ARC Review: Ariadne by Jennifer Saint

About the Book:

Title: Ariadne

Author: Jennifer Saint

Page Length: 320

Publication Date: May 4, 2021

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Synopsis: A mesmerising retelling of the ancient Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. Perfect for fans of CIRCEA SONG OF ACHILLES, and THE SILENCE OF THE GIRLS.

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?

Ariadne gives a voice to the forgotten women of one of the most famous Greek myths, and speaks to their strength in the face of angry, petulant Gods. Beautifully written and completely immersive, this is an exceptional debut novel.

LINKS:     Goodreads    |      Amazon   

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My Review:

Ariadne, the debut novel by Jennifer Saint, is a fascinating retelling of Greek mythology that gives voice to the women that aren’t heard. Throughout the story, the perspective switches between sisters Ariadne and Phaedra and shows how women are often pawns in the games of men. It is so interesting to see these well-known Greek myths and characters through the eyes of the women. Most of the mythology I was exposed to focused on the men and depicted them with reverence, so to gain the female perspective, in this case, Ariadne and Phaedra’s, is eye-opening and engaging.

The story shows how women are used and manipulated for men’s greed and ambition. Ariadne, for example, is most known in Greek mythology for helping Theseus defeat the Minotaur, but there is so much more to her story. From her childhood and into adulthood, Ariadne is confronted with the reality that her life is of little importance compared to men. She learns this with her father and then with Theseus when, after risking her life to help him, he abandons her.

What I did know was that I had hit upon a truth of womanhood: however blameless a life we led, the passions and the greed of men could bring us to ruin, and there was nothing we could do.

Though Phaedra ends up marrying Theseus, she also learns of his treacherous ways and lives in a loveless marriage, happier when her husband is away than when he is home. In other works, Theseus is a hero and is shown in a positive light, so to see this other side of a well-known heroic character is fascinating.

Ariadne ends up marrying and having children with Dionysus, which comes with its own problems since she and the children are mortal and Dionysus is immortal. Their love story becomes quite complicated as Dionysus contemplates his own immortality in comparison to the longevity of humans.

I know that human life shines more brightly because it is but a shimmering candle against and eternity of darkness, and it can be extinguished with the faintest breeze.

I found it interesting that many of the messages throughout the story are timeless – gender inequities, complicated family relationships, betrayal, the importance of trust in a loving relationship, the hardships of being a woman in a patriarchal society, and the joys and difficulties of motherhood. Ariadne’s story is heartbreaking and tragic, and much of what happens throughout her life can be attributed to the manipulations, arrogance, and exploitations of men.

Ariadne is an interesting and entertaining read that will appeal to readers who enjoy women-centered mythology retellings like Madeline Miller’s Circe or A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes. Though some parts were a bit slow, and I sometimes found it hard to connect with the main characters, the writing is strong, the characters are dynamic, and the messages are poignant. Thanks so much to NetGalley, Flatiron Book, and Jennifer Saint for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.


Favorite Parts:

  • The dual perspectives.
  • The feminist look at classically male-centric stories.

Favorite Lines:

I would not let a man who knew the value of nothing make me doubt the value of myself.

I would be Medusa if it came to it. I resolved if the Gods held me accountable one day for the sins of someone else if they came to me to punish a man’s actions, I would not hide away like Pasiphae. I would wear that coronet of snakes, and the world would shrink from me instead.

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