Ariadne by Jennifer Saint

Posted On 6 May 2021

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My Five Word TL:DR Review : Two sides to every story

AriadneI really enjoyed Ariadne by Jennifer Saint and was also incredibly impressed to learn that this is a debut novel.  Here we have a reimagining of one of Greek mythology’s most famous stories.  This is a beautifully told story, totally immersive, shocking and ultimately bittersweet.

I would start this by saying Greek mythology is an area that I have only a brief spattering of knowledge of but like most people I’m familiar with the most famous stories, King Minos and the Minotaur being a story that I was briefly aware of although I’d never read about how the Minotaur came to exist so this was certainly an eye opener and another example of the Gods and how they meddle in the lives of those that worship them.

For me, there are two sides to every story.  Throughout history, stories are told from the POV of the ‘winner’ and the other perspective is usually lacking sometimes even completely obliterated over the course of time.  Tales of mythology are similarly dominated by the males of the story, the heroes, fighting wars and gaining fame and status and the Gods, powerful and vain, playing with the lives of the mortals that worship them.  What I’m really enjoying from the recent spate of such retellings is the opportunity to read those stories from a fresh perspective.

So, to be clear, these are not reimaginings, the story and outcomes remain consistent to the original myth, they’re not an attempt to change the fate of the women involved, instead, they gave a voice to those females involved, tell their story and take the focus away from the traditionally male dominated one to the lesser known females of the piece.  And I have to say that I’m loving this trend and would love more such books.

Ariadne is the daughter of Minos and sister to Phaedra.  The tale of the minotaur is particularly grim and in fact really sad and the girl’s early years are blighted by gossip, shame and fear.  I’m not going to dwell on the earlier aspects of the story other than to say it’s told in the most captivating way.  This is a modern story and easy to get on board with and the author does a fantastic job of giving Ariadne a compelling voice.  The two sisters are very close and yet quite different in nature and we have the opportunity to explore this by the addition of Phaedre’s pov chapters.  I’m not going to discuss the plot.  It would be easy enough to check out the stories that already exist, however, if like me, you’re new to the story of Ariadne and her sister Phaedra then I would suggest picking this up without any prior knowledge.  It’s a compelling story that I read with almost indecent haste in my rush to discover the outcome

Through events, lies and deception Ariadne and Phaedra come to live very different lives.  They don’t see each other for many years and when they rediscover each other anew they unfortunately part on poor terms that ultimately lead to sorrow.

Why I really loved this.  I think the way the story is told is superb.  The writing is simply gorgeous.  It’s evocative and immersive.  I really bought into both women’s storylines with equal fascination and mounting fear and dread.  I like the play on the idea around monsters.  Is Minotaur a monster or simply acting in his nature?  Minos certainly acts monstrously and Theseus seems to put himself about, in the guise of a hero, handsome, dashing and brave and yet his actions don’t appear so magnificent when viewed under a different lens.  The Gods themselves play with the lives of ordinary people and themselves behave quite abominably, often taking out their spite and vengeance on those that have done nothing to earn such punishments.  So there is the dilemma that looking at stories through a different perspective delivers.

In terms of criticisms.  I have very little.  Of course the ending was a shock, it felt a little rushed too, like the author was in a hurry to get the dreaded deed done (which I kind of understand to be fair).  And, I confess that I felt sad about the outcome.  But, ultimately, I love that Saint has given both these females their own opportunity to be stood up and counted.  Here they have an opportunity to tell their story, sometimes a little less than flattering but with some excellent motivations along the way not to mention change in psyche that is inevitable, particularly Phaedre who, out of the two, seems to live a very precarious life filled with doubt, unease and suspicion that ultimately leads her onto a misled path of delusion and pain.

I thoroughly enjoyed this and would have no hesitation in picking up more books in the same vein.  Gripping, beautifully written, uplifting at times, sad at others.  A wonderful opportunity to really reimagine what these women’s lives were perhaps like.  To take the bare bones of a story and build a body of work that gives a different angle and voice to the myths.  Beware of certain triggers though, parts of this are quite brutal, although not in a sensationalist or shock value way, and may be upsetting to some readers.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating 4.5 of 5 stars

7 Responses to “Ariadne by Jennifer Saint”

  1. mrbooks15

    I enjoyed this one a lot. Agreed on the ending.

  2. Tammy

    I’m not familiar with this at all, so thanks for reviewing it. I’m fascinated by the Minotaur story, I think I’d love this (if I had more time!)

  3. Tessa

    I loved this book too. The descriptions are so beautiful. Wonderful review!

  4. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    Having just read Madeline Miller’s Circe, I find your review quite compelling because as a lover of Greek myths I enjoy revisiting them from a different perspective, and Ariadne seems to promise an immersive read as the one focused on Circe.
    Thank you so much for sharing this! 🙂

  5. Lexlingua

    I just recently got hold of the book, looking forward to read it for Wyrd & Wonder too. Though thoughts of the “bittersweet” ending make me wary too…

  6. justonemorepaige

    I am really into this feminist mythology retelling trend. Can’t wait for this one after seeing reviews like this!

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