Author: Tracy Barrett
Genre: Historical Fiction, Greek Mythology Retelling, Young Adult
Publisher: Harcourt Children’s Books
Publication Date: September 19th 2011
Hardcover: 320 pages
Ariadne is destined to become a goddess of the moon. She leads a lonely life, filled with hours of rigorous training by stern priestesses. Her former friends no longer dare to look at her, much less speak to her. All that she has left are her mother and her beloved, misshapen brother Asterion, who must be held captive below the palace for his own safety.
So when a ship arrives one spring day, bearing a tribute of slaves from Athens, Ariadne sneaks out to meet it. These newcomers don’t know the ways of Krete; perhaps they won’t be afraid of a girl who will someday be a powerful goddess. And indeed she meets Theseus, the son of the king of Athens. Ariadne finds herself drawn to the newcomer, and soon they form a friendship—one that could perhaps become something more.
Yet Theseus is doomed to die as an offering to the Minotaur, that monster beneath the palace—unless he can kill the beast first. And that “monster” is Ariadne’s brother . . .
Stand alone or series: Stand alone novel
How did I get this book: Review Copy from the Publisher via NetGalley
Why did I read this book: Because I am a Greek Mythology geek and the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur is one of my favourites.
Before I say anything else let me just get something off my chest: I loved this book. It is abso-freaking-lutely brilliant and smart and it really re-energised me with such book-excitement the way that only Totally Awesome Books can.
Dark of the Moon is a reimagining of the Greek myth of Theseus, Ariadne and the Minotaur. In Greek mythology, Theseus is a founding-hero of Athens whose adventures before becoming King included the slaying of the infamous Minotaur of Crete. King Minos’ daughter, Ariadne, fell in love with Theseus at first sight and helped him defeating the Minotaur by giving Theseus a thread that guided him through the labyrinth where the Minotaur was entrapped. After escaping Crete together, Theseus (the bastard) proceeded to abandon Ariadne in the island of Naxos. Theseus (the bastard) goes on to marry Ariadne’s sister and become a beloved King and reformer of Athens. In some accounts Ariadne is the bride of the God Dionysus and Theseus only left her behind to not anger that God. Nevertheless, in most accounts, Theseus is the Hero and Ariadne is the fool who loved him.
Enter Dark of the Moon. In this reimagining, Ariadne is not the daughter of Minos but his niece and both are intrinsic part of the religious cult of the Goddess in Krete. Ariadne is She-Who-Will-Be-Goddess, training to become the future priestess of Krete and a Vessel to the Goddess, following up on the footsteps of her mother, She-Who-Is-Goddess. Theirs is the most important position on that matriarchal system, a position that is both political and religious. The infamous Minotaur of Krete is in fact her beloved half-brother Asterion, born with a facial deformity and mentally incapacitated. His screams and his unfortunate capacity for accidental violence have given room to the local myth of a monster-under-the-palace and he is kept away from prying eyes. Theseus is a young man who recently discovered that his father is the King of Athens and who is sent as an unwilling tribute to Minos. Theseus believes he is to be sacrificed to the monster and ends up getting involved in a plot to overthrow Minos.
The story is narrated by both Theseus and Ariadne in alternating chunks of chapters but Ariadne’s point of view is the more extensive and well developed out of the two. As She-Who-Will-Be Goddess she is both respected and feared and lives in isolation, in expectation of the role one day she will fulfil. Although Ariadne dreams about far-away places and misses interacting with her friends, she is completely dedicated to the Goddess and believes in the mysteries that surround her cult. When she meets Theseus, there are no flying sparks (in fact , there is no romantic storyline in this book at ALL) but merely an encounter with an outsider who treats her like a normal person. And although the arrival of Theseus on the island is only but the beginning of life-altering events, these are not, by any means, the direct result of any of his or her actions; instead, their actions are part of a chain of events resulting from internal struggles and external influences in a complex combination of the political, economical and religious spheres.
And this is what makes this book brilliant: its plot is a thought-provoking examination of religion, of belief and of cultural development of different places within the Greek empire. For example, Krete is under a matriarchal sphere of power whereas Athens is under patriarchal rule and this difference is part of the impetus for Theseus to join the plot to overthrow Minos. More than that though, there is also a great exploration of elements of faith and magic involved in a religion that believes that a Goddess is made human every year and what could that actually mean to those involved –the author excels in providing reasonable explanations for the “magical” aspects of the Goddess cult without removing any of the faith from those who believe in them.
The scope of this reimagining is such that it opens up a possible, realistic point of view of how real events become history to then become myth. How cool is that? Plus, bonus points for making Ariadne an awesome female character that is in charge of her own decisions and who has to take charge of her own life in the face of her world crumbling down. Another aspect that I loved was that even though this is a reimagining, the author never shies away from the darker, gorier aspects of Greek Myths and they are present on the religious depiction of the Goddess cult.
The only main quibble I have is with Theseus’ narrative – he is at first, presented as a somewhat naive boy who tells tall tales about his “adventures” and who is basically used as a tool in the scheme to overthrow Minos. But in his very final chapter, he has become the hero that the Athenians believe him to be. As his point of view is not as extensive or in-depth as Ariadne’s I found it hard to see how or when he went from Point A to Point C. But this is really my only real problem with the book and considering that Ariadne’s story was way more interesting in the first place and she is to me, the real star of this story, that didn’t diminish my reading experience at all.
To sum up, I found Dark of the Moon to be a surprisingly clever, insightful, engaging remaining of a well-known story. It is definitely one of my reading highlights of 2011 and it has put Tracy Barrett on my list of authors to watch.
Notable Quotes/Parts: I loved the entire book but the ending was…awesome. Especially the very final chapters, one from each protagonist’s point of view. It leaves each of them at the point we all know from the traditional Greek Myth but with a twist.
Additional Thoughts: There seems to be a revival of Greek Mythology going on at the moment in YA. Dark of the Moon is, alongside Fury by Elizabeth Miles, my favourite thus far. If you like your Greek Mythology and want to check out other titles, I highly recommend not only Fury by Elizabeth Miles but also Darkness Becomes Her by Kelly Keaton (although I had a couple of problems with that book, the Greek Mythology aspects were pretty good – hello, MEDUSA?)
And I will be reading King of Ithaka by this same author pretty soon as well.
Rating: 8 – Excellent
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