Ariadne by Jennifer Saint – REVIEW
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?
Ariadne gives a voice to the forgotten women of one of the most famous Greek myths, and speaks to their strength in the face of angry, petulant Gods. Beautifully written and completely immersive, this is an exceptional debut novel.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Wildfire.
Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
“I had hit upon a truth of womanhood: however blameless a life we led, the passions and the greed of men could bring us to ruin, and there was nothing we could do.”
If you tell me a book is inspired by Greek mythology, it’s an auto-buy purchase. Ariadne by Jennifer Saint is a retelling of the Theseus and the Minotaur myth with the narrative focussing on Ariadne. This is Ariadne’s story and the reader follows her mortal journey in a world of heroes and immortals. The author writes with lyrical prose and evocative imagery, weaving an unforgettable tale.
“My story would not be of death and suffering and sacrifice. I would take my own place in the songs that would be sung about Theseus: the princess who saved him and ended the monstrosity that blighted Crete.”
In so many of the Greek myths, the women are minor characters or completely silenced. They are all too often portrayed as a prize to be won by a hero or as a plaything for the gods. Women pay for the resentment, lust, greed, and arrogance of men, and this is repeated time and time again. The author firmly wrenches control of the narrative from the hands of male authors and centres women as the heroes of this story.
“Was this my punishment? To live the reality of my dream and find out that its glittering beauty faded to nothing when I stepped close?”
Alongside Ariadne, the story is also interspersed with the point of view of her younger sister, Phaedra. Stubborn, clever and feisty, Phaedra is an engaging character and was easy to relate to. The lives of both sisters are contrasted throughout the story and the reader is shown how marriage and motherhood shape them both. Men whittle away at both characters and a longing for escape is keenly felt.
“I would not let a man who knew the value of nothing make me doubt the value of myself.”
One theme that shone throughout the book was that of sisterhood and the power of women. A tragic ending is inevitable but a sense of agency is retained by Ariadne and Phaedra as they rail against their bonds. Ariadne is a powerful portrayal of two women living in an unjust and patriarchal society. I can only imagine what they would have done if unleashed from their gilded prisons and allowed to blaze their own glorious path through life.