As Princesses of Crete and daughters of the fearsome King Minos, Ariadne and her sister Phaedra grow up hearing the terrible bellows of the Minotaur from the Labyrinth beneath the palace. The Minotaur – Minos’ 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 defeat the monster means betraying her family, and Ariadne knows that in a world ruled by mercurial gods, drawing their attention can cost you everything.
Ariadne has heard too many tales of women being punished for the acts of men – she is determined to set her own fate. But will her decision to help Theseus ensure her happy ending? Or will she find herself sacrificed for her lover’s ambition?
Thank you firstly to Caitlin Raynor for sending me a gorgeous, hardback, finished copy of Ariadne, a glorious book and not just in appearance.
This rich story is the retelling of Ariadne and her younger sister Phaedra, for those who know me or follow this blog you won’t be surprised to learn this story was not especially familiar to me, although Ithacus and Daedalus gave me nostaligic feels as I recalled the story from primary school and we all know something of the Minotaur I think.
Ariadne and Phaedra duped by the handsome but duplicitous Thesus, leave Crete seperately following the death of the Minotaur and embark on very different lives. Phaedra marries and becomes an Athenian Queen, while Ariadne, presumed dead, lives a quiet life on a remote island courting and subsequently marrying the the youthful and endearing Greek God, Dionysus.
Told in chapters about either Ariadne or Phaedra, as both wait for their husbands who traverse the world achieving notoriety for their feats. Two very different men, but men none the less, freer than their women, awarded higher status and destined to avoid the tragedies that struck their wives.
A feminist retelling, a mgnificient blend of history, myth and legend and a book I finished struck by the suffering and punishment of women at the hands of men, the limitations of women and their unimportance in these ancient stories. The book starts with the punishment by King Minos of Scylla, murdered for betraying her family for the man she loved, a lesson to his daughters about what happens to those who betray him. We later hear of Pasephae, wife of Minos and mother of Ariadne and Phaedra who paid the price for her husband’s deception in the cruellest way. Medusa’s story is told, again punished for the actions of a male, this time the lust of Poseidon. The book is fascinating and covers much ground, while weaving together the story of the two sisters. Broader I think than some of the other retellings I have read, but an absorbing read that left me not only wanting more but knowing more.
This book is another excellent Greek retelling, detailed, informative, gruesome at times but very highly recommended for those like me who are embracing this genre enthusiastically.
About the Author
Thanks to a lifelong fascination with Ancient Greek mythology, Jennifer Saint read Classical Studies at King’s College, London. She has spent the intervening thirteen years as an English teacher, sharing a love of literature and creative writing with her students. Jennifer’s debut novel, Ariadne is a feminist literary retelling of the ancient Greek myth. She is currently working on her second novel.