Wednesday, 6 April 2022

Ariadne by: Jennifer Saint

 Genre: Mythology 

Published: May 4, 2021 by Flatiron Books 

Pages: 320 

Rating: 4/5 stars 

CW: misogyny, sexual assault, blood/gore, war, animal death 

Ariadne is the kind-hearted princess of Crete, and she lives worried of her brother, the Minotaur, a half man/half bull beast who guards the Labyrinth, a magical maze that sacrifices Athenian children. When a prince of Athens, Theseus, comes with a promise to kill the beast, Ariadne is immediately taken with his charisma. She gives him the tools to escape the maze and kill the Minotaur, and she vows to love him for her whole life. However, betraying her family and escaping with a handsome prince has its costs, and Ariadne soon becomes caught up in war between nations, her love of her family, and a prince who she soon learns she cannot trust. 

Despite me being a huge lover of Greek mythology, Ariadne is one of those stories that I haven't always paid much attention to. I usually stick to stories of the Trojan war. But of course, I am willing to give any Greek mythology retelling a try, and I figured this book might be similar to that of Madeline Miller's Circe. I can definitely say that this book delivered on providing a well-rounded portrayal of the famous myth of Theseus and the Minotaur, though with a special focus on Ariadne. I appreciated Saint's attention to detail and the development of the myth as a whole. 

More authors are beginning to play with writing mythological retellings from a woman's point of view. Figures like Circe, Ariadne, and Helen of Troy are famous mythological figures, though they often get a bad reputation from the male writers who have dominated in telling their stories. There is something about women writers taking back these female figures that I find particularly compelling, and Saint's portrayal of Ariadne was no exception. I got to learn more about what immediately drew her to Theseus, and how his charm captivated her to the point where she could think of no better escape than to leave with him. While this book does rely heavily on the insta-love trope, I didn't mind, because the trope is so common to these myths and since the book is from Ariadne's point of view, I got to see how manipulation from Theseus and the overall isolation she endures prompted her to fall in love with him in the first place. Yes, she falls quickly. But, the poor treatment she receives from her father and her being trapped in a constant cycle of sacrifice motivates her to go for the first chance at escape. This escape just happened to be Theseus. 

I loved getting to learn a bit more about Ariadne's relationship with the Minotaur. Like I said, the myth of the Minotaur is not one that I am super familiar with, so I got to learn a lot through this book. Mainly, I found it fascinating how despite Ariadne contributing to the sacrifice of Athenians, she still finds it in her heart to love her brother. She sees the Minotaur as being a damaged boy, who was cursed through no fault of his own. I loved the idea of Ariadne still loving her brother for who he is, despite the things he cannot control. Saint makes it clear that the Minotaur at his core is a damaged individual, who is controlled by Minos and banished to a constant cycle of abuse from the gods. I think the duality of his character was shown really well through Ariadne's relationship with him. The Minotaur's story is sad, it is not a story of a triumphant hero slaying a monster. Saint made this distinction clear. 

I was really captivated with the book until about three quarters of the way through, when I felt my attention wavering a bit. Without giving too much away, after Ariadne sees her chance of escape with Theseus, there is a lot of action, but then some falling action. There were times in which I felt Ariadne's character was stuck, and Saint wasn't really doing much with her character. The ending was ok, but not entirely satisfying like I get with other mythological retellings. I was captivated for most of the book, but after the main turning point happened, I just wondered where the author could take the character from here, and I'm not sure I was truly enthralled. 

Overall, I thought Ariadne was a great addition to the world of Greek mythology retellings, specifically retellings from the woman's perspective. Saint does a great job at capturing the misogyny of some of myth's most famous heroes, and the troubles that put so many women figures into the unfortunate positions that they are most famous for. I now have a newfound appreciation for Ariadne, and I would love to read more of her story. 

Have you read Ariadne? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess


  1. I always felt like the Minotaur got the raw end of the deal - like, he'd probably be happy enough if the king tried to give him something like grass - something bulls actually effing eat - instead of people. - Why did no-one ever try that?! Lol

    1. It's very true, Cee! Out of all the mythological monsters, he's definitely one of the most misunderstood.