The Double Axe by Philip Womack

The Lovereading4Kids comment

Greek myths offer a rich source of story and inspire readers – and writers – as much today as ever. Philip Womack has written a thrilling version of the Minotaur story. Set in a Knossos so real you can almost smell the cypress trees, its heroes are the young prince Deucalion Stephanos and his sister Ariadne. The Minoan court is shown to be a place of intrigue and Stephan, the young heir, is in very real danger. As for the creature in the labyrinth, is it real or – just as terrifying – the invented creation of the schemers, built out of fear, rumour and suspicion? Womack writes in fluid prose and readers will be immediately caught up in this clever reworking of one of the most powerful ancient stories.

Readers who enjoy The Double Axe will also enjoy Caroline Lawrence’s equally exciting classical set Roman Mysteries, and Rosemary Sutcliffe’s retellings of ancient stories. T H White’s The Once and Future King mixes magic, court life and the pressures of power in an equally absorbing way. ~ Andrea Reece


The Double Axe by Philip Womack

The Double Axe is the first instalment in Philip Womack's Blood and Fire series, which reimagines classical myths from the point of view of teenage protagonists. It's a thrilling tale of adventure, and an opportunity for young readers to engage with and learn more about classical mythology.

Dark forces are at work in the House of the Double Axe. Stephan, the thirteen-year-old son of King Minos of Crete, stumbles across a terrifying conspiracy. Is the Minotaur, a half man half bull who eats human flesh, real? Or is something even more dangerous threatening to engulf both the palace and the world? Stephan must race to save his family from a terrible fate and find out what really lurks inside the labyrinth...You think you know the story? Think again.

About the Author

Philip Womack

Philip Womack was born in Chichester in the middle of a thunderstorm in 1981.
He was educated at Lancing, and Oriel College, Oxford, where he read Classics and English. He lives in London.

He is currently a Contributing Editor at Literary Review and writes for The Daily Telegraph and The Guardian, among other papers; he is also a Fellow at First Story, currently being Writer in Residence at St Augustine's in Kilburn. He has led workshops on Greek Tragedy and How to Write Children's Fiction for the How To: Academy.

A Q&A with Philip Womack on The Broken King

How would you describe The Broken King to someone who hasn’t read it?
It’s a fast-moving, dark fantasy about searching for a lost sibling, featuring a knight that can turn into a swan, mysterious golden messengers, car chases, demi-gods and a giant snake made out of shadows. And lots of other things.

What’s your favourite scene in the book?
The second chapter, where the hero, Simon, meets a golden woman on a deer with irridescent, peacock-like wings, for the first time. I wanted to create a sense of warmth and mystery and excitement.

What was the most fun to write? What was the hardest chapter or scene to write?
It was all very enjoyable to write: the pain comes in the editing. The first chapter, in which Simon wishes his sister away, went through several edits; so much so that I began to think I might never finish it. So definitely that one.

What were your favourite books when you were young? Have any of them influenced The Broken King?
I loved T H White’s The Once and Future King, a cycle of Arthurian stories, and I think some of that has definitely found its way into The Broken King: the Knight of the Swan, for instance. In the second book we’ll see more of these knights, about which I am very excited.

Can you tell us about the poem that inspired the book? What other poems would you really recommend to young readers?
Robert Browning’s “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came” is a rather extraordinary piece of work: it takes its inspiration from a line in William Shakespeare’s King Lear, spoken by Edgar when he’s disguised as the madman Poor Tom. It’s a poem about a quest for the Dark Tower – only we don’t know why the knight is doing it, simply that many have tried and failed before (including Giles and Cuthbert – hence Giles Cuthbertson in The Broken King.) It’s a hugely atmospheric poem which manages to create tension out of stasis; and I have always been fascinated by the idea of the Dark Tower, as many writers before me have. It looms in the collective mind, frightening yet enthralling.

With Browning, I would recommend “My Last Duchess” to young readers, a poem about a very sinister Duke.

Do you have any tips for anyone who wants to be a writer? Read, observe, listen, practise. I think, especially today, what with the proliferation of writing courses and even degrees, that people view “writing” as something that can be not only taught, but learned and then used professionally. Some of these things may be true, but it’s more complicated than that.

If you have an urge to write, or find it easy to write, then now is no better time than to hone your skills: look at what people say and what they do; think about how people behave and why they behave in those ways. Stories can be found anywhere and everywhere: look around your classroom and there will be hundreds of stories. The writer’s job is to find them, tease them out and make them accessible and interesting to the reader. Remember that: writers have readers.

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Book Info


250 pages


Philip Womack
More books by Philip Womack


Alma Books Ltd

Publication date

26th February 2016




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