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Ariadne

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


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

30 review for Ariadne

  1. 5 out of 5

    mina reads™️

    MORE GREEK MYTHOLOGICAL RETELLINGS YES YES YES

  2. 4 out of 5

    Charlotte May

    I heard Greek mythology retelling and here I am.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Bethany

    For fans of Circe by Madeline Miller. For readers who wanted The Silence of the Girls to ACTUALLY center the women in Greek mythology... I have a book that should go on your TBR this spring! Ariadne is a stunning debut that recounts the story of Ariadne, not as a footnote to tales of heroic men, but rather as the heroine of her own, often tragic story. This is a tale that deftly explores the myriad ways in which women were subject to and at the mercy of men and gods. Be they poor or rich, young For fans of Circe by Madeline Miller. For readers who wanted The Silence of the Girls to ACTUALLY center the women in Greek mythology... I have a book that should go on your TBR this spring! Ariadne is a stunning debut that recounts the story of Ariadne, not as a footnote to tales of heroic men, but rather as the heroine of her own, often tragic story. This is a tale that deftly explores the myriad ways in which women were subject to and at the mercy of men and gods. Be they poor or rich, young or old, peasant or queen, no one is exempt and motherhood is fraught with danger. From growing up with the Minotaur for a brother and a cloud of shame over her mother (punished by the gods for her husbands hubris) to becoming the wife of Dionysus, nearly forgetting he was never really human, we follow the story of Ariadne and her sister Phaedra through a world where women bear the weight of men's missteps and they are too easily cast aside or dismissed. Jennifer Saint brings these characters to life on the page in a way that is nuanced and heart-breaking. (Seriously, I rarely cry reading books but the ending of this one...had me in tears) It's beautifully done, thought-provoking, and touches on so many elements of female life that remain relevant today, albeit in less dramatic ways: spurned love, unfaithful spouses, domestic joy, unhappy marriages, maternal bliss, postpartum depression, fear for ones children, finding joy where you can...there is a lot that will continue to resonate. In terms of critiques, I do have a few, although the lasting impression of the book as a whole largely outweighed any weaknesses for me, and it's possible some of this might be corrected in the final copy since I read an early version for review. It takes time to really connect with Ariadne as a character and I think the early part of the book could do a better job with that. I wanted to feel more of what she felt about Theseus meeting him for the first time. She's supposed to be infatuated, but it felt a little flat and we get more time with Theseus kind of info-dumping more Greek mythology, some of which feels slightly excessive, than we do seeing how Ariadne feels and responds. Part of it might be that there is a real lack of physicality in the descriptions of relationships, especially early in the book. Not that we necessarily need explicit descriptions of sex that take place throughout. The closed door approach can be fine, but we don't even see the thoughts and feelings that lead up to those moments, or much of feelings after the fact. It leaves the book feeling oddly austere for a story involving so much sexuality. In contrast, the descriptions of Ariadne with her children are deeply visceral in a nurturing and maternal way, and that drives a lot of the emotion leading up to the end. I would like to see some of that sort of description in her relationships with the men in her life as well. That said, this is still an incredible book, and one that is well worth your time. It would be a great book club pick too- there's plenty of fodder for discussion. I received an advance copy of this book for review from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Lucy Langford

    5***** ”I would be Medusa... if the gods held me accountable one day for the sins of someone else, if they came for me to punish a mans actions, I would not hide away like Pasiphae. I would wear that coronet of snakes and the world would shrink for me instead.” This was possibly my most anticipated read of 2021 and it was everything I hoped for and more. I devoured this book in a few days and dropped all my other books to focus solely on this one. I was invested in the sisters stories: both Ariadn 5***** ”I would be Medusa... if the gods held me accountable one day for the sins of someone else, if they came for me to punish a mans actions, I would not hide away like Pasiphae. I would wear that coronet of snakes and the world would shrink for me instead.” This was possibly my most anticipated read of 2021 and it was everything I hoped for and more. I devoured this book in a few days and dropped all my other books to focus solely on this one. I was invested in the sisters stories: both Ariadne and Phaedra, how they survived in a world where men and Gods rule. I loved seeing their sisterhood and growing up in Crete shrouded in shame, ruled over by their tyrannical father. I also loved the exploration of the sisters individual characteristics; Ariadne as the gentler, introspective sister with bravery and cunning when deciding to help Theseus: Phaedra as the outgoing, daring and confident of the two. As an avid reader of Greek mythology I was so curious to see which myths of Ariadne Jennifer Saint would include. I’ve been especially curious about Ariadne and have read many different versions of her story and what happens to her. I was excited to delve into this book to see which ones the author would take inspiration from. When going into this book, I was not expecting the perspective of Phaedra, but I fully loved this too. Phaedra is the younger sister of Ariadne and her story is mostly told by Euripides in “Hippolytus” and Ovid’s “Heroides”. Phaedra is also explored in “Pandora’s Jar” by Natalie Haynes which I read earlier this month. There aren’t as many retellings of Phaedra as there are Ariadne, and I am so glad the author provides Phaedra, as well as Ariadne, with a voice and fully fleshed out characters. I really enjoyed the exploration of Pasiphae especially with the birth of Asterion, the Minotaur. It was great to explore this motherhood and how both of the sisters saw different sides of their mother when growing up. This book especially focused on the women in Greek mythology, and so many parallels and foreshadowing was told throughout this book; through Scylla, Medusa and Pasiphae’s stories. This book explored how both of the sisters survived in circumstances that they weren’t prepared for, how they are treated as a commodity, and punished for men’s actions. This book emphasised how women have been silenced in myths and the unfairness of women’s positions in societies, but it also highlights how these women find strength, in solitude or through power, or with other women. This book evoked a lot of emotions. As soon as I saw Theseus enter the scene I had utter dread in my stomach as I knew what would happen. But however, this story also included the god, Dionysus, my favourite God of wine and rituals- I was so happy he was included! I Love Dionysus 🍷 🍇 Jennifer Saint writes so beautifully and the descriptions were so vivid- I could see the stunning lands of Naxos, the dark Underworld of Hades, the powers of Dionysus and feel the characters emotions. This book reminded me of “Circe” by Madeline Miller, especially as both characters find themselves alone on an island. I’d say read this if you also loved Circe. This book made me cry at the end but regardless, I loved this book so much! 💙💛🌿

