Monday, September 19, 2011
Dark of the Moon
Harcourt Children's Books, 2011
Source: Received an ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
I didn't know much about this book before starting other than that it was sort of a retelling of the Greek myth about Theseus and the Minotaur's Labyrinth. Thus I struggled in the beginning when I read this boring girl's whiny monologue about her difficulties as She-Who-Will-Be-Goddess and her fears about the time when she takes her mother's place as She-Who-Is-Goddess. Who was this girl? (Ariadne) Why did I have to learn about her confusing religion? Did the religious figures govern the country with no king? Where was Theseus?
Soon though he appeared and I relaxed a bit. Was he whiny too? Yes a bit, but he was familiar and his narration really helped me get into the narrative. Once it switched back to the first narrator Ariadne, I was engrossed in the world of the story and I was able to sympathize more with her as the story switched back and forth between the two perspectives to shine new light on the myth of Theseus.
And while I was more settled, I wasn't entirely comfortable. Remember this is the world of Greek myth, a bloody, bloody place with regular human sacrifice. And those ugly aspects are discussed. Although routine for Ariadne and her people, they are new to Theseus. The hardest part for me to read about was a bullfighting sequence, which I think is an absolutely disgusting activity. My mom told me about a time on a school-trip to Mexico where they attended a bullfight and it just sounded horrifying, so caution to sensitive stomachs.
One big theme I noted was the treatment of religion. Although the Goddess has been revered for generations, there are suspicions about Ariadne's suitability to follow her mother as well as rumblings about putting a male king in the high priestess' place. So there's also gender politics and examination of the prominence of religion and how it can fall.
And of course there's family! Ariadne's family and their entanglement with the Goddess are intrinsic to understanding their religion and system of governance. I did find it all a little confusing (and more than a little appalling with the whole system of human sacrifice) but I think I understood enough especially as Theseus understood more.
Overall: Good twist; I'm definitely pleased with the spate of YA books dealing with Greek myths although I highly recommend that you read the original myth first. I think it's preferable to see what the author was dealing with and it helps you to pick out what was consciously changed and to ponder why.