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?
I am always drawn to retellings of myth and folk and fairytale alike, and don’t get around to reading nearly as many as I would like to. I’m determined to change that, and Ariadne by Jennifer Saint landed on my doorstep at exactly the right time to kick of my retelling reading campaign.
Yes, it’s a bit shallow, but I feel like I can’t talk about this one without commenting on that divine cover – it is just perfection! I do love some gold foiling and this might be my favourite cover of the year!
While the cover might have had me starry-eyed and encouraged me to pick up this book, I found that what is between the covers was just as lovely. Saint’s storytelling places Ariadne at the very centre of her story, examining the way that the women of Greek mythology are made to pay over and over for the decisions and mistakes and disagreements of the men in their lives. The plot of Ariadne is largely triggered by the events of the story of Theseus and the Minotaur, but Greek myths being so tightly intertwined we also see bits and pieces of lots of different stories. As someone without a deep knowledge of Greek mythology I really enjoyed seeing characters and stories I recognised, as well as learning more about the ones I didn’t.
I read most of this book over our weekend away at the end of April, and it was the perfect novel to savour slowly – although it did take quite a lot of restraint not to just keep reading, especially in the part of the book where chapters are told from the alternating points of view of Ariadne and her sister Phaedra. I felt like Saint used alternating POV to great effect – it really had me busting to find out what would happen to each woman next.
I feel like with any retelling of Greek myths at the moment, comparisons with Madeline Miller’s book are inevitable, and to be honest there was something about Saint’s writing that just suited me better. I felt like there was something more accessible about it, and I felt drawn into the story right away.
I think Ariadne would be a great read both for lovers of myths, and also for newcomers looking for an introduction to classic mythologies. The way Saint reimagines these characters and their stories means no prior knowledge is necessary, but I think readers with more familiarity will still enjoy the freshness she brings in the way she puts the focus on Ariadne and the women around her. Having finished Ariadne, I’m itching for more retellings, and can’t wait to see what Saint takes on next.
Let me know in the comments if you’ve read this one, or have another favourite retelling you would recommend I pick up!
Ariadne by Jennifer Saint
Out now from Hachette
Source: I received a free copy from Hachette for review (thank you!). All views are my own.
Category: Retelling, Greek Mythology
Format: Paperback, 386 pages