Battles and Quests (Kingfisher Legends Series)

Battles and Quests (Kingfisher Legends Series)

by Anthony Horowitz

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King Arthur would have been just another king if he was content to just sit at home. And Rome would never have been founded if Remus had won the famous battle instead of his brother. From the epic defeat of the Minotaur to the fierce legends of the Inca, battles and quests are the lifeblood of mythology, and Legends: Battles and Quests by Anthony Horowitz


King Arthur would have been just another king if he was content to just sit at home. And Rome would never have been founded if Remus had won the famous battle instead of his brother. From the epic defeat of the Minotaur to the fierce legends of the Inca, battles and quests are the lifeblood of mythology, and Legends: Battles and Quests by Anthony Horowitz thrusts readers right into the heart of some of the best (and bloodiest) adventure stories from around the world.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Under Horowitz's hand, the tales from around the world have a casual tone, accessible language, dry humor, and just enough gore to keep reluctant readers going. Black-and-white illustrations add some excitement and visual interest.” —Horn Book

“Both children and adults will enjoy these fast-paced stories, and the tales of swords, battles, and clever escapes will keep even the most book-phobic kid interested through the end. It's one of those books with the kind of passion that reminds us of why we loved reading in the first place. . . . This book is well-paired with its twin release Legends: Beasts and Monsters” —San Francisco Book Review

Kirkus Reviews
Mining his backlist, Horowitz offers six traditional tales from the Kingfisher Book of Myths and Legends (U.K. edition 1985, no previous U.S. edition), revised and repackaged in the first of a projected halfdozen volumes. Going straight for the gusto, he opens with the story of Theseus and the Minotaur ("I want to be more than your friend," purrs Ariadne, arming the hero for his battle with the horned monster), then follows with the suicide dive required to cast "The Great Bell of Peking" [sic], the bloodsoaked legend of Romulus and Remus, an Amazonian tale so violent that the author opens with an apology, an Incan story that ends with a child sacrifice and finally, in a break from the gore, the tale of Sir Gawain and "The Ugly Wife." Comicsstyle spot art, panels and insets featuring fearsome creatures and muscular heroes in (often scanty) period costume add further notes of melodrama to nearly every spread. The simultaneously published Legends: Beasts and Monsters (9780753419366) dishes up an even less palatable buffet. (Folktales. 1013)

Product Details

Publication date:
Kingfisher Legends Series
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

The Minotaur

There was a time when Athens was not the

major city that it is today, but a small town

perched on the edge of a cliff some three

miles from the sea. King Aegeus was on

the throne and he was a good ruler. There

were no wars, there was plenty of food

to go round and no plagues or monsters

inhabited the land.

And yet, once every seven years, something

strange would happen. There would be

no alarm, no signal, but suddenly the streets

would empty. Men and women would hurry

home, avoiding each other’s eyes, gathering

up their children and taking them indoors. It

would seem as if Athens had been deserted.

And inside their homes, families would sit

together, hiding in the shadows, and nobody

would speak.

A stranger, walking through the town,

might think that some terrible catastrophe

had just occurred. And yet there would be

no sign of any damage, like that caused by

an earthquake or a fire. The streets would

be clean and orderly, even if all the shops

were closed for business. Trees carrying the

first spring blossoms would surround him if

he strolled into the parks.

A mystery.

Standing there, the stranger might feel a

cold wind whisper through the streets and,

if he listened carefully, he might just be able

to hear what it was saying.

‘Minos is coming. Minos will soon be

here . . . ’

And hearing that, he would understand.

He would turn and hurry out of this accursed

place, leaving the wretched people

to their fate. Throughout Ancient Greece

everyone knew what had happened to the

son of King Minos and the cruel revenge

that he had demanded. They also knew the

terrible secret that lay hidden deep underneath

his palace.

But even the breeze was too afraid to

speak that name. It would rush through the

streets saying nothing more, twisting round

the corners as if it too was in a hurry to get


The Birth of the Minotaur

Minos was the king of Crete, the Island of

the Hundred Cities. He was one of the most

powerful sovereigns in the world and his

island was one of the most magnificent. Its

harbour was huge, built to hold a hundred

ships and surrounded by towering walls

and guarded by turrets that were manned

twenty-four hours a day. The capital –

Knossos – was a mass of colour and life. The

Cretan people, all too aware of their status,

loved to wear expensive clothes and to eat

the most luxurious food, brought to them

from the furthest corners of the civilized

world. The market stalls, jammed together

in the narrow streets, were always piled

high with the finest goods, including silks

and satins, exotic spices, ivory and jewels,

rare parrots, performing monkeys and

much, much more. While the sun shone,

the buying and selling never stopped and

even at night, once the torches had been lit,

dancers and fire-eaters, snake charmers and

magicians would come out to entertain the


And yet there was a darker side to Crete.

And even Minos, for all his wealth and

success, could not escape from its shadow.

