Staff Picks Book Review - Stone Blind by Natalie Haynes

Friday, June 30, 2023

Stone Blind by Natalie HaynesOne of my earliest memories of the Medusa comes from the 1981 classic stop-motion animation Clash of The Titans. A serpentine monster that kills indiscriminately, the Medusa of these earlier versions is without voice or childhood. An established author in the classics, Natalie Haynes gives a voice to Medusa and allows the reader to decide if the young gorgon really deserves the label of "monster". Haynes introduces us to the character before she has been cursed with her deadly stare, a young girl living on an island with her two sisters. The reading stays interesting as the viewpoint alternates from chapter to chapter. The goddess Athene is an entertaining narrator. Goddess of both war and wisdom, she is often annoyed with her fellow Olympians as well as the hero Perseus. A great read whether you are already familiar with the petty ways of the gods and goddesses of Olympus or if this is your first journey into that world, Stone Blind challenges what it means to be a hero as well as a monster. Readers may decide it was Perseus who was the true villain of the story, using the power he acquired to eliminate any who stood before him, while Medusa was just a young girl caught up in the vindictive squabbling of the immortals. For more by Natalie Haynes, check out episodes of the BBC podcast Natalie Haynes Stands Up for the Classics. If you enjoy reframing of characters from classical mythology or more popular literature, try one of these great books.

A Thousand Ships: A Novel by Natalie Haynes

A retelling of the Trojan War from the perspectives of its women follows the stories of a vigil-keeping Penelope, an Amazon princess rival of Achilles, and three goddesses whose feud sparks a tragic conflict.




Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West: A Novel by Gregory Maguire

Before she defied gravity on theater stages across the country, Elphaba was brought to life in the Wicked series of Gregory Maguire. The author took the purely evil Wicked Witch of the West and gave her a childhood and a back story full of love and friendship. Set in the years before Dorothy and Toto journeyed to Oz, this wonderful reframing of the one-dimensional wicked witch is masterful storytelling. 

Circe: A Novel by Madeline Miller

Circe follows Circe, the banished witch daughter of Helios, as she hones her powers and interacts with famous mythological beings before a conflict with one of the most vengeful Olympians forcing her to choose between the worlds of the gods and mortals.



Atalanta by Jennifer Saint

When Princess Atalanta is born, a daughter rather than the son her parents hoped for, she is left on a mountainside to die. But even then, she is a survivor. Raised by a mother bear under the protective eye of the goddess Artemis, Atalanta grows up wild and free, with just one condition: if she marries, Artemis warns, it will be her undoing. Although she loves her beautiful forest home, Atalanta yearns for adventure. When Artemis offers her the chance to fight in her name alongside the Argonauts, the fiercest band of warriors the world has ever seen, Atalanta seizes it. The Argonauts' quest for the Golden Fleece is filled with impossible challenges, but Atalanta proves herself equal to the men she fights alongside. As she is swept into a passionate affair, in defiance of Artemis's warning, she begins to question the goddess's true intentions. Can Atalanta carve out her own legendary place in a world of men, while staying true to her heart?

For the Winner: A Novel of Jason and the Argonauts by Emily Hauser

When the king of Pagasae left his infant daughter on the slopes of a mountain to die, he believed he would never see her again. But Atalanta, against the will of the gods and the dictates of the Fates, survived, and went on to bring to life one of the greatest legends of all of ancient Greece. Teaching herself to hunt and fight, Atalanta is determined to prove her worth to her father and, disguising herself as a man, she wins a place on the greatest voyage of that heroic age: the journey of Jason and the Argonauts to the very ends of the known world in search of the legendary Golden Fleece. But Atalanta is discovered, and abandoned in the mythical land of Colchis, where she is forced to make a choice that will determine her place in history. Here is the legend of Jason and the Argonauts as never told before; the true story of the princess who sailed and fought alongside Jason, Theseus, and Peleus (the father of Achilles), and who ultimately ran a race that would decide her destiny. Based on the myths of the ancient Greeks, For the Winner brings alive a mythological world where the gods can transform a mortal's life on a whim, where warrior heroes carve out names that will echo down the ages, and where one woman fights to determine her own fate.

Ariadne by Jennifer Saint

A mesmerizing debut novel for fans of Madeline Miller's Circe. Ariadne, Princess of Crete, grows up greeting the dawn from her beautiful dancing floor and listening to her nursemaid's stories of gods and heroes. But beneath her golden palace echo the ever-present hoofbeats of her brother, the Minotaur, a monster who demands blood sacrifice every year. When Theseus, Prince of Athens, arrives to vanquish the beast, Ariadne sees in his green eyes not a threat but an escape. Defying the gods, betraying her family and country, and risking everything for love, Ariadne helps Theseus kill the Minotaur. But will Ariadne's decision ensure her happy ending?

Ithaca by Claire North

Seventeen years ago, King Odysseus sailed to war with Troy, taking with him every man of fighting age from the island of Ithaca. None of them has returned, and the women of Ithaca have been left behind to run the kingdom. Penelope was barely into womanhood when she wed Odysseus. While he lived, her position was secure. But now, years on, speculation is mounting that her husband is dead, and suitors are beginning to knock at her door

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