The best books using mythology and lore in modern fiction

Why am I passionate about this?

Writing contemporary fantasy as L.D. Colter and epic fantasy as L. Deni Colter, I often lace mythology, fairy tale, or folklore into my novels and short stories. I grew up on the truly grim Grimm’s Fairy Tales but embraced them regardless, and I adored the giant book of Russian fairy tales I still own. After discovering Tolkien at ten, in high school, I read Hesiod’s Theogony between classes, The Odyssey and the Iliad for fun over summer break, and bits of Rigveda. Later, Beowulf, Popol Vuh, Poetic Edda, and more. I also love multiple sub-genres of fantasy, but especially stories that incorporate myths and folklore.


I wrote...

While Gods Sleep

By L. D. Colter,

Book cover of While Gods Sleep

What is my book about?

Greek mythology and contemporary fantasy collide in this fantasy thriller by award-winning author, L. D. Colter. Get ready to dive head-first into an alternate 1958 Greece where conjoined queens rule a nation perched above an underworld filled with demi-gods and monsters, and a mortal man holds the key to the fate of the ancient Greek gods.

“Shunning clichés, Colter crafts a suspenseful plot that dashes along to the rousing ending, weaving gryphons and harpies, magical tattoos, transformations, and betrayal… in this polished world.” – Publishers Weekly

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Golem and the Jinni

L. D. Colter Why did I love this book?

I adore books that combine literary style with the genre elements of fantasy, and Helene Wecker’s The Golem and the Jinni does it beautifully (as does her sequel, The Hidden Palace). The sense of time (1899), place (New York), and culture (Syrian and Jewish) add depth and substance to the relationship of two lost souls who find each other in a land that’s foreign to them both.

By Helene Wecker,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked The Golem and the Jinni as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'One of only two novels I've ever loved whose main characters are not human' BARBARA KINGSOLVER

For fans of The Essex Serpent and The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock.

'By far my favourite book of of the year' Guardian

Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life by a disgraced rabbi who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic. When her master, the husband who commissioned her, dies at sea on the voyage from Poland, she is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York in 1899.

Ahmad is a djinni, a being of fire, born in…


Book cover of The Only Good Indians

L. D. Colter Why did I love this book?

I haven’t seen evidence that the Elk-headed woman is actual folklore of the Blackfeet, though elk-based legends and anthropomorphic animals are certainly common across Native American stories. This horror novel is another example of a genre book weaving relationships with a literary flair but also a spare, gut-punch writing style as it explores themes of regret and revenge. By the end of chapter one, I knew it would end up on my favorite books list.

By Stephen Graham Jones,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked The Only Good Indians as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Thrilling, literate, scary, immersive."
-Stephen King

The Stoker, Mark Twain American Voice in Literature, Bradbury, Locus and Alex Award-winning, NYT-bestselling gothic horror about cultural identity, the price of tradition and revenge for fans of Adam Nevill's The Ritual.

Ricky, Gabe, Lewis and Cassidy are men bound to their heritage, bound by society, and trapped in the endless expanses of the landscape. Now, ten years after a fateful elk hunt, which remains a closely guarded secret between them, these men - and their children - must face a ferocious spirit that is coming for them, one at a time. A spirit…


Book cover of Last Call

L. D. Colter Why did I love this book?

Tim Powers incorporates mythology into many of his books and Last Call is hands-down my favorite of his. This World Fantasy Award-winning novel combines a fantastically imagined version of the legend of the Fisher King as well as Tarot, elements of Greek mythology (a theme common to many of his books), and his trademark—an elaborate and intricate magic system seamlessly blended into the real world. Last Call is the first book in his Fault Lines trilogy but also works as a standalone story.

By Tim Powers,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Last Call as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Twenty years ago Scott Crane abandoned his career as a professional poker player and went into hiding, after a weird high-stakes game played with Tarot cards. But now the cards - and the supernatural powers behind them - have found him again.

