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Ariadne by Jennifer Saint

Writing.ie | Book Reviews | Historical Fiction

By Swirl and Thread

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‘In one of the most famous Greek myths, Ariadne betrayed her father, King Minos, to help Theseus defeat the Minotaur. But Theseus in turn betrayed her. This is her story.’

ARIADNE by Jennifer Saint is published with Wildfire (Headline Imprint) and has been described as ‘a mesmerising retelling of the ancient Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur’. Gods, monsters and heroes are all wonderfully brought to life in ARIADNE, transporting the reader back to those mythical days of Greek legends and lore.

Ariadne and her younger sister Phaedra live with their mother Pasiphae and father King Minos, a man feared across the lands of Greece. He is a tyrant ruler, a man who drives terror into the minds of all who hear his name and cross his path. To the outside world Ariadne and Phaedra live a cocooned and wealthy life, dancing, eating and brushing their hair while the turmoil beyond the palace walls continues. But Ariadne is very much aware of the oppressive nature of her father. Her mother is now a mere shadow of herself after suffering the humiliation of an angered god and floats about her day in her own internal world. Many tragedies have befallen Ariadne and her family, but it was Pasiphae’s nightmarish and life-changing experience that transformed their father’s lot, turning him into a threatening and formidable enemy. Hidden in a maze underneath the castle was the Minotaur, the terrifying beast birthed by Pasiphae, in an act of vengeance by the gods.

Minotaur, Greek Minotauros (“Minos’s Bull”), in Greek mythology, a fabulous monster of Crete that had the body of a man and the head of a bull. It was the offspring of Pasiphae, the wife of Minos, and a snow-white bull sent to Minos by the god Poseidon for sacrifice. Minos, instead of sacrificing it, kept it alive; Poseidon as a punishment made Pasiphae fall in love with it. Her child by the bull was shut up in the Labyrinth created for Minos by Daedalus. ( Ref : Britannica)

Many of us know the fate of the characters of these ancient fables but Jennifer Saint takes us right into the midst of heroes, gods and beasts, bringing them to life in front of our eyes. Theseus, considered by many as the greatest hero of ancient Athens, was a person of great strength and courage, slaying creatures left, right and centre. He was of royal descent, and in line for the throne, when he arrived to the palace of King Minos as a tribute (all will explained on reading the book)

A brave and courageous individual, his fame was to spread far and wide as the hero who vanquished the Minotaur, thereby changing the course of Cretan history. But how much of a hero was he really? In ARIADNE, the mask slips a little as we see a more self-absorbed and self-obsessed man, a theme that runs through the book, as women get side-lined and overlooked while the men receive all the accolades and praise for their courage and heroics.

In writing ARIADNE, Jennifer Saint wanted to capture the tenacity and determination of the women of these myths. Through her description of the sisterly bonds between Ariadne and Phaedra we see how their world was continuously upended and controlled by the men in their lives but they did not accept this lying down. These two sisters were formidable characters, wanting charge of their own destinies. Defying the men in their lives, they created their own future by shaping their present.

ARIADNE is a retelling of an ancient tale with a focus on the women whose lives were ripped apart and forgotten by many. Ariadne and Phaedra were intelligent, smart and very capable women. Fearless and brave, their respective stories are wonderfully depicted in this re-imagining of this classic tale. As the sisters attempt to navigate a perilous path, the reader is immersed in a novel filled with lush and extravagant descriptions, mesmerising prose and a very compelling storyline.

ARIADNE is a very enchanting tale. It was fascinating to read about Ariadne’s and Phaedra’s lives after the fall of the Minotaur and their respective destinies. I was also very impacted by their lives before the killing of the beast, their mother’s life in particular. She was but a shadow of her former self, destroyed by the egos of god and man. Ariadne and Phaedra were never going to be their mother. They were instrumental in their own destinies. The path they eventually chose was their own. An intriguing and immersive read, ARIADNE is a marvellous retelling of this most classic of ancient tales.

“I felt that Ariadne deserved her own voice and I wanted to put her in the spotlight where she belongs.” – Jennifer Saint

(c) Swirl and Thread

Order your copy online here.

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