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The Best Books for ‘Percy Jackson’ Fans (That Aren’t YA)

Books Like Percy Jackson for Adults

Despite some people’s insistence that reading children’s books as an adult makes you immature or weird, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. You can and should read whatever you want, whenever you want. So if you’re just getting into Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians series or its numerous spinoffs now that the Disney+ series adaptation is just around the corner, that’s great! Riordan has crafted an expansive and amazing universe to explore.

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But if you find yourself wanting to read books that explore more mature themes and concepts, we get that, too. That’s why we’ve compiled the following list of adult fiction books that are like Percy Jackson, but written for grown-ups.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

American Gods by Neil Gaiman
(William Morrow)

Neil Gaiman’s American Gods follows ex-convict Shadow, whose world collapsed in on itself while he was in prison. His wife has been murdered and there’s a war brewing between the gods which is affecting mortals’ everyday life in wild and unexpected ways. When a stranger offers him a job, Shadow accepts because he has nothing to lose. Or does he?

American Gods is one of Gaiman’s most celebrated titles. It was adapted into a Starz series, which was unfortunately canceled after three turbulent seasons, and it’s also been adapted for comics by Dark Horse Books. It’s an adventurous tale steeped in mythology, which makes it perfect for Percy Jackson fans.

Ariadne by Jennifer Saint

Ariadne by Jennifer Saint
(Flatiron Books)

If you’re looking for a specifically Greek mythology-focused adult fiction book, Jennifer Saint has you covered. Ariadne explores the life of the Princess of Crete and her brother, the Minotaur. When she helps Theseus, Prince of Athens, kill her monstrous sibling, it doesn’t free her in quite the way she hoped.

There are many adaptations of the Minotaur’s story, including one of the Percy Jackson books and the 1986 Jim Henson movie, Labyrinth. Ariadne’s name may ring bells even for non-mythology fans, but Saint’s novel truly puts her and her younger sister Phaedra at the heart of the story in a new and refreshing way.

Babel, Or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators’ Revolution by R.F. Kuang

Babel by R.F. Kuang
(Harper Voyager)

In R.F. Kuang’s Babel, Professor Lovell brings the orphan Robin Swift from Canton to London in 1828 to study Latin, Chinese, and Ancient Greek to prepare for enrolling at Oxford University’s Royal Institute of Translation. Also known as Babel, this prestigious institute is not just the global center for translation, but also for magic. Through the art of manifesting meaning with enchanted silver bars, Britain has amassed unparalleled power through colonization. Meanwhile, the Hermes Society is trying to stop imperial expansion in its tracks.

When Britain goes to war with China over silver and opium, Robin will have to choose between serving his home country or betraying it for the imperial power in which he’s been raised. There are no gods here, only humans—but they manage to do plenty of damage even without celestial power.

Between Earth and Sky Trilogy by Rebecca Roanhorse

Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse
(Saga Press)

Black Sun, the first book in Rebecca Roanhorse’s Between Earth and Sky Trilogy, begins with a prophecy: “A god will return / When the earth and sky converge / Under the black sun.” Winter solstice in the holy city of Tova is usually a celebration—but this year, it will overlap with a solar eclipse, which the Sun Priest says will knock the world off-balance. Adding even more pressure, a ship from a distant city is set to arrive the same day bearing its captain, the disgraced Teek Xiala, whose song can calm water or warp a man’s mind, and a passenger named Serapio who is supposedly harmless.

Pulling from various Native American mythos, as well as stories from pre-Columbian civilizations including the Aztecs and Mayans, Black Sun begins an epic about power, individual struggle, and what it means to exist in ways society doesn’t like. We think it’s one of the best fantasy books by a BIPOC author.

Black Water Sister by Zen Cho

Black Water Sister by Zen Cho cover art
(Ace Books)

Zen Cho’s Black Water Sister follows Jessamyn Teoh, whose connection to her Malaysian ancestry feels non-existent to her until she moves there with her parents and sees the country for the first time since she was a toddler. She soon discovers the voice she’s been hearing—something she chalked up to stress—actually belongs to her estranged grandmother, Ah Ma, a spirit medium and the avatar of the deity Black Water Sister. Ah Ma possesses Jessamyn to get revenge on a business magnate who’s offended Black Water Sister, and Jessamyn has no say in whether she helps.

This world of ghosts, family secrets, and deities lands Jess in dangerous situations with serious consequences. To maintain her privacy and her safety, she has to regain control of her body while she helps Ah Ma.

Circe by Madeline Miller

Circe by Madeline Miller
(Little, Brown and Company)

Circe is a witch who possesses the power to turn her enemies into monsters and even menace the gods. Zeus is threatened by Circe and exiles her to a deserted island where she can hone her craft and tame beasts, only growing more powerful. Although she’s supposed to be alone forever, she eventually meets the Minotaur, Daedalus and his son Icarus, Medea, and Odysseus.

