Worldbuilding 101: Harnessing the Power of Greek Mythology

Worldbuilding 101: Harnessing the Power of Greek Mythology

Here at Bookish, we love a good myth. Myths are oldies but goodies—they’ve truly stood the test of time. In her new novel A Promise of Fire, Amanda Bouchet harnesses the power of myth for her own narrative ends, and tells a compelling love story and adventure tale all rolled into one. Here, Bouchet tells Bookish readers why she finds mythology so inspiring and shares what readers can expect from the next installments in The Kingmaker Chronicles.

My debut novel, A Promise of Fire, takes place in the world of Thalyria. It’s a place where magic lives and breathes. It’s in the air, the water, the ice, the dust. But only certain people, known as Magoi, have access to the magic inhabiting the world. The majority of the population, called Hoi Polloi, doesn’t. This makes for a rigid and unjust class system, a ruling elite, an oppressed majority—and an inevitable conflict. Thalyria is definitely its own place with its own characteristics and distinct personality, but readers will also recognize it is a world that shares many similarities with the world of Greek mythology.

Greek mythology is filled with all sorts of weird, wonderful, and terrible stories. I combined the mythology with my own imagination, filling the book with references to ancient myths, places like the Underworld or Atlantis, different gods of the Greek pantheon, and other mythological figures and monsters. It was a great learning (and sometimes re-learning) experience to take something from the fringes of my memory that I wanted to include in the novel and then dive into research to make sure I had the story right.

I looked up Greek gods, myths, places, and especially did a lot of reading on different mythological creatures and their strange and dangerous traits. Cerberus, the three-headed guardian hound of the underworld, makes a few key appearances, which are some of my favorite moments of the book. A type of magic that the heroine, Cat, and her companions come up against is Chimera’s Fire, an invention of my own but based on the fire-breathing mythological creature with the head of a lion, the body of a goat, and the tail of a snake. And not to give too much away… but there might be a dragon, too! Not only was combing these elements fun, it helped to enrich the worldbuilding.

Finally, what could be more evocative of Greek mythology than a long journey filled with danger, monsters, and heroic exploits? In this, I didn’t so much reimagine the Greek mythos as put my own fictional characters into a situation like that of Odysseus or of Jason and the Argonauts. While the quest isn’t to return home after a long war or to obtain the golden fleece, over the course of The Kingmaker Chronicles a definite goal is defined, a band of warrior brothers—and one feisty woman!—are forced to go through trials and face terrible dangers to further their cause, and ultimately (we hope!) triumph.

Since A Promise of Fire is anchored into the familiar Greek mythos, I’ve been asked why I didn’t invent it all—my own gods, legends, complete history, etc. In truth, I liked the idea of having recognizable references in an otherwise new setting. It helped streamline the worldbuilding, keep the novel character-driven, and leave more time for the adventure and romance! After all, A Promise of Fire is above all a romance, with two people finding, defining, and reinventing each other with every breath. With Griffin’s unwavering support, a truly epic journey is in store for Cat. Sometimes the longest and most difficult road can be the perilous path toward love, trust, and eventually understanding oneself—and that is a journey best undertaken with help.

Award-winning author Amanda Bouchet grew up in New England and studied French at the undergraduate and graduate levels. She moved to Paris, France, in 2001. Her first novel, A Promise of Fire, won several Romance Writers of America chapter contests, including the Orange Rose Contest and the paranormal category of the prestigious Golden Pen.


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