Elektra by Jennifer Saint

Posted On 6 June 2022

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My Five Word TL:DR Review: Greek Tragedy from Female Perspective

Elektra

Elektra is the second book by Jennifer Saint in which she brings to life those characters from Greek myth that are usually overlooked or play only a small role.  The first book by this author was the story of Ariadne, a tale I really enjoyed and so I couldn’t wait to tuck into this one.  I’m really enjoying these stories and think Jennifer Saint does a great job of bringing the characters to life.  For the record I will say that I’m not an expert on Greek myth and that could be a reason why these stories hold so much appeal to me because a lot of the content is new.  Also, from the outset I will say that the characters here are not really having a great deal of fun for the most part.  The Trojan wars provide the backdrop, two of the characters spend the majority of the book thinking of nothing but revenge and let’s be honest, Greek Tragedies are not famed for their light and breezy nature.  And, again, I would mention that these stories are not intended to alter the tales of old so much as shine a spotlight in a different direction and provide a perspective that is little seen.  So, with that in mind.

The story actually follows three characters whose tales are brought together in a fascinating story of love and betrayal..

Clytemnestra – wife to Agamemnon (whose house is cursed).  Sister to Helen, whose famous beauty sparked the infamous Trojan war and the sacking of Troy.  Mother to a number of children one of which led to her all consuming desire for revenge whilst one of the other daughters developed feelings of hatred.

Cassandra – A Princess of Troy, daughter to Priam and a priestess of Apollo.  Cassandra sought the gift of sight from Apollo and having been granted it refused his advances and incurred his wrath.  He cursed her so that although she could see the future no one would believe her prophecies.  People instead assumed she was striving to be important and when that failed they thought she’d had a mental breakdown.

Elektra – daughter to Clytemnestra and Agamemnon. A young woman devoted to a father she barely knows.  Saviour of her brother and complicit in his role in killing their mother.  Talk about a tragedy.

I don’t want to over elaborate on the plot.  Basically, Clytemnestra is tricked by Agamemnon into taking her eldest daughter to be wed to Achilles.   Instead, Agamemnon sacrifices his first daughter to ensure a fair wind for his armies ships to sail to Troy.  I mean, I can’t deny I’d probably see the red mist myself in such circumstances.  From that point forward, stricken with grief and besotted with the desire for retribution, Clytemnestra can think of little else other than the safe return of the King so that she can take her revenge out upon him.  During this time it is fair to say that she neglects her younger children a little.  Elektra develops a fixation on her father, believing he can do no wrong, she was too young to be affected by the death of her eldest sister and she puts Agamemnon on a pedestal.  Her devotion sets her at odds with her mother.  Meanwhile, Cassandra gives us the inside view of what’s taking place at Troy.  Unable to make anyone take heed of her dire warnings she can only watch with dismay as her dreadful prophecies come to pass.

As with Ariadne the writing really stood out for me.  Saint manages to conjure a place easily with an almost casual inclusion of small everyday things such as food and clothing without resorting to heavy descriptions.

The dilemma of course is that this isn’t a pleasant story, the characters gradually spiral into obsession.  Elektra’s excessive devotion to her father, who was actually disliked by many, is almost impossible to understand.  I was aghast that she had so little regard for the sacrifice of her sister and her mother’s grief.  On the other hand her mother was so careless about her children that she really didn’t help the situation at all.  She positively fixated on the need to avenge her first daughter, to the point that the rest of her family paled into insignificance.  It’s like she couldn’t see what she still had in front of her and so before you could say ‘Greek Tragedy’ an insurmountable rift had come between mother and daughter.

Cassandra’s role here, as I mentioned was really to give a view of sorts on the progress of the war and the eventual destruction of Troy.  She didn’t feel quite as deeply drawn as the other two characters.  The curse of Apollo was enough to drive her crazy, her mind constantly barraged by sights of the future, none of which she was able to relay to others in a meaningful way.  I confess I had a good deal of sympathy for her plight.

In terms of criticisms.  Well, as with Ariadne the ending felt a little rushed.  I think I was expecting a bit more of a drawn out intrigue and had a mounting sort of tension as the dreaded deed approached but the eventual act was so swiftly carried out that it took me a minute to realise that we’d moved swiftly on.  Also, there is of course the grim reality of actual life for women from Ancient Greece.  The characters we predominantly follow are of course very privileged but regardless their lives are still squandered cheaply.

Overall, I’m thoroughly enjoying these books, I feel like I’m getting a little glimpse into life from the female perspective and although these stories are quite often tragic I would love to read more.

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

My rating 4 of 5 stars.

Can’t Wait Wednesday : Elektra by Jennifer Saint

Can't Wait Wednesday

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was originally created by Breaking the Spine.  Unfortunately Breaking the Spine are no longer hosting so I’m now linking my posts up to Wishful Endings Can’t Wait Wednesday. Don’t forget to stop over, link up and check out what books everyone else is waiting for.  If you want to take part, basically, every Wednesday, we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is : Elektra by Jennifer Saint.  I was so excited to see this book due for publication next year – I really enjoyed Ariadne and can’t wait for more. Here’s the description:

ElektraThe 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.

Clytemnestra
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.

Cassandra
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.

Elektra
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?

Expected publication : April 2022

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

Wondrous Words and Can’t Wait Wednesday : The Wolf Den by Elodie Harper

Can't Wait Wednesday

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was originally created by Breaking the Spine.  Unfortunately Breaking the Spine are no longer hosting so I’m now linking my posts up to Wishful Endings Can’t Wait Wednesday. Don’t forget to stop over, link up and check out what books everyone else is waiting for.  If you want to take part, basically, every Wednesday, we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is : The Wolf Den by Elodie Harper.  Here’s the description:

the wolfdenSold by her mother. Enslaved in Pompeii’s brothel. Determined to survive. Her name is Amara. Welcome to the Wolf Den…

Amara was once a beloved daughter, until her father’s death plunged her family into penury. Now she is a slave in Pompeii’s infamous brothel, owned by a man she despises. Sharp, clever and resourceful, Amara is forced to hide her talents. For as a she-wolf, her only value lies in the desire she can stir in others.

But Amara’s spirit is far from broken.

By day, she walks the streets with her fellow she-wolves, finding comfort in the laughter and dreams they share. For the streets of Pompeii are alive with opportunity. Out here, even the lowest slave can secure a reversal in fortune. Amara has learnt that everything in this city has its price. But how much is her freedom going to cost her?

Set in Pompeii’s lupanar, The Wolf Den reimagines the lives of women who have long been overlooked.

Expected publication : May 2021

WWW

This meme was first created by Kathy over at Bermuda Onion Blog and has now been adopted by Elza Reads.

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme where you can share new words that you’ve encountered, or spotlight words you love.

No rules just enjoy and for further info check out Elza Reads.

This week my word is:

AMPHORAE

An amphora is a type of container with a pointed bottom and characteristic shape and size which fit tightly against each other in storage rooms and packages, tied together with rope and delivered by land or sea. The size and shape have been determined from at least as early as the Neolithic Period.

This is a word taken from a recent read that I really enjoyed: Ariadne, by Jennifer Saint:

Ariadne