  5. 4 out of 5

    Robin

    ↠ 2.5 stars Sometimes when Brittany tells you not to read something because it ended poorly you listen. Ariadne was on my list for most anticipated of 2021 and after hearing so many rave reviews, it’s safe to say I was looking forward to reading it. Greek mythology retellings have always had a special place in my heart, and as a baseline rule, I like to give them the benefit of the doubt prior to reading them. Ariadne drew me in with its beautiful descriptive language, and the promise of a long ↠ 2.5 stars Sometimes when Brittany tells you not to read something because it ended poorly you listen. Ariadne was on my list for most anticipated of 2021 and after hearing so many rave reviews, it’s safe to say I was looking forward to reading it. Greek mythology retellings have always had a special place in my heart, and as a baseline rule, I like to give them the benefit of the doubt prior to reading them. Ariadne drew me in with its beautiful descriptive language, and the promise of a long overlooked character’s story finally being unveiled. Everyone knows the story of the labyrinth, of the minotaur trapped inside, and a young girl foolish enough to betray its secrets for love. To put it plainly, there was so much potential from the get go, but the longer the story went on, the more it seemed like this was just a reread of the original myth from Ariadne’s perspective. Not much differed from my finite knowledge of the myth to which this was based on, and what was different was just watered down or changed entirely for the wrong reasons. I was hoping the ending would give me the satisfaction I was looking for, I mean you hear “feminist retelling” and you get a little excited. However, upon reaching the end I have to say that giving this novel that description could not be more misleading, and is quite literally the source of all my disappointment. If you came for a retelling about a woman claiming her power, in a story that never initially spared her a second glance, keep moving. Trigger warnings: blood, violence, murder, death, animal abuse, childbirth, rape (mentioned)

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    ARC received in exchange for an honest review 🌿 Fun fact: I almost called my youngest daughter Ariadne as she's my favourite Greek heroine. We went with Iris instead, as she's our little rainbow Goddess. So anyway, I had high hopes for this retelling of the Minotaur myth from the perspective of the daughter's of Minos and for the most part I wasn't disappointed. We get angry Gods and feminist conversations in a similar vein to Circe and The Silence of the Girls, as well as interesting character d ARC received in exchange for an honest review 🌿 Fun fact: I almost called my youngest daughter Ariadne as she's my favourite Greek heroine. We went with Iris instead, as she's our little rainbow Goddess. So anyway, I had high hopes for this retelling of the Minotaur myth from the perspective of the daughter's of Minos and for the most part I wasn't disappointed. We get angry Gods and feminist conversations in a similar vein to Circe and The Silence of the Girls, as well as interesting character developments. It was a fun time. Ariadne is such an interesting character who seems to fall into the shadows of the shine of Theseus in the original Minotaur myth. She's the one who helps him escape, struggles with betraying her family (the Minotaur is still her brother after all) for this man, yet gets none of the glory. She's just a woman after all. Yet Jennifer Saint gives her a much needed voice and opinion. We see her internal struggles with her decisions and the consequences of her actions. We also see her share a complicated relationship with her mother Pasiphae, who has been broken not by her own actions but by vengeful Gods wanting to damage her husband, and sister Phaedra. Phaedra is a spirited girl when we first encounter her, helping Ariadne release Theseus, yet ultimately left behind. As a result she has to work hard at everything she does to gain some kind of power, some sense of belonging in her world. She's seen as an afterthought by many, unassuming and weak, but she's incredibly clever and manipulative when needed. I really enjoyed her character development over the course of the book, knowing ultimately where her destiny would take her and Jennifer Saint's interpretation of her story. I also liked the parallels shown between the two women. They are both ultimately women living very much in a man's world. A God's world, where women suffer because of the desires of men - whether they are immortal or not. I also thought the writing was really well done. A lot of the novel is taken up with recounts of the stories of the Gods and heroes, interwoven with our main plot. It makes the reader feels as if the stories are being told to them aloud, as the originals were intended to be. This certainly helps create a rich storytelling atmosphere and mythological world filled with self centered, vain Gods. If you already know Ariadne's and Phaedra's stories there's not much intrigue plotwise, however I was fully invested in this world and the imaginative interpretation of these characters to really want to know how each tale would be wrapped up. If anything, I thought Phaedra's story arc was wrapped up too quickly, without much resolution. I also would have liked Aphrodite to have played more a role in her story, as it would have provided some more logical explanations for her actions. Wonderful reimagining of some forgotten female figures in Greek mythology that starts at a Labyrinth and spirals into stories of vengeful Gods and unrequited, all consuming love. If you love mythology retellings with a feminist spin, you need to pick this up.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Renee Godding

    You see, I’m a simple girl; I see a Greek myth retelling, I click add to TBR... Edit 18-12-2020: I'm an even simpler girl, I get approved for ARC: I do a little happy dance in my livingroom. Can't wait to get started in this one. Full review to come. You see, I’m a simple girl; I see a Greek myth retelling, I click add to TBR... Edit 18-12-2020: I'm an even simpler girl, I get approved for ARC: I do a little happy dance in my livingroom. Can't wait to get started in this one. Full review to come.

  8. 5 out of 5

    ˗ˏˋ aphrodite ˊˎ˗

    ariadne retelling means another chance to see my bby dionysus so I’m SOLD. AND THIS COVER??? ARE YOU SERIOUS???

  9. 5 out of 5

    Ellie (faerieontheshelf)

    Though the title focuses on one woman, the book itself actually follows two: the eponymous Ariadne, and her younger sister Phaedra. Ariadne is the newest addition to a stream of novels that focus on retelling the Classical Greek myths from the perspective of the sidelined women, and it will certainly not be the last. These novels always gather a lot of interest, so I'm not surprised at all that this one resulted in an auction at acquisition and then such a massive marketing & publicity push pre- Though the title focuses on one woman, the book itself actually follows two: the eponymous Ariadne, and her younger sister Phaedra. Ariadne is the newest addition to a stream of novels that focus on retelling the Classical Greek myths from the perspective of the sidelined women, and it will certainly not be the last. These novels always gather a lot of interest, so I'm not surprised at all that this one resulted in an auction at acquisition and then such a massive marketing & publicity push pre-release. Also, the design and cover for the UK hardback is divine, really. I'm sure it'll sell very well. When it comes to Ariadne, the only thing I know about her is her role within the Minotaur myth. I did not realise there's always been more to her story. And I did not know anything about Phaedra at all. Saint sets out to tell the develop the story of these two, and she does it well. She sticks to the myths, sewing aspects from different variations into one whole story, and doesn't subvert anything - not even the endings. Ariadne and Phaedra, caught up in the tales of men even to their final days. Though I did enjoy Ariadne, it does lack that same transcendent spark that illuminates other Greek retellings such as Madeline Miller's Circe. It didn't wrench my heart out from underneath my rib cage and leave it bleeding in sand, let's say. But then again, it is especially hard to measure up to Madeline Miller's incandescence and maybe it's unfair to compare them (Madeline Miller has set the bar too high, perhaps). Yet with Circe and Ariadne both being female-focused retellings of Greek myth, it's inevitable. Admittedly, I wasn't always enthralled by Ariadne's narrative voice. I found some of her sentences were quite long, oddly enough. And though the style is very telling, as you get the sense Ariadne is speaking this story to the readers (reflecting the oral tradition of the Greek myths), I couldn't envision some of it being said out loud due to some of the sentence lengths. There were no commas and if I did a reading, I'm pretty certain I would find myself short on breath. I found Phaedra's narrative a bit more interesting for a while, simply because she gets a new environment to explore and I liked how she involved herself with Athen's city government. Ariadne is on an island for largely three quarters of the novel - much like Circe in Circe, actually. Nevertheless, I didn't find the overall novel lagged, and focusing on both Ariadne and Phaedra meant there was a bit more range in the story than there might have been had Ariadne only been the focus. I did like how Dionysus was a vital character - I didn't even realise he played a role in Ariadne's story until reading Ariadne. Though he seemed rather kind for a god in the beginning and I thought the easy dynamic between him and Ariadne was too easily claimed, things settled into place later on. If you've enjoyed novels such as Circe, The Silence of the Girls or A Thousand Ships, then certainly you should read Ariadne. It's a good book. It didn't stamp any kind of specific mark on me, and though this makes me sound slightly ambivalent I did enjoy it! Ariadne does exactly what it sets out to do and retells Ariadne's story for the modern reader, and I'm quite interested to see what Jennifer Saint does next - supposedly another Greek retelling, which I'll likely pick up too. TL;DR: Ariadne will provide enjoyment for fans of Greek myth retellings, and is a good way to whittle a few hours away. It doesn't quite have the same ethereal feel as Circe, but it keeps up with the rest of its peers in the female-focused Greek myth retelling class, such as The Silence of the Girls and A Thousand Ships. > 4 stars Thank you to the publishers for providing me with a proof copy in exchange for an honest review! <3

