Release date: May 4th 2021
Publisher: Flatiron Books
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!