Beautiful writing but lacking some pace and drama. 3.5/5.
Thank you to Headline/Wildfire for providing me with an e-copy of this book via NetGalley.
As Princesses of Crete and daughters of the fearsome King Minos, Ariadne and her sister Phaedra grow up hearing the hoofbeats and bellows of the Minotaur echo from the Labyrinth beneath the palace. The Minotaur – Minos’s greatest shame and Ariadne’s brother – demands blood every year.
When Theseus, Prince of Athens, arrives in Crete as a sacrifice to the beast, Ariadne falls in love with him. But helping Theseus kill the monster means betraying her family and country, and Ariadne knows only too well that in a world ruled by mercurial gods – drawing their attention can cost you everything.
In a world where women are nothing more than the pawns of powerful men, will Ariadne’s decision to betray Crete for Theseus ensure her happy ending? Or will she find herself sacrificed for her lover’s ambition?
I’ve enjoyed many books in the current trend of telling mythological tales from often side-lined female characters’ perspectives. The high-water mark in this genre (or sub genre?) for me continues to be Circe by Madeline Miller.
In the case of Ariadne, I was particularly intrigued by the author’s choice of narrators because Theseus, like many of the male Greek heroes, didn’t treat the women he encountered all that well (intention understatement) and I thought it would be interesting to get the women’s point of view. And overall, I think the author’s creative depiction of Ariadne and Phaedra’s experiences is perceptive and the dual narration adds to the story and provides some interesting contrasts. The writing is beautiful and the descriptions are particularly evocative.
However, these myths have endured for a reason (and in several versions): they are gripping and dramatic. So why did I find this version of the stories a bit dull? The best-known myth – that of Theseus and the Minotaur – is covered and completed by the 30% mark and I think the story loses some of its momentum from then on, especially as that is when the narration starts to be split between Ariadne and Phaedra.
I also found there was a great deal of “telling” happening to the detriment of “showing”. Many characters tell stories within the story, and so we only get second hand accounts of events rather than getting to “see” them unfold directly. Moreover there isn’t a lot of dialogue in this book – something which usually helps to move the story along. And I thought that all the mediations of “women suffer all the time at the hands of gods and men” grew repetitive and were unnecessary. After all, the events of the narrative show us that this is the case, so why do we need to be repeatedly told this as well?
Finally, I thought the last part of the book was rushed compared to the rest of the story, especially the last couple of chapters. This was a shame because they promised to be a return to the drama of the first third of the book, but sadly the action was cut rather short.
Overall: a well-written retelling with some beautiful descriptions, but I found the story lacking in pace and drama.