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6/06/2021 • 0 comments • Filed Under: Adult Fiction, Fantasy, Retellings, Reviews

Release date: May 4th 2021
Publisher: Flatiron Books
ISBN: 125077358X
ISBN13: 9781250773586

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?

This was my May Book of the Month pick, after hearing about it from my friend Stacia on Instagram, instantly drawn to it because I had quite recently heard of Ariadne. I wasn’t particularly familiar with Ariadne’s story (honestly, I never went through that Greek mythology phase when I was a teenager) but I knew she was a figure within Greek mythology. Being that these myths favored men heavily and women were subjected to punishment for those men’s crimes (now, I do know the story of Medusa!), I was super excited to learn of a feminist retelling! So often, the stories of mythology just graze the surface, rarely explaining the excitement, the fear, the sadness, the joy the protagonists face on their journeys.

This is Jennifer Saint’s debut novel, and it’s an absolutely stunning one at that. I fell in love almost immediately with her beautiful lyrical writing, which carried through the novel, growing even better as the characters of Ariadne and Phaedra developed. I felt completely transported into the world of Ancient Greece, in all of its danger and beauty.

Can you call a plot unique if it’s a retelling? Again, I’ve never been familiar with Ariadne’s—nor Phaedra’s—story so each new turn, new betrayal, new twist, I felt entirely surprised. I grew quickly to despise Theseus, and to pity Ariadne. But I soon realized she didn’t need my pity at all. Despite all that is thrown at her, she never wavers in her commitment to do what’s right. I could really take a lesson about that from her, I think.

Naxos was an enchanting setting but I admit, at first, I was fearful that it would be Ariadne’s doom. As it grows and she learns its secrets, however, I found myself wanting to live there too, away from the harsh world. In the forest, where it’s lush and green, on the beach where she meets Dionysus, in the palace she lives in on Naxos. I was mesmerized by the rich detail and stunning descriptions.

Given that the story is well-known, I should’ve expected a less than happy ending but the book’s ending left me speechless. I can’t say I saw it coming, and I didn’t want to look up Ariadne’s story before reading, not wanting to be spoiled (can an ancient story be spoiled?) or lose the surprise. I greatly appreciate, however, that it was not changed for the sake of literature. There are few books where a main character dying wouldn’t cause me to immediately throw it out (looking at you, Veronica Roth) and this is one of them.

Knowing more now about Ariadne, I find myself totally in love with this book. I loved every second of it, and can’t wait be read from Jennifer Saint!

I have to say before I wrap this post up, that the very same day that I finished this book, Jennifer announced her next book is going to be Elektra and I know immediately what I’ll be picking up next spring!

Currently Listening To: Graveyard (Acoustic) - Halsey

5/25/2021 • 0 comments • Filed Under: Adult Fiction, Historical, Reviews

Publication date: March 2nd 2021
Publisher: Park Row
ISBN: 0778311015 (US hardcover)
ISBN13: 9780778311010 (US hardcover)

Summary: Hidden in the depths of eighteenth-century London, a secret apothecary shop caters to an unusual kind of clientele. Women across the city whisper of a mysterious figure named Nella who sells well-disguised poisons to use against the oppressive men in their lives. But the apothecary’s fate is jeopardized when her newest patron, a precocious twelve-year-old, makes a fatal mistake, sparking a string of consequences that echo through the centuries.

Meanwhile in present-day London, aspiring historian Caroline Parcewell spends her tenth wedding anniversary alone, running from her own demons. When she stumbles upon a clue to the unsolved apothecary murders that haunted London two hundred years ago, her life collides with the apothecary’s in a stunning twist of fate—and not everyone will survive.

When this book came up as a selection for Book of the Month in March, it was an instant pick for me. Apothecaries, murders, and London? Sign me right the hell up. Not to mention that cover; absolutely gorgeous.

For me, this book was a quick read, both because of its length and the immediate investment I had in the fate of the characters, particularly Nella and Eliza. One thing I noticed quite glaringly is I cared little for Caroline or her involvement, while at the time understanding her purpose in the story. Something about her simply just… needled me. It seemed she loved to blame her bitterness on others rather than coming to terms with her responsibility in the matter. That, however, is my largest complaint about the story.

The London setting was richly atmospheric, especially Past London. I almost felt as though I was the one walking the cobbled streets. Even as Caroline’s present-day London vacation began with her stumbling around the Thames at low tide, I found myself planted firmly within the story. Nella’s shop, tucked away in a back alley, is illicit in her times but an incredible mystery in present day that I wish would’ve been explored more thoroughly in a way we could’ve seen.

The plot itself is fascinating and though I don’t know if this was the author’s intent, sounds strikingly similar to the murders carried out by Giulia Tofana in 1600s Italy. If you don’t know that tale, look it up immediately. I loved the way the story wove its way between the past and present, unraveling pieces of the mystery for the reader that Caroline would never get to know. There is a moment that connects the present and past together so perfectly, and it’s a moment I wish I could touch on without being spoilery, but it was the moment that cemented this book as one of my favorites (so far) of 2021.

Though I found the ending to be missing something very small—SPOILER which is that Nella’s fate should’ve been clearer—I absolutely loved this book. I would love to learn more of Nella’s past, whether in another book or short story, but one could only wish, right? This was Sarah Penner’s debut and it made me so eager to get to read more from her!

Currently Listening To: Euphoria - Angels & Airwaves Currently Reading: Ariadne by Jennifer Saint