When this won a Goodreads Award a while back, I tried to give it a go on Webtoons where it was originally published, but found myself bouncing off of the format — or lack thereof, tbh. I like my visuals to fit a single consistent page so I’m not scrolling back and forth to try to fully capture each block, a necessity when reading this online that makes it pretty hard to immerse myself in the story and text. My husband and eldest kid occasionally read other Webtoons on their tablets, but my Kindle Fire gave up the ghost a while ago. And, frankly, it irritates me to have to find yet another device to be able to enjoy just the one story.
So thank goodness this came out in book form, where I could actually appreciate the art and story in a format that didn’t make my eyes glaze over with frustration! The copy I was sent in the Hugo voters’ packet doesn’t say if anyone besides original creator Rachel Smythe was responsible for the excellent layout of the graphic novel, but kudos to whomever reworked the Webtoons to fit so beautifully on the page.
My old-lady-eyes fussing aside, what did I think of the work? Tbh, I was pretty doubtful about another Greek mythology retelling. In theory, I like the idea of a deconstruction with modern sensibilities, but in practice, the reinterpretation of the Hades-Persephone myth as a cute love story doesn’t sit well with me. Ms Smythe does her darnedest, and in fairness, I really do enjoy what she’s done with Persephone, presenting her as a country girl with an overprotective mother who’s just ready to fall in love with the first guy who treats her like a grown-up. But that doesn’t make the premise of their relationship any less icky, especially if we’re supposed to be applying the afore-mentioned modern sensibilities to the tale. Perhaps the age gap is addressed in later installments of the series: it’s just not the kind of thing I was able to root for in this volume.
And yikes to the whole thing with Apollo. Like, I get it, I really do. The Greek gods were, on the whole, extremely awful. But I don’t understand how you can write a book that seeks to erase the rape of Persephone by Hades, then proceed to substitute it with another rape?! Wtf, book, that is not what I’m here for! Look, there are many ways in which the trajectory of this story can go upward, and overall I have to commend Ms Smythe for the sensitivity with which she treats heavy topics, but wow, this volume was not a very enjoyable read for me. I did like, tho, how Hera was portrayed less as a jealous spouse (and has she historically had reason to be!) than as a sensible, independent woman ready to call out her husband and his brothers on their bullshit. Speaking of callouts, I also appreciated how Artemis was having none of Eros’ bullshit when he was feeling sorry for himself over Psyche.
Once reformatted for the single viewing page, the art of this novel proves truly delightful, inviting careful inspection long after you’ve finished reading. While the linework isn’t necessarily the most consistent in depicting the characters, the use of color to help with differentiation is solid throughout. I really enjoyed the different values and textures brought to the work as well, that you can practically see evolve on the page. Overall, it’s readily apparent that Ms Smythe is working hard to create something worthwhile here: I just don’t know if my own sensibilities can handle the story process that it’ll take to get there.
Lore Olympus: Volume One by Rachel Smythe was published November 2 2021 by Del Rey and is available from all good booksellers, including