Carolyn Hennesy’s Pandora series is like Kim Possible–in Ancient Greece. It’s fun. It’s a little flirty. It’s original. It’s kind of educational. It’s also not exactly accurate…
Mythology is one of my passions. In high school, I devoured everything that could possibly have had “gods” splashed across the cover. And I still love it, though I’m especially partial to The Greek Stuff: I read both Bulfinch’s and Edith Hamilton to Mir when he was a baby baby (as opposed to the Giant Mess Monster who will always be my baby kind), interspersed with some Arabian Nights (and Sinbad in particular).
Enter the Pandora series. Generally, the myth-based books I read are modern–Percy Jackson discovers he’s a demigod today, Oliver (The Seven Keys of Balabad) searches for the lost treasure today. (Check out this list over at Read In A Single Sitting for a few great-looking picks.) But Pandora Atheneus Andromaeche Helena–her friends call her Pandy–is not a modern girl. She speaks like a modern girl. She worries like a modern girl. But she’s an Ancient Greek. Here’s the gist:
Pandora Atheneus Andromaeche Helena (“Pandy” for short) lives in Ancient Greece, surrounded by gods, goddesses, heroes, mythical monsters and magical beasts. But, she is your typical, average, run-of-the-mill tween. She has crushes on boys, trouble at school, best friends, fierce enemies, a mother who doesn’t understand and a brother who makes her crazy.
Typical and average, right?
It takes a big school project, the discovery of a box with a terrible secret and the adventure of a lifetime to make her realize just how special, unique and “pan-tastic” she really is!
See the KP similarities?
There are lots of little things we could nitpick about the Pandy series: in the books, she’s Prometheus’ daughter rather than his sister-in-law. She’s unleashed the evils from a box rather than a jar. She has a cell phone magical conch communication device. But here’s the thing: I don’t care because I’m too busy loving these books.
I am a stickler for many things. Apostrophes. Good chocolate. The BBC version of Pride & Prejduice. I’ve cringed at bad myth- and fairy tale retellings, and been irked by anachronisms in other historical-based fiction. But most of the retellings and anachronisms I’ve disliked are the result of poor research–time hasn’t been spent on the details or the backstory, and the world has been sloppily built, like the proverbial castle over sand.
Pandy, on the other hand, is a pretty modern teen in a relatively contemporary world–except for, y’know, the non-contemporary bits. Rather than going all out with the modern setting, Hennesy has picked the modernisms that serve her story (in terms of plot and humor), then balanced them with details about the ancient world. A few examples (minor spoilers):
- animal sacrifices still exist, and are upsetting to one of Pandy’s friends
- women are generally accepted as equals in Pandy’s corner of the world, but she runs into prejudice on her travels
- famous names (like Tiresias) used for unrelated characters are acknowledged to be fictional creations/inspirations in the glossary at the back of each book
- the gods’ personalities, while adapted a little, aptly catch the gist
- the girls’ actions (Pandy’s friends go adventuring with her) have consequences
- and, finally, there are limits to magical help, and magical items, with one small exception. (And that particular magical skill is earned in a somewhat gross way, so I do kind of feel like the girls paid for it).
Perhaps best of all, though, is that even when riffing on an existing myth, Hennesy is original. In Book 2, Pandora Gets Vain, the girls meet Calchas (the seer who told Agammemnon to sacrifice his daughter, Iphigenia, and who predicted the ten-year length of the Trojan War). The entire episode is well-sketched and, more importantly, unpredictable.
The big picture? The series is a fun romp through the ancient world (so far, the girls have traveled to Egypt and Libya). The books are easy to read, use the “smart girl with big words” trope to humorous effect. And even if they’re not accurate–in so far as “accurate” is ever possible–retellings of Greek myths, they’re a great springboard to the real thing.
An interesting aside: technically, the Pandy books are CelebooksTM, as Hennesy is an actress, and currently a regular on General Hospital. This is my first brush with CelebooksTM–and it was a pleasant surprise.
Have you read the Pandy series? Or Goddess Girls, another tween mythology series?Read More