Crane's father killed gangster Bugsy Siegel in 1948 to become the Fisher King, and to keep that power he is determined to kill his son. Now Scott Crane must cross the Mojave Desert to his father's Perilous Chapel in Las Vegas, and take up the cards again for one last poker duel. And the stakes are the highest…


Book cover of American Gods

L. D. Colter Why did I love this book?

American Gods wasn’t the first book I’ve read that combines mythology from various cultures (Silverlock by John Myers Myers was probably the first), but it’s certainly a favorite. As a longtime fan of Neil Gaiman’s writing, I enjoyed the threading of multiple gods through the life of a modern-day man whose goal is simply to survive from one unpredictable day to the next.

By Neil Gaiman,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked American Gods as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Now a STARZ® Original Series – Season 3 premiere in January 2021

“Pointed, occasionally comic, often scary, consistently moving and provocative….American Gods is strewn with secrets and magical visions.”—USA Today

Newly updated and expanded with the author’s preferred text. A modern masterpiece from the multiple-award-winning master of innovative fiction, Neil Gaiman.

First published in 2001, American Gods became an instant classic, lauded for its brilliant synthesis of “mystery, satire, sex, horror, and poetic prose” (Washington Post) and as a modern phantasmagoria that “distills the essence of America” (Seattle Post-Intelligencer). It is the story of Shadow—released from prison just days after…


Book cover of Kraken

L. D. Colter Why did I love this book?

The weirdly wonderful writing of China Miéville is showcased in this fabulously imaginative, sometimes horror and sometimes laugh-out-loud adventure centered on the lore of the giant kraken. Miéville’s imagination is like Technicolor suddenly blooming on a black and white television, and for readers who enjoy New Weird this urban fantasy set in a London beset with magic on all sides is a wild and fun ride. It was for me, at least, and is my favorite of Miéville’s books so far.

By China Miéville,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Kraken as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel, Kraken is a darkly comic, wildly absurd adventure by author of Perdido Street Station, China Mieville.

Deep in the research wing of the Natural History Museum is a prize specimen, something that comes along much less often than once in a lifetime: a perfect, and perfectly preserved, giant squid. But what does it mean when the creature suddenly and impossibly disappears?

For curator Billy Harrow it's the start of a headlong pitch into a London of warring cults, surreal magic, apostates and assassins. It might just be that the creature…


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Death on a Shetland Longship: The Shetland Sailing Mysteries

By Marsali Taylor,

Book cover of Death on a Shetland Longship: The Shetland Sailing Mysteries

Marsali Taylor Author Of Death on a Shetland Longship: The Shetland Sailing Mysteries

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Sailor Women’s historian Cat-lover Temporarily limping But determinedly recovering

Marsali's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Liveaboard sailor Cass Lynch thinks her big break has finally arrived when she blags her way into skippering a Viking longship for a Hollywood film. However, this means returning to the Shetland Islands, the place she fled as a teenager. When a corpse unexpectedly appears onboard the longship, she can run from the past no longer: Cass and her family come under intense scrutiny from the disturbingly shrewd Detective Inspector Gavin Macrae.

Even if Cass’s local knowledge and sailing wisdom help to clear the Lynch family of suspicion, they may not be enough to stay ahead of the murderer’s game... and avoid becoming the next victim.

Death on a Shetland Longship: The Shetland Sailing Mysteries

By Marsali Taylor,

What is this book about?

When she wangles the job of skippering a Viking longship for a film, Cass Lynch thinks her big break has finally arrived - even though it means returning home to the Shetland Islands, which she ran away from as a teenager. Then the `accidents' begin - and when a dead woman turns up on the boat's deck, Cass realises that she, her family and her past are under suspicion from the disturbingly shrewd Detective Inspector Macrae. Cass must call on all her local knowledge, the wisdom she didn't realise she'd gained from sailing and her glamorous, French opera singer mother…


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