This twist on the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur follows Ariadne, the Minotaur’s sister, as she betrays her family and country for love before being betrayed herself.
Ariadne has seen the gods interfere in the lives of humans, and especially women, to disastrous effect. Her mother suffered greatly for her father’s transgressions against Poseidon, which resulted in her mother giving birth to the monster known as the Minotaur. Still, Ariadne feels some sense of love and obligation towards the Minotaur, until he kills a servant and is ultimately locked in a labyrinth below the palace.
Athens is forced to give their children in sacrifice to the Minotaur, but everything changes when Theseus, prince of Athens, volunteers as a sacrifice. He catches the eye of Ariadne, and she ultimately chooses to betray her family and help Theseus to kill the Minotaur. Though Theseus promises to take her to Athens with him, he instead leaves her for dead on the island of Naxos. There, she encounters the god Dionysus who saves her life and becomes her husband.
This book follows the immensely popular trend of retelling Greek mythology from the female perspective. While I appreciate the trend, I have to say that I was wary to pick this one up because I find all the books in this vein to be quite similar. I was pleasantly surprised by this one, though. I thought it was atmospheric, had strong world-building, and really compelling, sympathetic characters. I loved Ariadne and was happy to watch her grow into herself and become more confident. She had moments that disappointed me, but I thought those moments added a lot to her character. Likewise, I enjoyed her sister Phaedra, who ended up married to Theseus. I loved watching her learn how to operate in a world of men and develop a strong, intelligent voice. Though they have very different personalities and approaches to life, the two sisters are independent and bold in their own way and work hard to thrive in a patriarchal world.
I will admit that I do not know very much about Greek myths, so I can’t speak well to the representations in this book. I’ve read a few reviews that take issue with the portrayal of Dionysus, so I’d recommend reading up on that! I also will say that I would not particularly call this the feminist twist as advertised. I was glad that Ariadne and Phaedra became stronger, but they still often felt like side characters in their own stories. I did think there was some disjointedness to the prose and found the plot to lag in moments where characters went on long soliloquies.
But, overall, Saint succeeded in creating sympathetic characters trying to survive in a world ruled by vengeful gods and arrogant men. I think if you come into this book with no expectations, it’s an interesting read with some really wonderful moments. If you came here to see women taking power and thriving in a Greek myth, you might be disappointed.
Have you read Ariadne? What did you think? Do you think I’m off base with my hesitancy to call it feminist? Let me know!
CW: rape, suicide, violence, animal sacrifice