God of Fire
(A retelling of the Greek myths)
Thrown off Mount Olympus by his mother and raised beneath the sea, this is the epic story of Hephaestus, the disabled god of fire.
In the palace of Zeus, a son is born to the greatest goddess, Hera. Withered and ugly, the newborn Hephaestus is hurled from the heavens by his repulsed mother. The unforgiving sea offers no soft landing, and the broken godlet sinks to the depths, where his little flame falters. But as darkness looms, he is saved by the sea witch, Thetis, who raises the outcast as her own.
The only Olympian whose injuries never heal, the god of fire endures eternal pain from his wounded leg, making him perhaps the most human member of the pantheon. As if his physical pain were not enough, Zeus punishes Hephaestus further by sentencing him to life with Aphrodite. Unhappily married to the adulterous goddess of love, he is fated to repeat his childhood pattern of rejection, stoically shouldering emotional agony as part of his everlasting burden.
With his foster-mother’s help, Hephaestus lays claim to his legacy and finds his saving grace: the ability to harness fire and create magical metal artefacts. Of course, the other gods waste no time taking advantage of his inventions. A silver mouse for Apollo. A girdle for Aphrodite. Armour for Athena. A bow and arrow for Eros. Winged sandals for Hermes. A throne for Hera. A golden mastiff for Zeus.
But the god of fire is nobody’s fool. The magic of Hephaestus has a shadow side, as gods and mortals learn to their cost when Zeus orders him to create Pandora and her infamous receptacle…
Review by the Historical Novel Society
This is a clear-eyed, unsentimental telling of the life of Hephaestus, the god of fire, who was born on Mount Olympus to Hera, the queen of the gods. Disgusted by him from his birth, Hera cast him out from Olympus. Injured in the fall, he was adopted by the sea witch Thetis and the earth’s creatrix, Eurynome. Called Heph, he yearns to be loved by his real mother and to discover the identity of his father.
Steadman skillfully weaves together the old Greek myths of Prometheus, Medusa, Hercules, Io, Pandora, and others, relating the tales through Hephaestus’ eyes and thus giving the reader a fresh perspective on the old stories. Heph is a sympathetic and appealing character, considered ungainly and ugly by the other Olympians for his lameness and unattractive features, but tolerated for his formidable talents as a smith. He’s usually caught up in his divine family’s schemes and plots through no fault of his own and often finds himself torn by their constant squabbling and infighting. Even his jokingly arranged marriage to Aphrodite, the most beautiful of the goddesses, proves no picnic, as she is vain, self-absorbed, and oftentimes downright nasty.
The author, with her storytelling skill, wit, and attention to detail, brings the myriad characters of Greek mythology vividly to life. She provides alternative and imaginative takes on several of the myths, including the creation of man (and woman), how Persephone became queen of Hades, and how a golden apple started a war, first between the Olympians and then between Greece and Troy. At the same time, Steadman keeps the novel’s focus on Heph, determined to discover his true history and find his place among the pantheon of the gods.
Michael I. Shoop