Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Review: Dark of the Moon - Tracy Barrett

Dark of the Moon by Tracy Barrett
Genre: YA, mythology retelling
Published on September 20, 2011
Published by HMH Books
Pages: 310
Read From: 11.24.11 - 11.25.11

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. . . .


This was one of the most unique and imaginative retellings of the legend of Theseus and the Minotaur that I've read. Lacking actual mythological creatures, gods, and magic, here is a legend which could have actually occurred, and the Author offers up plausible explanations for how the more fantastical parts of the legend came to be. This was more of a historical read than a mythological retelling. While at first the story is a little bit hard to follow due the the writing, which is good, but for some reason takes a moment to fall in to, Tracy Barrett presents an interesting and rich Ancient world that Readers won't soon forget. Dark and mysterious, while beautiful and promising at the same time.

As for characters, Ariadne is entirely likable, and you can feel nothing but absolute pity for her poor, deformed brother, who has absolutely no desire to hurt anyone, but he cannot help it anymore than a two-year-old can help accidentally squishing a caterpillar between their as-of-yet uncertain grip. Asterion is treated with great cruelty, which only encourages his nervous behavior, and it produces not a monster, but a heart-rending character whom the Reader loves, even though you know it won't end well for him. Theseus is, at first, tolerable, but as things progress on Krete, he begins to display a personality which is easily misguided, and when he uses Ariadne with no visible reluctance, even though he expresses some reluctance, his character only degrades further. And yet he saves a great deal of face when he commits a totally selfless act toward the end of the book, and that very small moment almost wipes out his previous flaws. Almost, but not quite. Still, Tracy Barrett may give us a seriously flawed hero, but she makes up for it with her manipulating villains and courageous heroine who is only trying to do what's right.

Dark of the Moon is a thoroughly engaging read, with no real complaints. For all of Theseus's flaws, I'm not certain I would change it, because it adds quite a bit to the story, and makes that one moment towards the end really stand out. Historical fiction fans and mythological retelling fans alike with enjoy in immensely.

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