The Minotaur. It was like a cancer beneath

the skin, the unpleasant truth that spoils

everything that is exposed to it. Minos

would have gladly emptied the markets

and thrown all the riches into the sea if he

could have got rid of it. And the worst of it

was – it was all his fault. If it hadn’t been for

his own greed and stupidity, the Minotaur

would never have existed. He had made one

mistake. He had been paying for it ever


This is how it had happened.

Every year, for many years, Minos had

sacrificed the best bull from his herd to

Poseidon. Crete depended on its sea power

and Poseidon was, of course, the god of the

sea. One year, however, acting in a moment

of madness, Minos had decided to hold

back his best animal . . . a huge white bull,

the like of which he had never seen before.

From such a beast he could breed a whole

herd of prize cattle. It would be a complete

waste to slaughter it and then burn its remains

on an altar. Surely Poseidon wouldn’t

notice if he sacrificed another, slightly less

magnificent bull in its place.

That was what Minos thought, but of course

Poseidon did notice and his anger was as

terrible as his revenge was strange and cruel.

He left Minos untouched, but turned his

powers on the king’s wife, the young and

innocent Queen Pasiphaë, making her fall in

love with the white bull. Not knowing what

she was doing, the queen stole away one

stormy night to the stables and it was from

this unnatural union that the Minotaur was


Minotaur means, simply, Minos bull.

King Minos and his wife looked after the

ugly creature for as long as they could, trying

to keep it away from prying eyes. But

the moment it was strong enough to walk,

the Minotaur broke free and left the palace.

In the days that followed, it went berserk,

destroying much of Crete and killing many

of its inhabitants. It was as if a psychopathic

murderer had arrived on the island. It didn’t

kill for any other reason than because it

had to.

Minos was filled with shame and horror.

In desperation, he turned to the Oracle

to find out what to do. He couldn’t kill the

creature. It was, after all, his wife’s child.

But how could he deal with it? How could

he avoid the terrible scandal that now

surrounded him?

As usual, the Oracle had all the answers.

She told the king to build a labyrinth at

Knossos in which to conceal both the

Minotaur and his own unfortunate wife.

The maze would be so complicated, with so

many twists and turns, so many false starts

and dead ends, that no man, once trapped

inside it, would find his way out. The

two of them could remain there, safe and

secure. Minos would never see either of

them again.

Minos did what the Oracle had suggested.

He commissioned his court

architect, a man called Daedalus, to do the

work – and the maze was so fantastic that

several of the slaves who built it disappeared

without trace. And that might have

been the end of it. Minos might have continued

his rule, alone and lonely, but a little

wiser about how to deal with the gods.

However, a few months later, another

event took place that was once more going

to change his life. Minos had a son whom

he loved, a boy called Androgeus. Shortly

after the Minotaur had been incarcerated,

Androgeus set sail for the town of Athens to

take part in the Pan-Athenian games, which

were held there every five years. He was a

strong, skilful athlete and he did well, winning

several of the events outright. Soon

he found himself being cheered on as the

favourite of the crowd, much to the resentment

of the royal court and in particular the

nephews of King Aegeus.

These nephews were an unpleasant bunch

who spent their time fighting in the streets

and lounging around the palace. Now, jealous

of the success of Androgeus, they lay

in ambush one evening after the games had

ended and fell on him as he walked home

to his lodgings. Androgeus fought bravely

but he was heavily outnumbered. The gang

killed him and left his body in the road.

When Minos heard of this he was beside

himself with grief and rage. At once he

ordered his fleet to set sail, and the next

day, when King Aegeus awoke, he found the

town surrounded. Fighting was impossible.

The Cretan army completely encircled the

town; and the fleet itself, anchored in the

shallows just off the coast, was larger than

the whole of Athens. Aegeus had no choice.

Kneeling before Minos, he surrendered himself

and his town to the Cretan king’s mercy.

‘I come in search of my son’s assassins,’

Minos said. ‘Yield them to me and I will leave

you unharmed.’

‘I can’t do that,’ King Aegeus replied. ‘I’m

sorry, great king. It was a miserable deed

and I would gladly give you the killers

if I knew who they were. But I don’t! The

cowards remain hidden. And so we must all

suffer for their crime.’

‘And suffer you will,’ Minos said. He

thought for a moment, then came to a

terrible decision. ‘This is my decree,’ he continued.

‘I have lost a son. The sons and the

daughters of Athens will have to pay the

price. At the end of every Great Year, which

is to say, every seven years, you will send

me your seven bravest young men and your

seven most beautiful maidens. Do not ask

what will happen to them! All that matters is

that you will never see them again.

‘This will be your tribute to me for the

death of my eldest child. Fail, and Athens

will burn.’

There was nothing King Aegeus could do.

Every seven years, the fourteen Athenians

were chosen by lottery and taken away by

ship to Crete and an unknown death. And in

Crete, while the colourful throng jostled in

the streets, the Minotaur stalked its victims

through the subterranean maze and killed

them to satisfy its lust for blood.

Meet the Author

Anthony Horowitz is a prolific writer for film, theatre and television, but he is best loved for his brilliant children's stories, which include the internationally best-selling series about teenage MI6 agent Alex Rider. He lives in London and has two teenage sons.

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