  10. 5 out of 5

    Helena of Eretz ✰

    I received this complimentary ARC from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

  11. 4 out of 5

    jessica

    this book is the perfect addition to my greek mythology shelf and fits right in with ‘circe,’ ‘the silence of girls,’ and ‘a thousand ships.’ while this isnt the book i was expecting - i figured this would solely be a retelling of the minotaur, but actually follows ariadnes entire life (the minotaur is only like the first 25%) - but thats because i wasnt familiar with ariadnes story in depth. i really enjoyed getting to know more about her outside of her fathers kingdom. i found her relat this book is the perfect addition to my greek mythology shelf and fits right in with ‘circe,’ ‘the silence of girls,’ and ‘a thousand ships.’ while this isnt the book i was expecting - i figured this would solely be a retelling of the minotaur, but actually follows ariadnes entire life (the minotaur is only like the first 25%) - but thats because i wasnt familiar with ariadnes story in depth. i really enjoyed getting to know more about her outside of her fathers kingdom. i found her relationship with dionysus fascinating and the alternate perspective of theseus refreshing. the writing in this is also lovely. not quite on the level of madeline miller (an impossibly high standard, tbh), but still has moments of beauty. there are quite a few moments of characters recounting tales, which reminded me so much of traditional greek oral storytelling, so that was nice to see. i also think this story offers a great commentary on the role women play in the world of men and gods and gives ariadne (as well as her sister) a much deserved voice. im really happy with this. it is a definite must read for fans of ‘circe’ and greek mythology retellings in general. ↠ 4.5 stars

  12. 4 out of 5

    Éimhear (A Little Haze)

    I’m a big fan of Greek mythology having read it from childhood so was delighted to get approval from NetGalley to read Ariadne. In Ariadne the focus is on the eponymous character and her younger sister Phaedra, both daughters of King Minos. The story opens on the island of Crete and fills in on the background detail to the familiar tale of the Minotaur in the labyrinth which acts as a catalyst for how the lives of Ariadne and Phaedra unfold over the following years. The novel is beautifully writt I’m a big fan of Greek mythology having read it from childhood so was delighted to get approval from NetGalley to read Ariadne. In Ariadne the focus is on the eponymous character and her younger sister Phaedra, both daughters of King Minos. The story opens on the island of Crete and fills in on the background detail to the familiar tale of the Minotaur in the labyrinth which acts as a catalyst for how the lives of Ariadne and Phaedra unfold over the following years. The novel is beautifully written; during my read I highlighted many passages that truly moved me with their rich mix of emotional prose and authentic female characterisation. I found it so interesting to see this interpretation of familiar tales from mythology. I liked how so many of the characters’ background stories were expanded upon from typical 20th century interpretations which particularly trumpeted the feats of male Greek Gods and heroes at the expense of the female characters. This novel certainly sits happily alongside recent Greek retellings focusing on silenced and/or vilified Greek female figures such as Circe and A Thousand Ships. Ariadne proved to be a compelling main character. I thought that she went on a great journey of personal growth that wasn’t always linear which to me made her feel incredibly authentic. Her combination of human frailties and strengths just shone through the pages making for a read that always kept me hooked. At times she could be extremely an passive character and just seemed to let things happen to her, and at others she found this great fire within her to battle what she perceived to be injustices against the feminine even at the expense of her own heart’s desires. Spoilers for the plot surrounding the story of Phaedra. I was particularly keen to see how the novel would approach the storyline of Phaedra who is typically thought of as a villain. If you are familiar with Greek mythology you will know that she in many accounts of Greek mythology she is the character who accused her stepson of rape in a suicide note after he spurned her advances leading to his death at his father’s hands. It has always deeply troubled me that a famed story in Greek mythology gives credence to the idea that false rape accusations are a common occurrence by women who are somehow trying to protect their own guilt. Especially when in Greek mythology women are casually raped by esteemed Greek Gods and heroes but are described in such sanitised fashion. In this book Phaedra’s story is brilliantly outlined from the earliest moments of her childhood through adulthood. We are treated to intimate descriptions of this woman and her thought processes, and can deeply empathise with all the struggles she goes through. So much so that once Phaedra’s stepson made his appearance in the novel I abandoned it for a number of days. Not because I disliked the book or had lost interest. But because I liked her. I felt I understood her. And I was scared of how the novel would deal with the rape allegation. I didn’t want to empathise with a character capable of such reprehensible actions. I don’t wish to give away the details of the complete plot in this retelling. But what I will say is that it made perfect sense. It gave Phaedra’s story the detail and insight it needed. End of spoilers for the plot surrounding the story of Phaedra. If I am to level any criticism at this novel it is that I think it needed a little more nuance and dynamism in the characterisations of its male leads, Theseus and Dionysus. Sometimes I felt the novel was very heavy handed with its descriptions of the negative aspects of these characters. Don’t get me wrong, they deserved to be described as they were... but I felt the book lacked a little in showing us why they were able to charm so many people into following and revering them. In my opinion, the author wanted us to firmly root against them and their patriarchal privilege, which meant that as characters they lost some of the charisma they needed to truly feel luminous within the storyline. I also found the final section of the book (it is split into four parts) to be a little rushed. The book still had a satisfactory ending that will satiate readers, but I thought there should have been a little more time taken to buildup to the ultimate endpoint for all of these characters. For me it just lacked the emotion and heart of the previous four sections. Overall I definitely recommend this book. It is an engaging read with rich female characterisations and a compelling story that will keep you eager to keep reading. Content warning: (not an exhaustive list) human sacrifice, animal sacrifice, suicide, rape, abandonment, violence, mild gore, depression *An e-copy was kindly provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley for honest review* Publishing 29th April 2021, Headline For more reviews and book related chat check out my blog Follow me on Twitter Friend me on Goodreads

