Book Review: ARIADNE by Jennifer Saint

Title in white on blurred gold leaves
Genre: Historical
Age Range: Adult
Star Rating: 3 stars
Series: Standalone

Synopsis:

Book cover for ARIADNE: title in white on blue surrounded by

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?

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


Review:

ARIADNE is a feminist retelling of Theseus and the Minotaur, and then the lives of Ariadne and her sister Phadre after the Minotaur is killed. It was my book club’s March pick.

The interesting thing about this book was that, though I liked the story, I never got into the book itself, it failed to suck me in. Instead, plenty of other things crowded my awareness and it was hard to really just enjoy the book.

I think it’s probably because the events of the story made me so indignant – not because the plot was bad, but because of how awfully every women is treated by the men around them (which is again not the book’s fault, it’s the standard fare for women in Greek mythology.) This is why I tend to pace out my Greek mythology books, because it just makes me so annoyed that in this mythology, the gods punish the women for the men’s mistakes with the excuse that “it’s more humiliating for the men this way.”

Yes, this is a feminist retelling with gives voice to the two women who have long been footnotes to Theseus’ story. It gives them agency, desires, designs, and lives. And they are frustrated and angry. And it shows how all the men in this book are pretty much awful of one flavour or another, which adds tension because any time they find happiness, you know it’s not going to last – and so you’re bracing for that inevitable, horrible let down.

The ending also wasn’t very satisfying to me. I knew it would end badly – it is Greek mythology and it’s about women, and they never get happy endings – but it didn’t feel like an earnt ending that had been built up to. It just sort of happened instead, using characters introduced later, rather than the ones built up from the beginning.

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