffering from mental illness who just wants his little girl to be happy is sweet in some ways but extremely creepy and horrifying in others. I still can’t tell what I’m feeling after finishing it.

⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

He Fell Howling by Stephen Graham Jones

A story of what happens to Lycaon after Zeus curses him, this is more like an origin tale of werewolves and while it was a fascinating read, the amount of feeding/eating children really grossed me out. It was really well written though.

⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Curses like Words, like Feathers, like Stories by Kat Howard

Based on an Irish myth, this was about incomplete stories and curses and how sometimes a decision taken in anger can have unintended consequences. Beautifully written.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Across the River by Leah Cypess

I know nothing about the Jewish legend this story is based on, and my knowledge about the exile of the ten tribes is also limited but I still liked this story about a young man who is learning to be a cantor but feels there’s something missing in his music and yearns to unite all the twelve tribes. I admired his conviction and bravery and faith a lot.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Sisyphus in Elysium by Jeffrey Ford

A reimagining of the story of Sisyphus, this tale is about what would happen if you are punished for eternity, how much would that incessant work implore you to introspect and look back at the many wrong decisions you made. It’s a fascinating concept and while I enjoyed the story itself, the writing felt a little too metaphorical for my taste.

⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Kali_Na by Indrapramit Das

This was fascinating and weird, familiar as well as new and I enjoyed it quite a bit. The transformation of the more divine and generous Goddess Durga to that of Goddess Kali who is hell bent on destroying her enemies is used as a metaphor for a near future India where even praying to the gods is done through AI and cryptocurrency, but the issue of trolls on the internet and caste discrimination irl is still very very prominent. I was more surprised by how unfortunate but realistic this story felt.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Live Stream by Alyssa Wong

CW: revenge porn, sexual assault and harassment

A retelling of one of Artemis’s story, this is about targeted harassment that popular women are subjected to online, especially in traditionally male centric spaces like gaming – but the author focuses on how the young woman works through her fears and anxiety after everything happens, finds a community of other supportive women and works to get the perpetrator punished. A very empowering story.

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Close Enough for Jazz by John Chu

Borrowing from Norse Mythology, this story is about a young female startup founder trying to find angel investors for her body transformation technology. It shows the kind of rampant sexism that exists in the tech industry and how important it is for women to be comfortable in their own body, own their work with confidence and never let anyone take advantage of them.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Buried Deep by Naomi Novik

I liked this retelling of Minotaur’s story told through Ariadne’s POV about how much she loved her brother, but I truly didn’t understand the whole point of it. It was a bit too long and I felt it dragged a little but it was still quite enjoyable.

⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

The Things Eric Eats before He Eats Himself by Carmen Maria Machado

CW: body horror, cannibalism

This is a story about entitlement and how many privileged people do things without thinking about consequences, not realizing until too late that they have been consumed by their bad deeds. I was actually feeling a bit sick while I was reading and I can’t deny that this story made me feel worse with it’s overt gory descriptions.

⭐️⭐️⭐️

Florilegia or Some Lies about Flowers by Amal El-Mohtar

I have no clue about the original myth behind this story but it’s a wonderful tale about a woman realizing that her worth is not tied to her husband, she is not just his wife, and she contains multitudes and can be whatever she wants to be. Wonderfully written with a touch of romance.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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14 thoughts on “Book Review: The Mythic Dream Edited by Dominik Parisien and Navah Wolfe

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        1. Haha the novella isn’t out yet… mid February I guess but I assure you it’s an absolute delight… it’s a queer western with all ladies and so much fun 😍😍😍

          Liked by 1 person

  1. I haven’t heard of this but it sounds really interesting and I loved reading your review for all the stories included. I haven’t read too many anthologies as I tend to struggle with short stories but I have a list of ones I want to check out and this is on it now. I love that these take inspiration from mythology!!
    I really loved reading your thoughts and it was really well set out! Great review!! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Sophie.. !!!! It took me a few tries to get into anthologies but they can be really fun, especially with a good set of authors… and I think it helps if the stories take inspiration from myths because knowing the underlying story helps us understand the author’s message easily even if it’s just a short …
      I hope you enjoy this one if you decide to give it a try 😊😊😊

      Liked by 1 person

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