  13. 5 out of 5

    Elle

    *Thanks to Flatiron & Goodreads for an advance copy!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Mariah

    These covers man These covers man

  15. 5 out of 5

    Abbie | nerdyabbie

    ⭐ 3.75 / 5 ⭐ Packed with rich storytelling and prose, Saint unfolds Ariadne’s legend in a way that will leave you weeping & yet begging for more. 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 t ⭐ 3.75 / 5 ⭐ Packed with rich storytelling and prose, Saint unfolds Ariadne’s legend in a way that will leave you weeping & yet begging for more. 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. Ariadne, when [redacted] left her on that island: This one hurt like a mothertrucker, dudes. It was gruesome and too honest, and stunggggg. The emotions were real in this one. If you’re looking for a book to make you cry, pick this one up and learn about the sweeping legend of Ariadne and her sister Phaedra. The story of what happened to Ariadne’s mother Pasiphae hurt too! (Can you tell that everything about this book pretty much hurt?) I loved her character so much and the complexity of her arc was so infuriating and heart-wrenching. Anger for the gods really spikes up in every plot point within this book, and as much as I love Greek Mythology, I ended up hated them too 😂 Because as enigmatic and all-powerful as they are, you have to acknowledge most of them truly are terrible. Except for Hades and Persephone. #CoupleGoals Ariadne really makes you look at just how messed up the Olympian gods genuinely are because they aren’t human. They don’t know how to appreciate truly beautiful things, because they are immortal. To them, nothing fades, and they can go on pleasing themselves at the expense of mortals forever - but the humans are the ones taught to cherish, to give gratitude. Because nothing lasts forever. The gods will never understand that. The way Saint explores the reasoning behind why the gods are the way that they are is just so 🙌 There are too many beautifully written lines to quote, and while the plot and pacing did drag a bit, the ending will rip your heart in half. If you were a fan of Circe, The Song of Achilles, A Thousand Ships, or The Silence of the Girls you’ll love this one! Thank you to Flatiron Books for sending me an ARC copy of this book! Book Breakdown Writing Quality: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ World-Building: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ Characterization: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ Romance: ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ Dialogue: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ Plot: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ Enjoyment Level: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ 「 Overall: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆」

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kristenelle

    Incredible! Every once in a great while you read a book that is like the first sip of a truly extraordinary cup of coffee or the first bite of a fresh peach still holding the flavor of the sun. Like, you expected it to be good. But to be so transported by its exquisiteness... there are no words. This book hit the spot for me. It follows Ariadne and, to a lesser extent, her sister, Phaedra. The characters, stories, and setting are pulled straight from Greek mythology. Saint uses the empty spaces Incredible! Every once in a great while you read a book that is like the first sip of a truly extraordinary cup of coffee or the first bite of a fresh peach still holding the flavor of the sun. Like, you expected it to be good. But to be so transported by its exquisiteness... there are no words. This book hit the spot for me. It follows Ariadne and, to a lesser extent, her sister, Phaedra. The characters, stories, and setting are pulled straight from Greek mythology. Saint uses the empty spaces in these stories to embellish and create something both new and yet feeling as though it must have always been there to begin with. Someone must have just forgotten to tell those parts until now. Really, this is an elegy for all the women who suffered or were merely forgotten. Finally, they get a spotlight and sympathy here. And I feel it with both pain and joy. This is not a whimpering story of sad women being oppressed. Somehow Saint manages a tone that is sweeping, epic, ruthless, vulnerable, dignified, and sweet. Her women are human and tragic, yet formidable. Saint's prose is gorgeous and consistent. Her portrayal of women is compassionate and realistic. I especially loved how she portrayed motherhood and how it can be so different for different women. I was moved and validated. 100% recommend this. I think I've already found my favorite 2021 release. Sexual violence? Yes. Other content warnings? Yes. Let's see...there is physical and emotional abuse, domestic violence, gas lighting, narcissism, animal cruelty, creative murders/deaths, infanticide, postpartum depression, suicidal ideation.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Emma Cathryne

    "It was the woman, always the women, be they helpless serving girls or princesses, who paid the price. Cursed to roam the land without refuge, transformed into a shambling bear or lowing cow, or burned to ashes by the vengeful white armed goddess." When I was a child, scrambling to devour every Greek Mythology book in my tiny elementary school library, I fell in love with the sweeping tales of romance, magic, and the glorious, god-touched heroes at their core. Odysseus, Achilles, Theseus. M "It was the woman, always the women, be they helpless serving girls or princesses, who paid the price. Cursed to roam the land without refuge, transformed into a shambling bear or lowing cow, or burned to ashes by the vengeful white armed goddess." When I was a child, scrambling to devour every Greek Mythology book in my tiny elementary school library, I fell in love with the sweeping tales of romance, magic, and the glorious, god-touched heroes at their core. Odysseus, Achilles, Theseus. Men who defied convention, who stood up to the unshakeable might of the gods. It wasn’t until I was older that I began to realize a pattern: Io, turned into a cow by the wrath of Hera. Persephone, kidnapped and dragged beneath the earth. Andromeda, chained to a rock and left to be consumed by the sea monster, Cetus. Jennifer Saint’s novel plucks at this discordant feeling, teasing apart the threads of myth to find the dark commonalities among them, with few stories as reflective of these broader themes as the plight of the eponymous Ariadne. “What the gods liked was ferocity, savagery, the snarl and the bite and the fear. Always, always the fear, the naked edge of it rising from the altars, the high note of it in the muttered prayers and praise we sent heavenward, the deep, primal taste of it when we raised the knife above the sacrificial offering.” At its core, Aridane is a grim but powerful tale about the trauma of mythological womanhood and the unstable dichotomy between hero, god, and monster. It shifts the perspective away from the men who dominate historical epics, and similar to Madeline Miller’s Circe, shines a light on the women most maligned by their stories. I include the quote above not only to highlight Saint’s brilliant prose, but also to praise the crackling aura of anxiety which pervades the novel, as both Ariadne and Phaedra’s stories spiral closer and closer to a conclusion that is hundreds of years foregone. Saint is a dexterous wielder of tension: it takes talent to balance the plot on the edge of a knife, leaving me straining for understanding and closure even as I know how the story ends. While I enjoyed the unique spin on Ariadne’s tale, the overall familiarity of it meant that I found my attention getting caught on the more minor mentions of well-known women from other myths: Scylla, Medusa, Pasiphaë. In particular, I was transfixed by the violence of their monstrous transformations (directly in Scylla and Medusa’s case) and indirectly (in Pasiphaë’s case) laid bare as the whims of cruel machinations beyond their control. So often women in myth are divided into monsters and victims – the former being a punishment for “bad” women, and the latter considered a tragedy befalling the “good” ones, with both labels stripping them viciously of their agency. Saint draws a bead on this concept brilliantly as Ariadne struggles to make decisions that will save her from either categorization, ultimately culminating in one final act of instrumentality that leads to her demise. I was nervous about how Saint would approach Phaedra’s myth, which typically reads as disturbing at best and reprehensible at worst, but Saint did an excellent job of tactfully shifting the original plot and placing her character into the broader context of the mythology, thus bringing a deeper level of tragedy to her delusions. Phaedra’s relationship with Ariadne, too, was given more depth, as the pair struggle to escape the trauma of their upbringing and connect despite the ever-widening gulf between them. For me, their fallout was perhaps the biggest tragedy of the story, as the dark actions of the men around them slowly chip away at their once unshakeable bond. Jennifer Saint has drawn the curtain back from the shining heroes of my youth, revealing the cruelty lurking within them and giving life and shape to them women languishing in the shadows beyond. This intricate tale will frighten as readily as it will mesmerize, and those who enjoyed Circe, A Thousand Ships, or the Silence of the Girls will find novelty and wisdom in this story as well.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore

    My thanks to Headline and NetGalley for a review copy of this one. I can’t quite remember when I first heard of the minotaur and the labyrinth in Crete—it was either in my school English book (class 5?) which had the story of Theseus killing the minotaur, and finding his way out of the labyrinth with the ball of golden string or in the Bobbsey Twins’ Greek Hat Mystery where the children go to Crete (though I don’t remember if Theseus was mentioned). I don’t remember if Ariadne was mentioned in ei My thanks to Headline and NetGalley for a review copy of this one. I can’t quite remember when I first heard of the minotaur and the labyrinth in Crete—it was either in my school English book (class 5?) which had the story of Theseus killing the minotaur, and finding his way out of the labyrinth with the ball of golden string or in the Bobbsey Twins’ Greek Hat Mystery where the children go to Crete (though I don’t remember if Theseus was mentioned). I don’t remember if Ariadne was mentioned in either story but the school book one did cast Theseus as the hero—and that is what this book challenges. Ariadne is, as the description says, a retelling of the story of Theseus and the minotaur but it is much more. Opening powerfully, the initial section is told in the voice of Ariadne, princess of Crete, as she describes how her father, Minos, treated Scylla who stood with him against her own people and of Medusa who paid for the sins of another as did her own mother Pasiphae who suffered for her husband’s arrogance (I wondered why Medea’s story is not seen through this lens, though—she is seen as a witch). The minotaur, born to Pasiphae as a result, sees sympathy only from Ariadne but is soon beyond loving or ‘taming’, and becomes Minos’ weapon to terrorise everyone, including Athens, defeated at his hands. With Theseus’ arrival, Ariadne thinks she has found love and freedom but her fate is no better than that of countless other women including those she has described and she finds herself abandoned on Naxos awaiting death, until Dionysus comes upon her. Alongside we alternately follow the narrative of Phaedra, her younger sister. Also initially taken with Theseus, Phaedra soon becomes aware of his true nature—he is a hero concerned only with being a hero and having adventures that bring him fame, anyone who helps him is never acknowledged, he takes whatever he wishes, irrespective of whom he hurts, and he is not interested with any problems of everyday life, like the welfare of his people. In a marriage that circumstances force her into, Phaedra finds some solace in the power she can wield as she rules in Theseus’ place. The two sisters’ lives take them on very different paths, yet both face and constantly acknowledge the restrictions placed on them, the injustices that they must bear and the conduct expected of him as women. Having enjoyed Circe by Madeline Miller, this one which was compared to it caught my eye and I felt it certainly lived up to my expectations. Ariadne and Phaedra are both strong characters, yet very different from the other and I liked that their voices were different even though both recognise the boundaries they must live within (whether or not they like it), and express themselves as best they can within these. While Phaedra finds she can use her intelligence as de facto ruler of Athens, Ariadne settles into a more conventional (yet very different life) when she finds Dionysus who can understand her because of his own story. But the real power unfortunately continues to lie beyond them, in social convention, with men and the gods, and this is eventually what dictates the reality of their lives. This was beautifully written, engrossing and strongly feminist—and one I certainly recommend!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Eon ♒Windrunner♒

    Loving this cover!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Tanya

    I was an odd child who went through a phase of obsessive interest in labyrinths and mazes—that’s how I first came to hear a (very censored) version of the Minotaur myth, and it was that story that sparked my love for Greek mythology. Ariadne was always my favorite Greek heroine, so needless to say, I was excited for Saint’s debut novel—yet another among a recent surge of mythology retellings focusing on the women who’ve been sidelined for the ambition and glory of the male heroes favored by the I was an odd child who went through a phase of obsessive interest in labyrinths and mazes—that’s how I first came to hear a (very censored) version of the Minotaur myth, and it was that story that sparked my love for Greek mythology. Ariadne was always my favorite Greek heroine, so needless to say, I was excited for Saint’s debut novel—yet another among a recent surge of mythology retellings focusing on the women who’ve been sidelined for the ambition and glory of the male heroes favored by the Gods. “No longer was my world one of brave heroes; I was learning all too swiftly the women’s pain that throbbed unspoken through the tales of their feats. (…) 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 for 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.” She may be the titular character, but the author doesn’t make the mistake of focusing solely on the elder princess of Crete—her younger sister Phaedra gets to tell her own tragic story as well. I was surprised by this, but have to admit that it completely worked in the book’s favor; after all, Ariadne’s life on Naxos is pretty dull, so the alternating point of view chapters keep the novel’s pace from slowing to a crawl, and allows for different myths to be woven into a single, connected narrative. Ariadne is a fascinating character, but no matter how you twist and turn it, her brave betrayal of her tyrannical father is carried out in Knossos early in the story, and after that she mostly settles into passive domesticity, which doesn’t provide much material for exciting developments. It’s yet another novel described as a “feminist retelling”, but I would use the term very loosely; the women are given a voice, not agency, and beyond their initial defiance of Minos, both Ariadne and Phaedra are swept along in their husband's stories like brittle leaves in the wind. “The price we paid for the resentment, the lust and the greed of arrogant men was our pain, shining and bright like the blade of a newly honed knife.” Ariadne is gentle and introspective, rather than fierce and daring—that would be her sister Phaedra. At least, that's the way Saint chooses to portray her throughout the book, which begs the question why she then didn't go for the Aphrodite version of her myth, since her inevitable end felt very out of character and even infantilizing. Involving Aphrodite would also have further proven the point of Gods toying and taking their petty anger out on innocent mortals to punish an offender, which Ariadne muses on from the very first chapter. Phaedra's actual story wouldn’t go over well in something marketed as a feminist retelling, so the author chose to conveniently leave out her baseless accusation, absolving her of malicious intent—by cheating through omission (or, less kindly, through retconning) she may have made the character more likeable, but also more inconsistent. I liked how the sisterly bond was worked into Ariadne and Phaedra’s narratives despite them being separated early in the story; they have very different dispositions, but both have to learn to survive in a man’s (and god’s) world to the best of their abilities. The joys, horrors, and demands of motherhood are also explored at length, first through poor Pasiphae, and later through both her daughters, but the representation of all male characters lacked nuance, the internal struggles of the two protagonists were a little flat, and the final part of the novel definitely felt rushed and anticlimactic. I felt slightly robbed of a happier ending (in some (admittedly more obscure) versions, Dionysus honors Ariadne in the same way as his mother Semele); the women ultimately suffer more than they have to according to certain versions of the myths this novel was based on, which is a shame. Overall, I had high hopes, but I didn’t enjoy this as much as Madeline Miller’s Circe , although I can see why the comparison keeps cropping up—there are parallels (forgotten woman exiled on an island being the most obvious), and while the writing isn’t as luminous, it’s vivid enough to trick you into feeling the sand between your toes, the wind in your hair, the sun on your face. Naxos came to life in these pages, as did female characters who were originally not much more than footnotes in the larger stories centered around the men who used, abused, discarded, and forgot them. I just wish Saint had been more imaginative with her approach, but even though it didn’t live up to its initial potential, it’s the kind of reframing of a well-known story that I’ll always be interested in reading, and I look forward to whatever Saint will try her hand at next. “It was the woman, always the women, be they helpless serving girls or princesses, who paid the price. Cursed to roam the land without refuge, transformed into a shambling bear or lowing cow, or burned to ashes by the vengeful white armed goddess.”

