Relying chiefly on the works of early-20th-century scholars, Davis (Beowulf: The New Translation, 2013) gives an old-school treatment to one of the world's foremost works of literature.Believed to have originated in oral form more than 4,000 years ago, the ancient Middle Eastern tale of Gilgamesh has been subjected to all manner of translation: poetic, literary, literal, pastiche. Davis opts for the latter, combining the Sumerian and Akkadian versions and filling in the lacunae as befits his research. After a tidy introduction spotlighting the epic's key historic figures (Sir Henry Rawlinson, Sir Austen Henry Layard and the integral George Smith), the familiar tale begins. Gilgamesh, the fifth king of the first dynasty of Uruk, challenges and then befriends the beast-man Enkidu, fashioned by the gods to counterbalance Gilgamesh's decadent, ruthless comportment. Determined to be forever remembered, the godlike duo venture forth to challenge Humbaba, a fearsome giant who guards the Forest of Cedars. Their bloodlust doesn't stop there, and as punishment for their hubris, the gods decide that Gilgamesh must live while Enkidu dies. Gilgamesh's ensuing quest for immortality reads particularly well, resplendent with melancholy and desperation. "If you indeed be Gilgamesh, King of high-wall'd Uruk," asks Siduri, Maker of Wine, "wherefore is your vigor so wasted and your cheeks so sunken? Wherefore is your face so wretched and why is your spirt so sorrowful?" While the original epic is known for its repetitive parallelism, Davis' sometimes-rote translation challenges readers to work through certain redundant sections. Accompanying the text proper are two appendices; the first, Tablet XII, is treated as either an epilogue or "an appendage written by an inferior author and thus not worthy of inclusion." The second, an earlier poem, recounts the death of Gilgamesh. Two scholarly essays help illuminate the historical and literary context of the epic, but as this version purports to draw from modern discoveries, the lack of contemporary references feels like a missed opportunity.For Gilgamesh initiates, it's as good a place to start as any.