Sunday 28 March 2021

ARIADNE by Jennifer Saint


A mesmerising retelling of the ancient Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. 

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 love Greek mythology, so whenever I find out a book is either influenced by the many intriguing players or is an actual retelling, I have to check it out.

Ariadne is one of the daughters of the awful King Minos and spends her early life hearing the echoes of her brother, the Minotaur, from the Labyrinth beneath the palace. He's the king's biggest shame, a result of his wife's beastly union, and so Minos uses this to his advantage and feeds him blood yearly in the worst way possible.

When Theseus, Prince of Athens, arrives in Crete to serve as part of the Minotaur's sacrifice, Ariadne falls in love with him. But helping Theseus means leaving her home forever and living with the weight of the attention of the gods...

Wow. This book is lush and Ariadne's voice so compelling, I instantly fell into the beautiful narrative and this princess's story about family drama, devastation and the many betrayals women face in a man's world also ruled by vindictive gods.

The sense of location was very well established from the beginning and I felt like I was transported to a lovely but dangerous past. To a time of excess and domination, where meddling by the gods led to terrible situations capable of ruining women because they were used as pawns in the pathetic fight between man and god.

I loved how the focus of this story was on the women. How they deal with the fallout, how they use their personal strength, and how they never give up even when things get so dire they wouldn't be criticised for doing so. 

The story is mostly told in Ariadne's POV, but also includes her sister's tale. Phaedra might be young but she's strong, smart, loyal and cunning in her own way. Both women tell their very different inspiring, heartbreaking and engrossing timeless tales that kept me intrigued all the way through. Even if you're familiar with the myths, the intimate and lyrical personification given to these amazing characters will make everything feel fresh.

Ariadne is a thrilling retelling of one of the many Greek myths involving women being used and manipulated to satisfy and amuse both men and gods. It's also a feminist story about the inner and outer strength of women, as well as how disappointment, devastation and heartbreak often leads to a strong rage able to ultimately fuel determination and ambition. Sometimes, even revenge. And even through all of this, they never forget love and will try to make things right to the bittersweet end.

I really enjoyed this and look forward to reading more of these kinds of books.

Thank you Hachette Australia for sending me a copy.

Ariadne, March 2021, ISBN 9781444960112, Wildfire

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