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The Maze Maker

A Novel

“I address you across more than three thousand years, you who live at the conjunction of the Fish and the Water-carrier,” speaks Daedalus, an artisan, inventor, and designer born into an utterly alien family of heroes who value acts of war above all else, a world where his fellow Greeks seem driven only to destroy—an existence he feels compelled to escape.

In this fictional autobiography of the father of Icarus, “Apollo’s creature,” a brilliant but flawed man, writer and sculptor Michael Ayrton harnesses the tales of the past to mold a myth for our times. We learn of Daedalus’s increasingly ambitious artifacts and inventions; his fascination with Minoan culture, commerce, and religion, and his efforts to adapt to them; how he comes to design the maze of the horned Minotaur; and how, when he decides that he must flee yet again, he builds two sets of wax wings—wings that will be instruments of his descent into the underworld, a place of both purgatory and rebirth.

A compelling mix of history, fable, lore, and meditations on the enigma of art, The Maze Maker will ensnare classicists, artists, and all lovers of story in its convolutions of life and legend. “I never understood the pattern of my life,” writes Daedalus, “so that I have blundered through it in a maze.”

328 pages | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 1967



“One of my guilty pleasures is wandering through the 'literature' section of bookstores, opening and closing books, in search of fantasy and science fiction. There’s more of it to be found than you’d expect. . . . The Maze Maker sets out to be one of those novels where a mythic figure—here, Daedalus, creator of both the labyrinth and the wings that doomed his son Icarus—is rationalized as a historic figure, and it does include a great deal of fascinating Bronze Age smithery. But while the plot satisfies our expectations, its inherent weirdness keeps bursting out. . . . Ayrton was a sculptor who once created a golden honeycomb for the estate of Sir Edmund Hillary, the first to reach the summit of Everest. Bees filled the sculpture with honey and larvae. The Maze Maker is the novel such a man would write.”

Michael Swanwick |

“Proof of the power of classical myths to rekindle the interest and the imagination.”

New York Times

“A book of rich texture and memorable qualities. It belongs with the work of such other fine modern interpreters of myth as Mary Renault and Robert Graves. It is also an artist’s book. . . . The mystery of making, of creation, is at its heart.”

Wall Street Journal

“[A] superb mythic novel.”

Peter Green | New York Review of Books

“In the primitive classification system through which children are introduced to libraries, Ayrton’s The Maze Maker has to be catalogued under Fiction. It tells a story, rich with incident and description and dialogue; it portrays characters who can be described and judged; it is poetic and exciting, imaginative and sometimes didactic. English critics have already praised it highly as a novel, rightly so. A historical novel. Yet it is patently not a historical novel like those, say, of Mary Renault, with which one might be tempted to draw comparisons. It is even less the work of a fabulist. In a strict sense The Maze Maker is a long myth, the original creation of a myth-maker who employs the raw material of old myths to fashion a new one, as Daedalus fashioned his great works out of already available raw materials. . . . The Maze Maker can . . . be read straight, as a beautifully evocative, much extended, re-telling of some of the finest of the old Greek myths. But what a pity that would be. The mythical past still has an important role, and this new myth is as ‘true’ in our time as the old versions were in theirs.”

M. I. Finley | New York Review of Books

“Extraordinary, both profoundly and poignantly ruminative. The Maze Maker is a parable about the nobility available to man during his few ‘insect minutes’ in the amazing macrocosm. . . . It makes a great deal of contemporary British fiction look banal and trivial.”

Washington Post Book World

“Ayrton’s style is gravely lyrical, with touches of Durrell-like elegance. A finely-drawn, fetching tale.”


“This original novel should blaze a brilliant place for itself. . . . Ayrton, sculptor turned novelist, makes the world of mythology a superbly real place with a relevance to our technological society that is inescapable in this beautiful, cruel, and fascinating re-creation of the Daedalus-Icarus myth.”

Publishers Weekly

“Ayrton’s sustained achievement is remarkable. There is not telltale ridge to show where the molten grandeur and terror of this archaic has blended with the modern idiom. . . . It is poetry in a unique manifestation.”

Christian Science Monitor

“What an achievement to have fused this powerful, profound, and poetic myth-making with so luminous an interpretation of the artist-craftsman. Each contained in the other and both in the whole. And added to all this, passage after passage of superb descriptive writing, with the head and glow of molten bronze poured from the crucible. . . . Such a brilliant and original book. . . . It’s the sort of book that draws one on by the double lure of wanting to know what next, and the eager anticipation of some new tour de force by the demiourgos. The sustained power is quite wonderful. I hope it has the great success it deserves.”

Mary Renault

“Here, at last, mythology is acknowledged and accepted in all its beauty, brutality, unreason, and terror. Ayrton has written a unique book.”

William Golding

“A magnificent evocation of a classic past by an artist who understands the poetry which created it.”

Morris West

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