Anna (_ocelott_) wrote in genrereviews,

Dark of the Moon by Tracy Barrett

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin, 2011
Genre: Fantasy
Sub-genre: Historical, YA
Rating: 3 1/2 pints of blood

This is a very different book cover from what we normally see, and I really like the subtlety. At first glance, you might just see the stone texture of the background and the red pillar-like borders at the top and bottom, but it's the minotaur shadow across the front that really makes it stand out. I'm not so sure about the text, though. The blue colour is ok and makes it stand out, but the swirly flowers seem really out of place against the strength of the rest of the cover. I would have preferred a plainer, stronger-looking font, or even something Grecian inspired.

Dark of the Moon is a retelling of the minotaur myth, the story of Ariadne and Theseus in a more realistic setting than we're usually given. It's generally found in the fantasy section because it's based on mythology, but Barrett has taken any magical or paranormal elements right out of the story. So does it work? Guess we're about to find out!

All her life, Ariadne has been trained as a priestess and prepared to stand as goddess after her mother's death. As She-Who-Will-Be-Goddess, Ariadne terrifies everyone around her, including former friends and playmates. It's a lonely life, but not as bad as the one her brother Asterion lives. As son of She-Who-Is-Goddess, he's the future Minos, but various deformities and disabilities leave him unable to do much more than accidentally hurt people in his attempts to play with them. For his own safety and that of everyone around him, he's been trapped down in the labyrinth, with only a few brave souls to visit him, including Ariadne.

Theseus has been the object of ridicule for years due to his mother's insistance that he is the son of a god. When he finds out who truly fathered him, he goes to meet his father, and quickly finds himself set on a ship with Athenian slaves to be sacrificed to the monster of Minos. Nothing in Minos is as he expected, though. The "monster" is merely an unfortunate young man with a gentle heart, a simple mind, and more strength than he can control. The "king" has little power beyond what's required of him as support for Goddess-Who-Is, and the concept of a goddess occupying a mortal body is nearly unfathomable.

Ariadne isn't sure what to think of the new arrival, although she appreciates that Theseus treats her as he would anyone else rather than being afraid of her. Things are shifting in Minos, though, and Ariadne and Theseus will soon find themselves at the heart of a revolution.

This is a very different take on a mythological story. By removing all the magical parts, Barrett gives us a "this is the real story the legend grew out of" sort of tale, and by the level of attention paid to the pieces feeding into the myth, she's clearly done her research. Everything from Theseus's hero status to the yarn he takes into the labyrinth to his separation from Ariadne on the beach is covered in its own way, but twisted to better fit a sense of reality. I was delighted by the twists she put into the myths, the methods she used to explain where the story grew from. One particularly refreshing change is the lack of romance. Anyone hoping for another romantic story about teens in impossible situations should back away now.

I also loved her greatly detailed depiction of the religion in Minos. It's a key element not only of the plot, but of Ariadne's character, and Barrett weaves a complex society and belief system that feels real without growing confusing. It helps that the reader is occasionally fed explanations through Theseus, who comes to it all as a stranger, but most of the religion is shown to us through Ariadne's actions rather than told to us in conversational infodumps.

Most of the story is filtered through Ariadne's perspective, although Theseus gets to narrate a few chapters of his own. They're both likeable enough characters, but the manipulative Prokris is who really intrigues me, and I wish we saw more of her, especially since she does more than her share to drive the plot.

The last couple of chapters are a little rushed and read like a summary rather than letting the reader experience the conclusion along with Ariadne and Theseus, which is a shame and a bit of a let-down after giving us such a richly detailed story. Still, this is a world well worth delving into.

Dark of the Moon is available in hardcover.
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Tags: 3 pints of blood, genre: fantasy, historical, mythology, theme of the month, ya

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