As Princesses of Crete and daughters of the dearsome King Minos, Ariadne and her sister Phaedra grow up hearing the terrible bellows of the Minotaur from the labyrinth beneath the palace. The Minotaur – Minos’ 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 defeat the monster means betraying her family, and Ariadne knows that in a world ruled by mercurial gods, drawing their attention can cost you everything.
Ariadne has heard too many stories of women being punished for the acts of men – she is determined to set her own fate. But will her decision to help Theseus ensure her happy ending? Or will she be sacrificed forher lover’s ambition?
I chose this book months ago when I was in a Greek Mythology phase and lapping up myths and legens at a rate of knots. I went to read it then, but something told me that I should save it for a special occasion – for a day when I had absolutely nothing to do but lounge around in the sunshine dreaming of greek heros, endless wine and daring adventures. Yesterday was that day.
The storytelling is sublime – she tells the tale so lyrically, so musically that to read it is a joyful experience. I have to say that I have been ranting and raving about this book to anybody who will let me since I got more than a chapter or so in yesterday afternoon. Jennifer Saint is nothing short of a hypnotist, a magician, a storyteller whose gift is to absolutely consume you until you think, feel and breathe her story. I have absolutely adored reading about Ariadne the princess who decided to take her life into her own hands, her fiery sister Phaedra, her tyrannical father Minos and the mindless beast of the Labyrinth. It was all-consuming and I breathed for it.
There were a handful of surprise appearances in the book, names who I recognised from assorted legends but had not realised that they all weaved in together. My current knowledge of Ancient Greece is growing at best, so I was not familiar with the tales of Theseus, Daedalus or the Minotaur before I started reading. I had heard them in passing, but had no real understanding of their stories. I cannot say that now.
The story progressed far faster than I initially expected. By the end of chapter 12 I found myself so outraged and surprised that I started arguing, first with myself, and then out loud with my other half about whether it was okay to google the characters because I simply could not handle the suspense! We decided that this probably wasn’t a good idea and I should just carry on reading the book.
Jennifer Saint repeatedly hones in on a point that I had not yet had the luxury of arriving at myself, which is that in many greek myths the punishment for the acts of men are meted out on the women. This is a recurring theme throughout the book and one that a young Ariadne arrives at quite quickly – sisterhood, the links between women and motherhood are all explored throughout the narrative, giving this book a feminist slant which is fascinating to read.
One of my great, and shallow, joys in this particular book is just how pretty it is! I have included a glimpse at the inside below for those of you who enjoy pretty books just as much as I do. My only despair is that I now need to go and wipe all of the suncream off the dust jacket.
Ultimately I absolutely adored reading Ariadne, and it made me very happy whilst reading it. I was totally transported, and utterly absorbed by the storytelling and it made me happy, shocked, sad, gleeful and appalled in turns. I love a book that makes me feel strong things, though those looking for such delights need to truly understand the price that they need to pay before they dive in headfirst. I was not prepared for how strongly this story would make me feel, and I feel it is my responsibility to remind everyone looking to indulge that this is a greek myth retelling – not all of those feelings are good, you will feel those parts just as strongly. Near the end I found myself recoiling in shock at the turns the tale takes and it takes no small amount of skill from an author to effect their readers in that way. In conclusion, I take my sunhat off to you Ms Saint.