The House of Atreus is cursed. A bloodline tainted by a generational cycle of violence and vengeance. This is the story of three women, their fates inextricably tied to this curse, and the fickle nature of men and gods.
Clytemnestra – The sister of Helen, wife of Agamemnon, her hopes of averting the curse are dashed when her sister is taken to Troy by the feckless Paris. Her husband raises a great army against them and determines to win, whatever the cost.
Cassandra – Princess of Troy, and cursed by Apollo to see the future but never to be believed when she speaks of it. She is powerless in her knowledge that the city will fall.
Elektra – The youngest daughter of Clytemnestra and Agamemnon, Elektra is horrified by the bloodletting of her kin. But can she escape the curse, or is her own destiny also bound by violence?
I have been looking forward to this book ever since it was announced earlier this year, though I must confess that the cover reveal fuelled that fire. Both Ariadne and Elektra are so beautiful that I am almost at the point of building a shelf just to put them on display (along with a few select beautiful books to accompany them). Elektra is one of only two books that I have ever pre-ordered in order to ensure it arrives at the earliest possible opportunity.
Ariadne was a magical read that transported me to the luscious beaches of Greece to revel in the beauty (and occasionally cruelty) of the Ancient Greeks – Elektra was equally powerful with that same lyrical retelling that I noted in Ariadne, but Elektra was a bit more like wading through a blood bath than lazing on a beach sipping wine.
I absolutely loved and recommend Elektra, but it simply wasn’t the same experience as reading Ariadne. When I read Ariadne I was self-isolating in my garden, locked in the house with all sort of yummy snacks and the ability to whip up a mimosa every time the author described in detail the sumptuous decadence of being the human wife of a God. I remember those days with a tinge of self-satisfied nostalgia, fully immersed in the hot sun and Jennifer Saint’s words.
Sitting on an airplane reading about the horrors of House of Atreus acted out in a seemingly never-ending vicious cycle was a very different feeling, though no less powerful. I loved Clytemnestra most of the three for reasons that I’m not entirely sure I understand – she made the most sense to me I think, though I’m sure that there are multiple professionals who would love to dig into someone who claims to be able to relate to any character in Greek Mythology so perhaps I’ll keep that quiet. I was a little underwhelmed by the title character at times if I’m honest, but the story itself was stunning throughout.
After I finished it, while still in that readers shell-shock of ‘I cant believe it’s over and what on earth just happened to me’, I attempted to describe the story to my Other Half in the car on the way back from the airport. Right before we hit the crucial point of the explanation he stopped me with ‘you do realise that you’re just repeating a list of unpronouncable names to me, and I’ve already forgotten who is who, right?’. The author herself has the magic in her telling not to fall into this trap, though I hadn’t recognised the skill this took before I tried explaining the story to someone not under her spell. Regardless of my slightly misplaced expectations of the book (repeat to self – Greek Mythololgy is NOT fluff and rainbows, nor is it just wine and sunshine) it was beautifully done and a fantastic book to read.
Now we eagerly await the third book of what I hope will be many many more…!