Welcome to my stop on the book tour for Ariadne by Jennifer Saint for Flatiron Books!
A mesmerizing retelling of the ancient Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. Perfect for fans of CIRCE, A SONG OF ACHILLES, and THE SILENCE OF THE GIRLS.
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.
Jennifer Saint grew up reading Greek mythology and was always drawn to the untold stories hidden within the myths. After thirteen years as a high school English teacher, she wrote ARIADNE which tells the legend of Theseus and the Minotaur from the perspective of Ariadne – the woman who made it happen. Jennifer Saint is now a full-time author, living in Yorkshire, England, with her husband and two children.
As a huge fan of Circe and almost any novel featuring mythology, I was excited to read Ariadne. While the two stories feature famous tales, each other gives it their own unique spin on the story. While I am very familiar with the main story of Theseus, Ariadne, and the Minotaur, I could not recall any other details about the main character. Therefore, I was very excited to read all about this excellent heroine.
The novel begins with a slower introduction to Ariadne. King Minos and Pasiphae, Ariadne’s parents, are presented, as well as the other main character, Phaedra, Ariadne’s sister. It then transitions to the origin and birth of the Minotaur with the myth of Pasiphae and the sacred bull being covered. There is also more detail given to the labyrinth’s origins. While this portion of the story is a straightforward retelling of the myth, it is written in a very accessible manner, so even those who are not a huge fan of Greek Mythology can read and relate. The recurring theme of men taking precedence over women is presented early on in this novel where the story of Medusa is presented. Poseidon goes after Medusa in Athena’s temple. Athena gets angry at Medusa, a beautiful mortal at the time, and punishes her for not being able to resist Poseidon. Medusa is then transformed into the “monster” with the snake hair that is well known and “feared.”
Each year, seven young daughters and seven young sons are sacrificed to the Minotaur. Theseus arrives on Crete among the sacrifices where Ariadne takes an immediate shine to him. She decides to help him in the maze and believes the two of them will be together when he returns to Athens. After traveling to the island of Naxos, Theseus leaves Ariadne alone. Here she ends up meeting Dionysus, the God of wine and drink. Theseus ends up marrying Phaedra. The story switches between the points of view of Phaedra and Ariadne. I was surprised when Phaedra’s perspective was introduced as I thought it would be only through Ariadne. I greatly enjoyed getting this new point of view as I knew very little about Phaedra before this story. All the characters were well written and I loved getting more details about them. Both Dionysus and Theseus are well known, but it was nice to learn more about them and see them as the secondary to Ariadne and Phaedra.
The writing of this story is a great mix of lyrical and modern as it follows the classic mythology approach, at least those that I read, where it almost feels like a story within a story, and manipulating the wording to be more accessible to the reader. The story itself takes all of the known events from mythology and tells it from the women, who are typically forgotten. Therefore, there are not a lot of surprises in this story if you are familiar with the myths, but they are put together in a very captivating manner. The pacing worked well in this story to keep the reader captivated throughout. There are a few moments where it felt a little slow and a portion of the ending, I felt, could have been stretched out a little more to give it the attention it deserved. As a whole, it kept me interested, as there was the sense of foreboding lurking around every corner.
I really hope that Jennifer Saint continues to write mythology tales, as I was incredibly impressed that this was her debut novel. The story proves that Ariadne’s life did not begin and end with Theseus and she was so much more than just playing a single role in his story. There is a lot of growth with Phaedra and Ariadne as they are not the same characters by the end that they were in the beginning of the story. True to form, this story is not full of light-heartedness, but there are moments of happiness woven with the tragedies. Overall, this story is perfect for those that are a fan of the genre and is a great novel for those that was a great story about those that are usually in the background in favor of the “heroes.”
**I give a special thank you to @Flatiron Books for the opportunity to read this fantastic novel in both paperback and via Netgalley! The opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.**