I’m not sure how I’m supposed to ever read again after finishing this book. It drew me in, ripped my heart to shreds and left me frozen. I don’t think I’ve ever read something that’s left me feeling quite so devastated. I knew nothing of the myth before reading so every single event was a complete shock, some sudden, some inevitable. Ariadne is a beautifully written re-telling of Theseus and the Minotaur, where every chapter is designed to invoke emotion.
Star rating: 5 stars
The book follows the titular character Ariadne, and her younger sister Phaedra, Princesses of Crete growing up during the rule of their fearsome father, King Minos. Their brother, the Minotaur, is Minos’ brutal threat to other Kingdoms (I did not know the origin story for the Minotaur, I was horrified and it made me feel sick). Each year, 14 children from Athens are sacrificed to the Minotaur in the famous Labyrinth created by the inventor Daedalus. Ariadne and Phaedra are horrified at this event, but have chosen to ignore it until now, after the arrival of handsome Theseus, Prince of Athens, who intends to enter the Labyrinth with the children and save the beast.
Although a re-telling of Theseus and the Minotaur, these events only take up the first third of the book. Afterwards, we are left with the lives of Ariadne and Phaedra afterwards, both of whom are separated and at the whims of powerful men. The book sprinkles other elements of the mythology throughout, telling famous stories from the perspective of women who were at the merciless hands of bored, vengeful Gods. I had no idea of the origin of Medusa so there was another story that broke my heart. Icarus’ story is also mentioned (one I did know thanks to Bastille’s song of the same name).
Every significant event in this book is shrouded in pure awfulness. It never stops. If you’re after a happy, rewarding read then this isn’t the book for you. If you rate books highly that make you feel, that take you on a rollercoaster (it was naïve of me to think there would be a happy ending, even if there are happier events throughout), then you may well appreciate Ariadne. Do look at the trigger warnings because there are heck of a lot of them (postnatal depression, suicide, sexual assault, animal sacrifice, child death, abandonment….more).
I can’t comment on how it fits with Greek Methodology because I don’t know enough. I just found the whole thing to be incredibly moving, the bonds of separated sisters present throughout and how these mortal women are beholden to Gods who treat them as playthings. On reflection, some of the plot points broke characterisation a little, but I rate this highly for how much it made me feel.
Overall, Ariadne is a beautifully written book that I was completely drawn into (possibly not for my own good…haha). I am crushed and hurt. Reviews on Goodreads are mixed so you might want to do a bit of research before choosing to give it a go, all the while I will sit in my misery for a bit and go find someone to give me a long hug.