One of the most successful titles in the recent boom of mythological retellings is Jennifer Saint’s Ariadne. Blessed with both a hardback and a paperback special edition, and nominated for the Waterstones Book of the Year, I really enjoyed it when I read it last year (see my review here). So to say I was excited for Elektra is an understatement. It looks at one of the most fascinating mother/daughter relationships in Greek myth, that of Clytemnestra, Helen’s sister, and her daughter Elektra – and is another enthralling tale.
Many thanks to Wildfire and NetGalley for the eARC, all opinions are my own.
RELEASE DATE: 28/04/2022
STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶
SUMMARY: 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.
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.
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.
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? (from Wildfire)
OPINIONS: Elektra is once again an enthralling story of three women often overlooked in mythology. It is quite a bit darker than Ariadne was – how could it not be, centred around this many murders as these interwoven stories are. I enjoyed this as a solid read, although I felt that the book tried to combine what should have been two separate stories into one, not giving either enough scope to delve deep enough. I wish that the book had entirely focused on Clytemnestra and Elektra, as I felt that the inclusion of Cassandra’s storyline meant that the nuances of the mother/daughter relationship, and especially the way it deteriorates and madness potentially creeps in after the sacrifice of Iphigenia didn’t have enough space to be explored in a manner that felt completely satisfactory. It felt like having the third perspective took up too much of the story but didn’t add quite enough in value.
But that doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy reading the book – I did very much. Saint’s writing is strong and evocative, and the story compelling. It conjures emotions throughout, as I don’t think there was any part of the book that left me cold (though, much of it was rage at our darling Agamemnon…), and that is truly a credit to the author. I am an absolute fiend for mythological retellings, and so the complaining I am doing here is really complaining on a very high level, please don’t get me wrong! I am very much looking forward to reading Saint’s next book, because more feminist retellings are always a win in my mind.
It’s interesting how a well-written retelling can get you completely enthralled in its plot and have you on your toes, even though you technically already know how the story ends. I know not everyone will be as familiar with these stories as I am, but it is something that always fascinates me. I think it may be part of why I fall in love with these stories so much – because I know the broad strokes, they are comforting, but because they are new interpretations, they are still new and exiting stories as a whole. Or maybe I’m just a weirdo. Who knows.