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    For my full review, visit me at https://mrsbrownsbooks.wordpress.com/... If you are a fan of Greek myths retold, then this will be the story for you. With its beautiful cover comes an immersive story that follows Ariadne and her sister, Phaedra, in a world where women are powerless to men – both mortal and gods. https://mrsbrownsbooks.wordpress.com/... For my full review, visit me at https://mrsbrownsbooks.wordpress.com/... If you are a fan of Greek myths retold, then this will be the story for you. With its beautiful cover comes an immersive story that follows Ariadne and her sister, Phaedra, in a world where women are powerless to men – both mortal and gods. https://mrsbrownsbooks.wordpress.com/...

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jackie ϟ Bookseller

    I received an ARC of this title from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. 5/5 stars: ★★★★★ "The price we paid for the resentment, the lust and the greed of arrogant men was our pain, shining and bright like the blade of a newly honed knife." In this retelling of the Greek myths of Ariadne, the title character battles the selfish and often cruel desires of the men around her and the Gods above her again and again. Ariadne, Princess of Crete, sister of the Minotaur, wife of D I received an ARC of this title from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. 5/5 stars: ★★★★★ "The price we paid for the resentment, the lust and the greed of arrogant men was our pain, shining and bright like the blade of a newly honed knife." In this retelling of the Greek myths of Ariadne, the title character battles the selfish and often cruel desires of the men around her and the Gods above her again and again. Ariadne, Princess of Crete, sister of the Minotaur, wife of Dionysus, sister of the Queen of Athens, is portrayed as a normal mortal woman trying to make her way through a world that is designed to destroy her. Readers follow Ariadne from her birth to her death, her entire life written as though it were fact but woven with myth after glorious myth, her emotions raw and real in juxtaposition to the Gods, miracles, and feats performed around her. While there is triumph in Ariadne, this is still a tragedy in my opinion, so be ready to get your heart torn out and ripped to shreds. In other words, read this book! It'll be in my top 5 of 2021, I'm quite sure. The basis of the plot is that two sisters and Princesses of Crete, Ariadne and Phaedra, tell their stories in alternating point-of-views, though Ariadne begins and ends the story and mostly leads it along. We begin with their childhoods, growing up with the Minotaur as a sibling who gradually becomes a monster, and who they assist in killing. From there, both of their stories take off in opposite, but always related, directions. They both experience victory and pain, love and loss, motherhood, joy, anger, frustration, disappointment, and every other human emotion, all the while at the mercy of men and Gods. That being said, they both manage to retain some power over their lives and do not allow themselves to be limited by their circumstances. While there are moments of victory in Ariadne's story, there is also tragedy. Many are already comparing this book to Circe, and so am I. However, it felt even more "real" to me, as though I were reading the memoir of an actual person who spoke of Gods and monsters as if they were completely normal. In this way, it feels like a cross between Circe or The Song of Achilles and an historical fiction by Michelle Moran. The writing manages to be both frank and lyrical somehow, and it's honestly hard to tell that this is a debut novel with Jennifer Saint writing like a seasoned professional. As for the story itself- oh boy. There are really about five or six different stories tied together into this one novel. The tales of the Minotaur, Theseus, Phaedra, Dionysus and his Island of Naxos, Perseus, Medusa, and more all make appearances, but are tied together seamlessly. I was also impressed by the uniquely-human emotions and trials that were included amongst the famous myths. A woman's experience with her very mortal motherhood, for example, struck home with me. Another case, so human in its simplicity, is the description of a long marriage gradually crumbling. Many women's stories, all too realistic, are bound up in this swath of ancient Mythology. So while this is certainly a retelling of ancient Greek myths and the women within them, I think many modern women will not only take pity on the characters they are seeing, but will also relate to them. This book is incredible. It really is "the next Circe," except it's entirely its own, too. It has all the ingredients for long-term success: solid writing, an exciting and twisted plot, relatable characters, and timeless lessons. A must-read for 2021.

