Author: Jennifer Saint
Genre: Mythology, Retellings
Published: May 3rd, 2022 (Flatiron Books)
Synopsis: The House of Atreus is cursed. A bloodline tainted by a generational cycle of violence and vengeance. This is the story of three women, their fates inextricably tied to this curse, and the fickle nature of men and gods.
The sister of Helen, wife of Agamemnon – her hopes of averting the curse are dashed when her sister is taken to Troy by the feckless Paris. Her husband raises a great army against them, and determines to win, whatever the cost.
Princess of Troy, and cursed by Apollo to see the future but never to be believed when she speaks of it. She is powerless in her knowledge that the city will fall.
The youngest daughter of Clytemnestra and Agamemnon, Elektra is horrified by the bloodletting of her kin. But, can she escape the curse, or is her own destiny also bound by violence?
Elektra tells the story of three women whose fates are impacted by the Trojan War: Clytemnestra, wife of Agamemnon and Helen’s sister, Cassandra, princess of Troy who has the ability to see the future but is cursed by Apollo so that no one will ever believe her, and Elektra, Clytemnestra’s daughter and the youngest princess of Mycenae, who blinded by love for her father, never sees her mother’s side of things as she swears to make things right in the House of Atreus, which is said to have a bloodline curse upon it.
I love reading greek mythology retellings narrated from a female perspective, particularly for stories set around the Iliad and Odyssey, so I could hardly wait to read this one especially as I really enjoyed the author’s previous book, Ariadne. The timing of this book was great too, since I finished rereading The Oresteia just a couple of months ago and the story was fresh in my mind.
In terms of writing and narrative style, I felt it flowed very smoothly, and I found it much better than Ariadne, where it felt quite choppy. Despite switching between three POVs, one of which doesn’t tie in to the others until close to the end, I never felt like it was jumping around and there was a strong storyline right from the beginning. As I already knew how all three women’s stories turn out, what kept me reading was the curiosity to see how the author would portray them, but for those who are not familiar with the myths, it is definitely a gripping tale that would draw them in.
Despite following the storyline of the myths, Elektra managed to not only bring these three women’s stories to life, but added something more to it, showing how, even with the limited power women had in those times, they took the initiative and made decisions that would later have a major impact on their lives, for better or worse. Elektra was a rather annoying character though, with her single minded belief and hero worship of her father to the extent that she refused to ever consider that he could have been wrong, not to mention her shocking lack of empathy when faced with the facts, such as the murder of her sister and the effect it had on her mother. Cassandra’s story was pretty much what I expected and it was well written. Clytemnestra’s arc, however, was my favorite. She is a complicated character and I loved her portrayal that made her a sympathetic figure but also thoroughly frustrating one at some of the decisions she takes.
I found it kind of odd that this book is named after Elektra when all three characters have an equal number of chapters. Her arc wasn’t even the most interesting one when I realized she was basically a record stuck on repeat and was never going to even think of changing her viewpoint. I would be very interested to know if there is a particular reason behind this choice of title.
This was an amazing retelling and though it is from the perspective of three very different women, their stories are so wonderfully woven and intertwined that it makes for an engaging read. I would highly recommend this book for any Greek mythology fans and even those who are new to the genre.
Have you read this book? Let me know in the comments below!