Tuesday, 9 August 2022

Lore Olympus: Volume One by: Rachel Smythe

 Genre: graphic novel, mythology 

Published: November 2nd, 2021 by: Del Rey 

Pages: 384 

Rating: 5/5 stars 

CW: domestic abuse, sexual assault, drugging, alcoholism, addiction, misogyny 

This post will discuss sexual assault and incest 

Rachel Smythe retells the famed story of Hades and Persephone while using a modern backdrop and contemporary artwork. After dark, the Greek gods go to lavish parties to drink, hook up, and engage in the latest gossip. Currently, the centre of this gossip is Persephone, the bubbly daughter of Demeter, and Hades, the broody god of the Underworld. Hades and Persephone strike up a romance despite their differences.  But interference from other gods and battling their own demons will prove to be troubling to their relationship. 

I will always give a Greek mythology retelling a try. I was particularly intrigued by Lore Olympus because of its graphic novel format. I've gotten really into graphic novels and comics as of late, so I knew that this format could really work. I went into Lore Olympus not knowing much about the style of writing and the artwork, but I was extremely impressed by Smythe's ability to integrate modern themes within well-known stories of myth. 

You might've remembered my post from a while back where I discussed how I often forget to pay attention to the artwork of comics and graphic novels. Well, I think I may have finally found my exception. The artwork of this graphic novel is just so unique, that I found myself captivated by it. Smythe uses colour in such an interesting way, with each colour representing a god and their specific personality traits. Persephone's bubbly attitude is represented in pink, while Hades' emotional side is painted in blues and dark purples. The colours that Smythe uses accurately describe each character and portray them exactly how I would imagined their personality traits to be. Overall, the artwork was a huge selling point to the novel. 

Lore Olympus definitely deals with some heavy themes, that are both taken from the original myths and also applied to a modern audience. For example, sexual assault is so prevalent in myth, and Smythe uses this heavy topic to raise awareness on rape culture, drugging, and misogyny. These themes are definitely dealt with explicitly, so do be aware of content warnings. But, I think Smythe's attention to referencing the problematic handling of these topics within the original myths was a huge plus.

I loved the representation of Hades' and Persephone's relationship, but the book isn't only just about them. I was pleasantly surprised by how Smythe was able to handle sub-plots within the graphic novel, by giving us an inside look into the lives of other gods such as Aphrodite and Artemis. These sub-plots do not detract from the original story, rather they give readers the opportunity to learn more about the extensive cast of characters and how their personalities influence the couple at the centre of the story. 

Hades' and Persephone's story in the original myth is complicated. It is tainted with incest, sexual assault, and abduction. I was worried that Smythe would gloss over these issues and instead glamourize what is originally a problematic relationship. However, Smythe changes things around from the original myth to give us a pretty healthy relationship. Well, as healthy as can be given the setting. Smythe does not make the couple related to each other, and also changes Hades' character arc so that he is a lot less toxic than the original figure of Hades. The result is a pretty well-crafted sunshine and storm cloud relationship with enough drama from the supporting cast to still indicate how this relationship is affected by mythological themes of misogyny and jealousy. I applaud Smythe for paying attention to these problematic details from the original myth and taking action. 

Overall, I loved this graphic novel! I know the original story was released as a web-comic, and I'd love to explore it alongside the countless other volumes that Smythe has about this story. In the world of Greek mythology retellings, this was definitely a win. 

Have you read Lore Olympus? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess


  1. This sounds neat. I love the idea of Greek gods living in modern times and what that could look like. There's so much to work with there! Sounds like the author rather skillfully addressed/ presented some of the problematic elements too, which let's face it can be tough given the themes in Greek (and other) mythology sometimes!

    I would love to see a whole series of these Greek retellings.

    1. I think Smythe is continuing with multiple volumes of the Hades and Persephone retelling, but yes, if she were to tackle other myths, like say, the Trojan War, I would love that!!!

  2. I'd heard of Lore Olympus, but didn't realise it was Hades and Persephone. Linda Sejic's Punderworld (available on Webtoon for free, or I think there's a print version too,) is about Hades and Persephone too - you should check it out :)

    1. I totally will! Thanks for the recommendation, Cee!