  23. 4 out of 5

    ;3

    i wan it so bad

  24. 5 out of 5

    Izzie

    *4.5 Stars* this book was absolutely stunning. I’m so blown away that it’s a debut. Any fans of Madeleine Miller are going to adore this book. Full review to come at some point.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Boy Blue

    "It was the woman, always the women, be they helpless serving girls or princesses, who paid the price. Cursed to roam the land without refuge, transformed into a shambling bear or lowing cow, or burned to ashes by the vengeful white armed goddess." There's been a spate of these Greek myth re-tellings in honeyed modern prose and I have to say I'm a sucker for them.  Unfortunately, this is probably the weakest one I've come across.  Jennifer Saint attacks the Theseus myth from Ariadne's perspecti "It was the woman, always the women, be they helpless serving girls or princesses, who paid the price. Cursed to roam the land without refuge, transformed into a shambling bear or lowing cow, or burned to ashes by the vengeful white armed goddess." There's been a spate of these Greek myth re-tellings in honeyed modern prose and I have to say I'm a sucker for them.  Unfortunately, this is probably the weakest one I've come across.  Jennifer Saint attacks the Theseus myth from Ariadne's perspective while also giving her sister Phaedra some air time and she does a good job of the telling. But I found the characterisation of Ariadne weak and uninspiring, and the characterisation of Phaedra strong until a bizarre twist on the original myth undermines all the good work from the beginning. Ariadne makes one affirmative decision to help Theseus at the start of the story and then is just blown in the wind for the rest of the book. Even when she does stand up to others it amounts to nothing more than her own crippling self-doubt. Now it's true that Saint must follow quite closely the original source material but the internal life of Ariadne is all her own and that is unfortunately the weakest part of the story. Phaedra at least develops some backbone and ability to control the events around her but she is undone by the deeds of others. Oddly, Saint chooses not to address the normal telling of the myth where Phaedra is collateral for Hippolytus' insult of Aphrodite, another chance to show how women wear the consequences of the god's and men's selfish actions. Instead we get Phaedra dragged into some sort of strange teenage madness and then commit suicide when her love is spurned. I found this going against the grain of Phaedra's character and all that Saint had worked for.  This is a Phaedra quote: "As if we hadn't learned from our shattered mother and her monstrous spawn that all a woman can do in this world is take what she wants from it and crush those who would stand in her way before they squash her down to nothing." This is the ruthless Phaedra we expect, this is the Phaedra of the original myth. Instead we get someone who loses her marbles after being spurned by her stepson and rapidly decides suicide is the only way out. In the original myth she falsely accuses Hippolytus of rape and then Theseus kills him to defend her honour. I can see why Saint rewrote this but unfortunately it betrays the headstrong and willful Phaedra that has fought for every inch in the previous 300 pages. The exploration of the darker side of the Dionysian cult was quite good but I felt the ending was incredibly rushed and the chance to show Perseus as a completely different kind of hero was lost. Because Saint did a great job of characterising the male villains. We'd had the cruel ruler Minos, the ladies man and fame hound Theseus, then the immortal reveller Dionysus, followed by the austere horse lover Hippolytus (less a villain, more a simpleton), it was a chance for us to finally get a middle of the road hero who was strong but also a good ruler. I know Saint tried to imply that Perseus and Ariadne unravelled all of that with a single glance but I don't think it worked. I also think the handling of the final showdown was poor. Dionysus is supposed to be welcomed to the city after the death of Ariadne through a deal brokered by Hermes. I feel like that would have been a strong point to make again about how women are the collateral damage in so many of these Greek myths but Saint didn't seem to want to take that route.  I also felt that Hera's presence in the novel was in some ways a missed opportunity. She's always there as Araidne's enemy by proxy but we never really explore how the white-armed goddess (not the greatest of epithets) of marriage and birth, the protector of women, and the queen of all gods could have it in for these poor women, exploited by her King of the Gods husband, her Olympian brothers and their children. Instead as Ariadne points out. "It was the woman, always the women, be they helpless serving girls or princesses, who paid the price. Cursed to roam the land without refuge, transformed into a shambling bear or lowing cow, or burned to ashes by the vengeful white armed goddess." It's moments like these that remind me of the missed opportunity to really give a nuanced feminist slant to these myths. Saint takes the easy wins but seems incapable of stringing them all together into a grand theme or message. In a way it's unfair to compare this to Circe because Miller had so much more leeway, given there wasn't a well beaten path she had to follow. Saint is constrained by the very well-known exploits of Theseus and this restricts her a little bit in the action of the story. But where Circe is an uplifting tale of how a woman can fight the odds stacked against her and even best the Gods at times, Ariadne is almost the opposite, a despairing tale of the ultimate helplessness of women. Such a strange message. On a side note, Pasiphae, Ariadne's mum is actually the sister of Circe, said to have considerable witch like abilities too. I'm surprised that Saint didn't explore that more. It would have been quite believable that Ariadne had been taught some of these techniques. Equally, the dancing that Ariadne does at the beginning of the novel just disappears, it seemed like such a useful tool to be used with Dionysus later on. Many missed opportunities. I'll leave you with another glowing quote that showed the unfulfilled potential of the story. "The price we paid for the resentment, the lust and the greed of arrogant men was our pain, shining and bright like the blade of a newly honed knife."

  26. 4 out of 5

    Bookphenomena (Micky)

    4.5 stars Headlines: Feminist and sisterhood Bittersweet Betrayal I’m so over Greek mythology men I was captivated by the writing and story of Aridane’s world very quickly but honestly, don’t come into this story expecting gentleness. Ariadne was told with raw brutality at times, no holds barred and personally, I appreciated the gritty immersion. Please do check trigger warnings on other reviews or dm me for details. The story was ladened with tragedy and also times of happiness but there was always th 4.5 stars Headlines: Feminist and sisterhood Bittersweet Betrayal I’m so over Greek mythology men I was captivated by the writing and story of Aridane’s world very quickly but honestly, don’t come into this story expecting gentleness. Ariadne was told with raw brutality at times, no holds barred and personally, I appreciated the gritty immersion. Please do check trigger warnings on other reviews or dm me for details. The story was ladened with tragedy and also times of happiness but there was always that overwhelming sense of foreboding. It wasn’t a book that left you settled, it left me on edge and tense. Most of these feelings stemmed from the male characters in this book, mortal and god alike. Misogyny was rife but some of the key male characters were simply awful. I had cried all the tears I thought I could ever produce; I had spat and screamed and now I felt strangely cleansed. The separate stories of Ariadne and Phaedra were so interesting and I had such hopes for their presents, futures and their ability to deal with the past. The legacy of their experiences was a heavy burden and these sisters were close but driven apart by circumstances. The tone of the story was broadly feminist with a sense of sisterhood at the heart of it. The children were also a balm to the tragedies. I’m not going to lie, I did struggle with the conclusion a little but it was true to the tale and to the tone of the book overall. Ariadne was an immersive experience with the kind of writing that got you lost in the page. It was a truly impressive debut. The cover is stunning and I’ve ordered myself a finished copy. I can’t wait to see which story Jennifer Saint will retell next. Thank you to Wildfire Books/Headline for the early review copy. Find this review at A Take From Two Cities Blog.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Laure

    I love Greek mythology and I loved Ariadne. Compelling retelling of the Theseus myth from the point of view of the women — Ariadne and her sister, Phaedra. Beautifully written, the story also deals with very contemporary issues and feels very relevant.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Cathy

