Greek mythology, and mythology in general, has always had a special place in my heart. Fitting with my lifelong interest in myths, I can’t get enough of all the modern retellings of different mythological tales, and I’m especially fond of the modern novels that revolve around the roles of women in mythology who are so often overlooked or unjustly villainised.
One of the most recently released novels to emerge from this genre is Ariadne by Jennifer Saint. The novel focuses on (you might have guessed it) Ariadne, a Princess of Crete, her role in the death of the infamous Minotaur and what happens to her family in the years after the Minotaur’s death. The long story is serious, humorous, magical and tragic, and the author presents a new perspective on the tensions in Ancient Greek society. Ariadne also features many other well-known mythological figures that intertwine with Ariadne’s story, including Daedalus and Icarus and Perseus and Medusa. The writing was easy to follow, making the book perfect for a leisurely activity on a lazy summer’s day, and the building events of the novel steadily pull you in until you barely realise that you’ve managed to read 50 pages in one sitting. For Saint’s debut novel, it was a wonderful read.
I was fairly familiar with the story of the Minotaur before reading this novel, familiar particularly up to the point at which Ariadne flees Crete with the hero Theseus after helping him kill the Minotaur. Having now finished the novel, I’m grateful that I didn’t know many details after that as I was unable to predict the directions that the story would take, heightening my emotional response to the novel’s events. As the story progressed from the middle to the end, I became so engrossed that it was difficult to put the book down and force myself to go to sleep instead. Though I had a gut feeling from the beginning of the novel that Ariadne and her family were unlikely to see happy endings, the unpredictability of the novel’s ending sequence had me gripped until the final page.
All throughout the novel, I felt the grief and despair of the Greek women like I was there to empathise with them. Saint was also successful in making me feel the rage of the women against the domination of the men and gods, and in exploring how different women express and deal with such rage. Ariadne is truly a testament to the author’s ability to bond their readers with their characters. Saint embellishes her world with emotional and psychological complexity, building a fascinating ancient world out of the framework of Ariadne’s myth. Overall, I completely recommend Ariadne for anyone to read, but especially if you’re also a fan of modern, feminist perspectives on ancient mythology. It brings humanity to a world ruled by gods, as well as three-dimensionality as heroes become villains, monsters are pitied and overlooked characters become the ones you care about most.