“I had been a fool to trust in a hero: a man who could only love the mighty echo of his own name throughout the centuries.”
Published in 2021, Ariadne by Jennifer Saint is a retelling of the ancient Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur, told from the perspective of Ariadne, the Princess of Crete and daughter of the fearsome King Minos.
Ariadne grew up with her sister Phaedra 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?
As a fan of Greek mythology, the story of Theseus and the Minotaur is a familiar one to me, but I couldn’t remember how Ariadne fit into it all. And that’s reason enough that a story was needed from Ariadne’s perspective.
There’s so much more to her life outside the walls of her father’s kingdom, and it’s so fascinating to get an insight into her emotions, hopes and beliefs. Saint brings her character to life beautifully, adding so much more depth to this well-known myth than being the consequences of male egos.
We also get to learn more about Ariadne’s sister, Phaedra, who I only knew as Theseus’ wife before. And that’s why I love these female retellings so much, as their perspectives add so much more to the story. It is the females who show real strength and resilience during these times, making both of these female characters incredibly compelling.
Although I love having the focus on the females’ perspectives, I did want a little more context around King Minos and the Minotaur at the start as we only get a quick round-up of events before Ariadne’s story begins. The book is obviously more about how the story develops afterwards, but it was a long time ago that I learnt about Theseus’ quest so I did hope for a better feel for the setting at the beginning to really understand the context of Ariadne’s world.
However, as Saint’s debut novel, Ariadne is a remarkable effort. I have already read her second book, Elektra, but this has definitely solidified Saint as one of my favourite Greek myth authors.
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