    The first thing that drew me to this book was that I was fortunate enough to visit the site of Knossos on a holiday to Crete many years ago. I was also intrigued by the idea of a book that puts its titular heroine, Ariadne, centre stage in the retelling of the myth of the Minotaur. A recurring theme of the book is the male domination of society and the imbalance of power between men and women. As Ariadne observes, women – including her own mother, Pasiphaë – are blamed and punished for the action The first thing that drew me to this book was that I was fortunate enough to visit the site of Knossos on a holiday to Crete many years ago. I was also intrigued by the idea of a book that puts its titular heroine, Ariadne, centre stage in the retelling of the myth of the Minotaur. A recurring theme of the book is the male domination of society and the imbalance of power between men and women. As Ariadne observes, women – including her own mother, Pasiphaë – are blamed and punished for the actions of men, both mortal and divine.  In fact, it’s not quite as simple as that because, as the book shows, mortal women also suffer at the hands of female Gods.  For example, Ariadne ponders on Athena’s actions in punishing Medusa for her seduction by Poseidon: ‘She must punish the girl who was so shameless as to be overpowered by Poseidon… So Medusa had to pay for Poseidon’s act. It made no sense at all.’   Arguably, the book illustrates the misuse of power per se. For example, Ariadne observes that her brother, the Minotaur, for whom she shows a touching pity when he’s a baby, becomes a display to the world of her father Minos’s dominance. Similarly Minos keeps Daedalus a virtual prisoner on Crete because of his genius for invention and to prevent his knowledge of the secrets of the labyrinth beneath the palace falling into the hands of others. The author draws the reader into the stories of Ariadne and Phaedra, showing how each in their different way attempt to find their identity and gain some control over their lives.  For Phaedra, used as a political bargaining chip by her brother after the death of Minos in order to secure peace with Athens, it’s about gaining what knowledge she can of the workings of the Athenian state and using that to her advantage.  For Ariadne, living alone in exile on Naxos, it’s about finding the courage and determination to survive. As she says defiantly, ‘I was not Minos’ captive daughter; I was not Cinyras’s trade for copper; nor was I Theseus’s diversion between heroic feats of glory.  Somehow I had survived them all and here I was, free of them at last’.  She does survive, albeit with the help of the male God, Dionysus. In fact, both Ariadne and Phaedra are destined ultimately to be disillusioned, let down and deceived by men who don’t deserve them. Alongside the stories of Ariadne and Phaedra, there are references to other characters from Greek mythology, such as Medea, Jason and Heracles. At nearly 400 pages, Ariadne is a chunky read but if some sections move at a rather leisurely pace, there are plenty of scenes that are full of energy and drama. For example, the description of a descent into the Underworld. Although I was aware of the story of Ariadne up to the point of the slaying of the Minotaur and was vaguely aware that she spent time on Naxos, I knew nothing about events in her life thereafter. I had also never heard of her sister, Phaedra, or her mother, Pasiphae. (I obviously should have paid more attention during my Classical Studies lessons at school!) I think this lack of knowledge hampered my ability to fully judge what degree of imagination the author has brought to her retelling of the story of Ariadne. This may also explain why, whilst full of admiration for the superb quality of the writing, my feelings about Ariadne do not quite match the wild – dare I say, Dionysian – enthusiasm of other readers. However, for lovers of Greek mythology, Ariadne is a book I can definitely recommend. And wouldn’t it be great to be reading it on a beach in Crete?

  29. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    Ariadne’s story is one of the bonds between women, and of women’s shame, rejection and betrayal at the hands of men. This re-telling of the minotaur myth gives voice to the female actants, and is compassionate of the monster. It dissects the worship of heroes (celebrities?), and the trolling of females in the public eye, all very relevant to social media today. It also confronts the various natures of motherhood. Saint’s expertise in classical mythology is evident throughout. However, her enthusia Ariadne’s story is one of the bonds between women, and of women’s shame, rejection and betrayal at the hands of men. This re-telling of the minotaur myth gives voice to the female actants, and is compassionate of the monster. It dissects the worship of heroes (celebrities?), and the trolling of females in the public eye, all very relevant to social media today. It also confronts the various natures of motherhood. Saint’s expertise in classical mythology is evident throughout. However, her enthusiasm for the subject leads to a tendency to over-egg the pudding. While the classics-overload works in places, such as when Dionysus tells Ariadne of Semele, elsewhere it is mis-judged. For instance, just when the reader is in a romantic clinch with hero Theseus, we are torn from his arms to sit through his life history. The first couple of chapters read like a ‘classics for dummies’, as we are given Ariadne and her family’s life history. Similarly, despite Ariadne’s first-person narrative, the reader is at a remove, certainly in the early stages. On occasion, Ariadne’s voice inclines to the historical, in the style of written texts of classic myths, but at odds in a teenage girl. While familiar to readers of the likes of Robert Graves and Roger Lancelyn Green, it does little to revitalise these age-old stories for a modern audience. At times, the point of view shifts to omniscient, such that Ariadne, a mortal girl, has knowledge of past, present and future. Occasionally, the dialogue falls flat, mainly when the vehicle for exposition of a further myth. Actions and dialogue tags include much fist-clenching, and squeaking and squawking. All these issues are either not as prevalent in the latter half of the book, or they are not as obtrusive. A game of two halves, then. Overall, compelling. My thanks to NetGalley and Headline for the ARC.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Liz Barnsley

    Im not even sure where to start with Ariadne and my almost visceral emotional response to it. The beautiful complexity of the narrative drew me in immediately and since that moment I have been desperately eeking it out, not wanting it to end. But sadly end it did and now my life has a gap where Ariadne and Phaedra once were. Ariadne is a marvel of a novel, a reimagining of Greek mythology with a huge amount of heart and soul, telling the story of two sisters and the men and Gods who defined their Im not even sure where to start with Ariadne and my almost visceral emotional response to it. The beautiful complexity of the narrative drew me in immediately and since that moment I have been desperately eeking it out, not wanting it to end. But sadly end it did and now my life has a gap where Ariadne and Phaedra once were. Ariadne is a marvel of a novel, a reimagining of Greek mythology with a huge amount of heart and soul, telling the story of two sisters and the men and Gods who defined their existence in so many ways. I will admit I cried at the end of this book…I simply did not want to leave the vibrant world Jennifer Saint immerses you into, where women live under the often petty will of men and Gods alike, where both wonder and horror reside in equal measure. Where with one impulsive decision born out of love, Ariadne, daughter of Minos, will change her life and that of her sister forever. The prose is stunning, I often use the words “beautifully written” but never were those words more apt than now. There is an artistry to the writing that is almost cinematic in its resulting immersion of the reader into the story – and the women in this novel are layered, nuanced and embody every woman at some point of their lives. I loved it. Could easily end up being my no I of 2021 which is strange given its not a book I would have been likely to pick up myself. I have a feeling I should thank the lovely Kate Stephenson and the Wildfire team for making sure I didnt miss out. I can’t wait to see what Jennifer Saint does next. I’m sure I will be a lifelong fan. Highly recommended.

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