Saint’s enchanting debut retells the myth of the minotaur through the eyes of Ariadne, daughter of King Minos of Crete. Ariadne’s life has always been touched by the gods, as her mother, Pasiphae, is the daughter of Helios, god of the sun. She has also witnessed their wrath, unfairly brought down upon Pasiphae by Poseidon, the sea god, because of Minos’s transgressions against him. Her punishment, to fall into obsessive love with a bull, resulted in the Minotaur, Ariadne’s half-human, half-bull brother. When Theseus, prince of Athens, is sent as part of that city’s annual sacrifice to the Minotaur, a smitten Ariadne helps him defeat the monster and they flee Crete together. Ariadne hoped they would bring her sister, Phaedra, with them, but fickle Theseus breaks his promise, leaving Phaedra behind and abandoning Ariadne on the island of Naxos. The island is the home of Dionysus, god of wine and pleasure, and he takes Ariadne as his wife. Phaedra, meanwhile, is reluctantly married off to Theseus in a political maneuver of her father’s. As the women navigate their changing positions of power, they court disaster at the hands of both gods and men. Saint expertly highlights how often the women of this world pay the price for the actions of the men around them. Lovers of mythology should snap this up. (May)
A Most Anticipated Book (Bustle, Buzzfeed, PopSugar, Goodreads)
“A page-turner…If you like Madeline Miller's Circe and Son of Achilles, you will eat up Ariadne, a retelling of yet another engrossing and horrifying classic Greek myth.”
“Beautifully written and nuanced, Ariadne explores the bonds between women and their epic quest for agency in patriarchal Greek society.”
“The story broadens, forks,spins, and braids through the perspective of multiple narrators, and the resultis fascinating and unpredictable…A great read.”
—Chicago Review of Books
"Circe fans would do well to take note."
“If you loved Madeline Miller’s Circe, then you have to check out Ariadne by Jennifer Saint.”
“Saint’s immersive novel thrusts the reader straight into the heart of Greek mythology with this wonderful reimagining of the story of Ariadne.”
—The Independent (UK)
“A lyrical, insightful re-telling.”
—The Daily Mail
“Energetic and compelling.”
—The Times (UK)
“Captivating…Saint’s mesmerizingly beautiful prose makes Ariadne a fascinating read.”
—The Nerd Daily
“An illuminating read.”
—Woman & Home
“Relevant and revelatory.”
“A beautiful epic…In a world ruled by temperamental, petulant gods, Ariadne is a shining beacon of female strength and courage—making this a story that’s impossible to forget.”
“Enchanting…Saint expertly highlights how often the women of this world pay the price for the actions of the men around them. Lovers of mythology should snap this up.”
“Complex—and bold…Fans of Madeline Miller's Circe will enjoy this faithful retelling that centers the often-forgotten women of Greek myth.”
"Ariadne is a shimmering tapestry of two sisters bound by deceit and the shadows of family history. One marries a hero, the other a god. As their lives criss-cross through girlhood and womanhood, the secrets that their husbands keep become a monstrous backdrop to their relationship. With a fresh voice and keen insight, Saint adds flesh and bone to an ancient myth, drawing the reader into an uneasy world of ever-afters."
—Yangsze Choo, New York Times bestselling author of The Night Tiger
“An ancient story of love and sisterhood reimagined, Jennifer Saint's Ariadne is a truly masterful debut—compulsive, absorbing and lyrical. Saint breathes new life into the forgotten women of Greek mythology with a novel that's both incredibly absorbing, and full of heart.”
—Katie Lowe, author of The Furies
DEBUT Saint retells stories of the ancient Greek gods from a human—particularly female—perspective. Ariadne is the granddaughter of the sun god and sister of the Minotaur, a monstrous bull with a taste for human blood. She longs to escape Crete and the unappealing marriage her father has planned for her; when Theseus arrives as part of the group to be sacrificed to the Minotaur, she sees her chance and helps him defeat the beast. But on their return to his homeland, Theseus abandons Ariadne on the island of Naxos, and she has lost all hope of rescue when Dionysus, the god of wine, appears. He seems unlike the other gods—considerate, caring, gentle—and they marry. As Dionysus begins to long for a worldwide cult of worshippers, he asks his younger brother Perseus to help him. But Perseus, slayer of the Medusa, refuses to be subjugated, and tragedy ensues. Saint skillfully weaves the Greek mythology of heroism and revenge into whole cloth, making the fabric of interactions among humans and gods compelling and entertaining as she shows us that women often get the blame for men's (and gods') actions. Sisterhood is required for survival. VERDICT Readers of mythology and human relations will enjoy this book. Highly recommended.—Joanna Burkhardt, Univ. of Rhode Island Libs., Providence
The most famous part of Ariadne's story, helping Theseus escape the labyrinth and defeat the Minotaur, is only the beginning of this sweeping mythological novel. Saint cleverly combines sources, many with conflicting events and time lines, into the compelling story of a young woman who falls in love, experiences betrayal, and carves a life for herself outside the traditional narratives of gods and heroes. In doing so, the author underscores the cost of these narratives, which relegate women's complex and valuable lives to background incidents in heroes' stories, including horrifying incidents of sexual violence. Saint's writing is slow, atmospheric, and character-driven, purposefully setting aside the action-packed male hero narratives of Greek mythology to work in an alternate mode. While some readers may be put off by the book's slower pace and Ariadne's fulfillment through motherhood and domesticity, others will revel in the complex psychology of the characters. Perhaps most telling is the focus on Ariadne's younger sister, Phaedra, who "wins" the perfect marriage to a hero, becomes queen of Athens, and still finds herself trapped in an endless cycle of pregnancy and depression despite her intelligence and talent for politics. VERDICT This will appeal to older teens interested retellings that give voice to women's stories; offer it alongside books by Madeline Miller, Adèle Geras, Elana K. Arnold, and Jane Yolen.—Molly Saunders, Manatee County P.L., Bradenton, FL
A debut novelist retells timeless tales from a feminine perspective.
Classical mythology endures—at least in part—because of its malleability. Ancient Near Eastern cultures borrowed one another’s deities and transformed them to meet their own needs. Poets, playwrights, and painters have been creating their own iterations of the Olympian gods for thousands of years. One of the difficulties of working with familiar figures and well-known tropes is making them fresh. Writers crafting long-form narratives face the additional challenge of putting flesh on archetypes. In choosing to give a voice to a woman plagued by awful men—her father, King Minos; her first love, the hero Theseus; Dionysus, the god of wine—Saint succeeds in presenting a distinctive version of Ariadne. The author doesn’t quite deliver on making her protagonist—or anyone else in this novel—real. One issue is Saint’s prose style. She uses formal, stilted language that is, perhaps, supposed to create a sense of antiquity but instead just feels unnatural. There is more telling than showing, and characters launch into soliloquies that might make sense in a Greek tragedy but are out of place here. On the whole, Saint is writing in a mode that is neither realist nor fantasy but an awkward place in between. For example, as she offers a detailed depiction of the infancy and development of the Minotaur—Ariadne’s half brother—the monster ceases to be horrifying and instead becomes slightly ridiculous. The reader has leisure to ask such questions as why, since cows are herbivores, a creature with the head of a bull would enjoy a diet of human flesh. Worse, though, is that Saint manages to make Dionysus—a god who inspired bloodthirsty frenzies in his drunken followers—boring. Ariadne becomes his bride soon after she’s dumped by Theseus. After a few years, Ariadne and Dionysus are staying together for the kids and hoping that a couples vacation to Athens will spice things up.
Ambitious but uninspiring.