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, Princess of Crete, longs for freedom from her tyrannical father King Minos and his beastly Minotaur, who happens to be Ariadne’s half brother. When the Prince of Athens, Theseus, arrives and intends to assist in Ariadne’s escape, she becomes besotted with the heroic young man.
What happens next is the tragic tale of two sisters torn apart, navigating their respective cages both men and Gods construct to keep them trapped, until the bitter end.
Admittedly the first 30% of the book was rather slow and tepid. I found Ariadne dull and the writing was awfully repetitive about her desire to dance on her special floor. I grew more and more detached from the story to the point where I wanted to DNF it.
This is where the audiobook narrated by Kristin Atherton comes in. Truthfully, if it weren’t for the audiobook, I probably would have passed on finishing the book. It just didn’t engage me. I cannot stress enough how the audiobook provided a level of energy that the physical reading of the story otherwise lacked. It brought new life to it, so much so, I listened to it in one go, I enjoyed it that much!
Everything became brighter, the characters more animated and the mythology more enjoyable. It was easy to envision an island overrun with grapes and vines, with beautiful sun kissed ocean surfaces, and it also effortlessly swept me up in the emotions both sisters felt about their childhoods, partners and eventual motherhood.
Saint centres Ariadne and Phaedra’s voices at the heart of the mythology, which does not diverge too far from the mythology, other than to inject a more feminist view. Regrettably I found the sisters one dimensional as they never really moved beyond where they began. As well, surprisingly, albeit the book is named after Ariadne, I much preferred the chapters which followed her sister, Phaedra. Her character felt more alive and it actually felt like she had a story to tell. Whereas, with Ariadne, I don’t feel there was much substance for a stand-alone arc (perhaps because it stayed too close to the mythology? I don’t know).
The strongest element – Phaedra’s perspective – was also the weakest part due to how rushed and glossed over her climax was. This was the same for Ariadne’s conclusion too. All in all both ends were rather unsatisfying; partly due to the Greek-tragedy-feel the book stayed true to and partly because it’s execution wasn’t the best.
Nonetheless, if you liked Circe or The Silence of the Girls, Ariadne is a book you’ll no doubt want to check out. It similarly offers an exploration where the women in the mythology have been kept in the shadow of grandiose Gods and their privileged men. Even though the book fell short in being as phenomenal as Miller and Barker’s novels for me, it’s a solid debut honouring the voices of these women, which hopefully is one of many more to come.