However, her fate dictates that she ultimately must protect herself, and when she’s pitted against one of the most vengeful Olympians, she must choose between joining the gods—to whom she belongs, as daughter of the Titan Helios—and the mortals she’s come to love. She may be a witch, but Circe is as complex as anyone else, which Madeline Miller explores in this stunning, standalone novel.

The Dark Star Trilogy by Marlon James

Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James
(Riverhead Books)

Marlon James’s The Dark Star Trilogy is a sprawling fantasy epic based in African mythology, and it begins with Black Leopard, Red Wolf. Here, we meet the hunter named Tracker, who’s hired to track down a boy who disappeared three years ago. He always works alone, but in this case, he somehow becomes part of an entire search party full of bizarre characters, including a shapeshifter known as the Leopard.

The farther they travel, the more they encounter creatures who want to rip them apart. This missing boy is apparently special, but Tracker doesn’t know why or how, and he must figure it out if he wants to survive. Gods and monsters are afoot, and as Tracker has learned time and time again, survival means every man for himself.

Elektra by Jennifer Saint

Elektra by Jennifer Saint
(Flatiron Books)

Elektra is the youngest daughter of Queen Clytemnestra and King Agamemnon, and when her father betrays her mother on the eve of the Trojan War, Clytemnestra must deal with the family curse she’s long chosen to ignore. Elektra wants to bring her father home from the war, which is only getting bloodier as the Trojan Princess Cassandra foresees a terrible, unstoppable tragedy that will occur when Agamemnon arrives in Troy with his army.

Elektra is one of the most infamous heroines of Greek mythology, and in Jennifer Saint’s novel, we get a new and more fleshed-out take on her story. The book also focuses on Elektra’s mother, Clytemnestra, and the prophetic Princess Cassandra. These three women are linked by one terrible curse, and they each must handle it in their own way, as Saint explores in these pages.

Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips

Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips
(Back Bay Books)

In Marie Phillips’s fluffy comedy Gods Behaving Badly, the 12 gods of Olympus have moved into a London townhouse, where they’ve basically been living in their own squalor for way too long. They have day jobs that are semi-approximations of their godly domains, and their powers are waning to the point that even small pranks sap their strength. When Aphrodite and Apollo get into a fight, it quickly becomes a war, and two humans named Alice and Neil get caught up in the drama and have to save not only themselves, but all of humankind.

Godkiller (Fallen Gods #1) by Hannah Kaner

Godkiller by Hannah Kaner cover art
(Harper Voyager)

Hannah Kaner’s Godkiller kicks off the Fallen Gods trilogy with a bang. Godkiller-for-hire Kissen saw her family murdered by a fire god when she was a child, and now she sustains herself by and takes joy in knocking out one god after another per the King of Middren’s orders. However, when Kissen encounters a young noble girl whose soul is bonded to a small god of white lies, she can’t bring herself to kill the god because it will end the girl’s life as well.

Together with a jaded knight on a mysterious quest, they travel to the ruins of Blenraden to beg a favor of the last remaining wild gods. Along the way, Kissen and her companions are dogged by demons, assassins, and the looming threat of civil war.

Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
(Del Rey Books)

Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican folklore-inspired fairytale, Gods of Jade and Shadow, follows Casiopea Tun, whose time is spent cleaning her wealthy grandfather’s home and daydreaming of a life away from her small town. When she opens a curious wooden box in her grandfather’s room, she accidentally frees the spirit of the Mayan god of death, who presents a quest: He wants Casiopea to help him reclaim his throne from his backstabbing brother. If she fails, she dies. If she succeeds, she can live the life she fantasizes about.

To complete her mission, Casiopea must travel across the country and into the Mayan underworld. Along the way, she learns the limits of her own strength and the possibilities afforded by her wit, even as her godly companion complicates things beyond her wildest imagination.

The Inheritance Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin

The Inheritance Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin

N.K. Jemisin’s The Inheritance Trilogy follows the outcast Yeine Darr, who discovers after her mother’s death that she’s an heiress to the king. When Yeine is summoned to the floating city, simply called Sky, she learns the truth about her paternity and has to fight for the throne of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, a highly sought-after seat of power.

As an outcast of the barbarian north, Yeine knows what it is to struggle—but nothing could have prepared her for the fight of her life.

A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark

A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark

In A Master of Djinn, P. Djèlí Clark’s debut novel set in a fantasy alternate Cairo, Egypt in 1912, Fatma el-Sha’arawi has saved the universe and is now the youngest women working for the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities. When someone murders a secret brotherhood dedicated to al-Jahiz, who vanished after opening the veil between the magical and non-magical worlds 40 years ago, Fatma is called to help solve the case.

The murderer claims to be al-Jahiz himself, back to condemn the social oppressions of the modern age, though Fatma knows he’s an imposter. Still, he’s magical and dangerous, and his arrival just so happens to coincide with massive unrest in Cairo’s streets, which may become a global incident any day. To restore peace and stop the murderer, Fatma must figure out who he really is and prevent him from wreaking further havoc.

Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher

Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher
(Tor Books)

T. Kingfisher’s Nettle & Bone is a fairytale … of sorts. But Marra isn’t a princess, and she’d rather kill the prince than marry him. After years of watching her older sister suffer in silence at the hands of her abusive, princely husband, Marra decides to free her sister from her marriage. To do so, she’ll have to build a dog of bones, sew a cloak of nettles, and capture moonlight in a jar in order to get the tools she needs.

Eventually joined by a gravewitch and her familiar, a disgraced ex-knight, and a fairy godmother, Marra attempts to complete these impossible tasks, rescue her sister, and destroy the throne. Whether or not she succeeds will determine not only her fate and her sister’s, but the entire kingdom’s.

Ninth House (Alex Stern #1) by Leigh Bardugo

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo cover art
(Flatiron Books)

Leigh Bardugo’s Ninth House introduces Galaxy “Alex” Stern, a high school dropout who somehow survived an awful, unsolved multiple homicide. Now, Alex is a freshman at Yale University with a full scholarship and a clean record thanks to her peculiar ability to see and talk to the dead. This makes her an asset to Lithe House, a secret society that monitors the arcane and occult activities of the so-called Ancient Eight secret societies. Based on Bardugo’s own experiences at Yale and in a secret society, the story sees Alex struggle to live up to her mentor’s expectations and be civil with the local police chief as several mysterious deaths near campus send her into a tailspin.

The Ancient Eight societies consist mostly of frat guys and rich kids, and Alex is ready to hold their feet to the fire and find out who’s breaking the rules and why no one is saying anything. This series is dark and spooky, reminiscent of Bardugo’s Grishaverse but far headier, heavier, and more explicit. Its sequel, Hell Bent, is also available.

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke cover art
(Bloomsbury Publishing)

Piranesi lives in an infinite labyrinth of rooms, corridors, and staircases in which each wing presents something new: tall, glorious, marble statues, a recurring flood, a handful of skeletons with useful supplies. Susanna Clarke’s award-winning novel Piranesi explores this bizarre space through the titular character’s point of view, which is limited by the walls of the building itself. Piranesi is visited twice a week by a man he calls The Other, who desires help researching A Great and Secret Knowledge. But there’s also someone else, whose presence and identity may bring Piranesi’s home and understanding crashing down around him.

Twisted, fantastical, and bizarre, this book is both a fantasy gem and a thrilling mystery rolled into one.

Remembrance of Earth’s Past Trilogy by Liu Cixin

The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu
(Tor Books)

Chinese sci-fi author Liu Cixin’s Remembrance of Earth’s Past Trilogy, beginning with The Three-Body Problem, has been translated for English readers by fellow speculative fiction writer Ken Liu. Although this series leans harder into sci-fi than fantasy, it’s as gripping and immersive as anything.

Set during China’s Cultural Revolution, the story explores what happens after a top-secret military project finally establishes contact with aliens. Unfortunately, the alien civilization in question is about to collapse. After capturing Earth’s signal, it plans to launch a full-scale invasion. On Earth, people have begun to form different camps to fight either for or against the invasion, which launches one of the greatest sci-fi epics in recent memory.

Shigidi and the Brass Head of Obalufon by Wole Talabi

Shigidi and the Brass Head of Obalufon by Wole Talabi cover art
(Daw Books)

Wole Talabi’s Shigidi and the Brass Head of Obalufon follows the eponymous Shigidi, a minor god of nightmares who once worked for the capitalist Orisha Spirit Company (think Amazon, but with gods) and now freelances with his succubus lover, Nneoma. The pair have a lot of history, and their attempts to free themselves from Shigidi’s obligations result in a wild heist that takes them all over the world.

If you’re looking for romance, thrills, godly nonsense, and a fantastic heist, look no further than this gorgeously written novel.

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

BookTok loves Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achilles, and for good reason. This novel reimagines Homer’s The Iliad and the legend of Achilles and the Trojan War. Miller focuses on the moments before, during, and after the war to follow Achilles’s relationship with his companion and lover, Patroclus. Even in death, Patroclus awaits Achilles, as these two are soulmates who can never be parted for long.

If you’re looking for a romance based on Greek mythology, you can’t pass this up. Just make sure you have tissues nearby.

(featured image: Flatiron Books; William Morrow; Saga Press; Little, Brown and Company; Tor Books; Riverhead Books / The Mary Sue)

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Samantha Puc
Samantha Puc (she/they) is a fat, disabled, lesbian writer and editor who has been working in digital and print media since 2010. Their work focuses primarily on LGBTQ+ and fat representation in pop culture and their writing has been featured on Refinery29, Bitch Media, them., and elsewhere. Samantha is the co-creator of Fatventure Mag and she contributed to the award-winning Fat and Queer: An Anthology of Queer and Trans Bodies and Lives. They are an original cast member of Death2Divinity, and they are currently pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative nonfiction at The New School. When Samantha is not working or writing, she loves spending time with her cats, reading, and perfecting her grilled cheese recipe.

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