So. I’m a huge nerd. And one of the things I’m super nerdy about is mythology. I’m a sucker for any story that has survived the centuries, and I have adored Ariadne for being a badass to defy her father for years. I’ve also loved Madeline Miller’s retellings of Greek myths, and actually used an anthology of classical mythology inspired stories I conceived of for a project in my MA. You bet I was all over Ariadne by Jennifer Saint as soon as I heard about it. And, damn, if you like Circe, you need this one too.
Massive thanks to Wildfire and Netgalley for the eARC (though I’m very sad that the physical ARC never arrived… Oh well, excuses to get a finished copy). All opinions are my own.
RELEASE DATE: 29/04/2021
STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶
SUMMARY: 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? (from Wildfire Books)
OPINIONS: I have been terrible at reading recently. I keep getting distracted and struggle to focus and switch books every 50 pages or so. But Ariadne was exactly what I needed and only sleep got me to put it down. It is brilliant, and perfect for all of you who adored Circe. This is similarly themed around a woman whose life was driven by gods and heroes and tries to reassert control about her own destiny. The titular Ariadne is a wonderful character, going from sheltered and naive princess to figuring out who she is after being abandoned by Theseus (sorry if that’s a spoiler, but that much was given from the source material), to finding herself in a sort of confined social space again and breaking free again.
The original story of Ariadne is a starting off point for this reinterpretation, not its full basis. Ariadne goes far beyond the known myth and makes it into a story driven by its heroine. Apart from Ariadne, it also focuses on Phaedra, her lesser-known sister, and I found her storyline very relatable too. They are both complex characters, far from perfect but trying to make the best of their situations. Ariadne is full of heartbreaking moments, but also beautifully written episodes of unbridled joy.
I loved this book, even though I thought it started to drag a little bit in the second half. I was all set to award it five stars, but in the last third or so I noticed myself wandering more and more, and felt that it could have closed off tighter (it might also be that I was more distracted, so could also be just me!). But for the most part, I found Ariadne incredibly compelling and really enjoyed the voice of the titular character. She is far from a chosen one, and doesn’t have any special abilities, but she is a survivor. And that might be the most important quality a heroine in Greek mythology can have.