The best books using mythology and lore in modern fiction

L.D. Colter Author Of While Gods Sleep: Book One of Perilous Gods
By L.D. Colter

The Books I Picked & Why

The Golem and the Jinni

By Helene Wecker

Book cover of The Golem and the Jinni

Why 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.

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The Only Good Indians

By Stephen Graham Jones

Book cover of The Only Good Indians

Why 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.

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Last Call

By Tim Powers

Book cover of Last Call

Why 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.

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American Gods

By Neil Gaiman

Book cover of American Gods

Why 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.

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By China Miéville

Book cover of Kraken

Why 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.

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