In January I posted a little preview of some of the new novels based on Greek myths being released in the next few months that I’m looking forward to reading. When Tandem Collective Global announced they were running a readalong in Australia for The Heroines by Laura Shepperson it felt like a sign and I was thrilled to be included.
Wait, what is a Tandem Collective Global readalong?
The Tandem Collective readalongs are pretty fun. The team at Tandem organise for the publisher (in this case Hachette Australia) to send a copy of the book (thank you!) and they also set some guidelines for which pages to read each day as well as providing some questions to serve as prompts for conversation about the story as it unfolds (kind of like a bookclub, but where you chat as you go). Participant in the readalong shared a bit about the book in their Instagram posts and stories as we went, and there is also a dedicated chat group so it is a great way to connect with other bookstagrammers.
You can find out more about Tandem Collective Global and keep an eye out for readalongs you might like to join in with, on their Instagram account here.
Ok, back to The Heroines
I knew a little bit about Phaedra’s story after having read Jennifer Saint’s Ariadne (you can see my review here) but was super keen to find out more about her. I’ve popped some of my thoughts about the book below in my review.
What is Laura Shepperson’s The Heroines about?
In Athens, crowds flock to witness the most shocking trial of the ancient world. The royal family is mired in scandal. Phaedra, young bride of King Theseus, has accused her stepson, Hippolytus of rape.
He’s a prince, a talented horseman, a promising noble with his whole life ahead of him. She’s a young and neglected wife, the youngest in a long line of Cretan women with less than savoury reputations.
The men of Athens must determine the truth. Who is guilty, and who is innocent?
But the women know truth is a slippery thing. After all, this is the age of heroes and the age of monsters. There are two sides to every story, and theirs has gone unheard.
My review of The Heroines by Laura Shepperson
I really enjoyed reading The Heroines! I mentioned above that I had come across Phaedra in Ariadne, so I had a bit of an idea what I was in for (and what she was in for!). I don’t think that you would have to know anything about Phaedra and Hippolytus to enjoy this one, but also knowing how things play out for them doesn’t take away from the story either. When I pick up a retelling – especially of such an old story – I don’t expect to necessarily be surprised by the general plot. I think the main thing for me is seeing which themes an author pulls out of a story and what those tell us about people, both in ancient times and now. I also think there is a lot of space in retellings to flesh out character – especially the women – and think about how they might have felt or what their motivations might have been.
I felt like Shepperson did a good job of painting Phaedra in a different light than I have seen before – while young and naïve, particularly at the start of the story, she has a real strength and passion that comes through and shapes how we see her motivation for the actions she takes. I thought Phaedra’s situation, being up against someone with more power than her, really reflected issues in today’s world – the most obvious comparison being the ‘Me Too’ movement. That feeling of the futility of speaking up and standing up to someone where there is that imbalance of power really comes through from the very start of the novel.
I found the writing style really easy to read in this one, despite the obviously heavy themes, and I was drawn into the story in a way that kept me just reading ‘one more chapter’ until the end (I finished in just a few sittings). There was one especially powerful chapter about a young bull jumper that I think will really stick with me.
Overall I really think Shepperson has given us a beautifully written interpretation of Phaedra and Hippolytus that speaks not only to the courts of ancient Athens but unfortunately rings true of our modern world too. I feel like every time I read a myth retelling I head down another rabbit hole, and in this case I’ve found myself super interested in finding out more about Medea, who we meet as a side character.
Big thanks again to Tandem Collective Global and Hachette Australia for sending me a free copy of The Heroines for the readalong.
I’d love to know in the comments if you’re a readalong or buddy read fan, OR whether you have a favourite retelling I should read (maybe something about Medea!).
The Heroines by Laura Shepperson
Out now from Hachette
Source: I received a free copy from Hachette and Tandem Collective Global.
Category: Retelling, Greek Mythology
(Note: The Heroines has been released with the alternative title “Phaedra” in the US and Canada.)