Before I start this review, I have 3 facts to tell you. 1) I love, love, love Greek mythology. 2) I’ve been playing a lot of Hades, so I knew who Asterion was before he explained himself in the book. 3) I had to live with The Mortal Coil for a couple of days before I could talk about it. I had feelings and thoughts to process about it.
So, this is the story of Perseus and Medousa. (Note, if you see familiar names spelled oddly, I’m spelling them the way that Eris did, and since she’s the Greek goddess of strife and discord, let’s go with it.) Now, in the myth, Perseus slew Medousa, and used her head to petrify the Kraken, and save Andromeda. But, that would probably be a short book if that’s what happened here.
We open with Medousa laying broken on the stairs to one of Grey Eyed Athena’s temples. She’s just been raped by Poseidon Pelagaios. She tells Poseidon that she was never his prize and she told him to stop. But, yeah, he doesn’t go for that. He did the whole you were gagging for it thing. When he leaves, Medousa curses him, whereupon Athena appears. Medousa appeals to Athena and says look what happened to me on your stairs. She wants vengeance. Medousa asks the goddess to let her turn men into stone, and the goddess agrees, but exacts a price, Medousa’s wings and immortality. (Note the second, the Gorgon sisters had wings, snake bodies from the waist down, and snakes for hair, and they can turn into a woman.)
Fast forward many years, we have Perseus, Son of Olympos. His father is Zeus, his mother is Danae of Argos. Zeus appeared as a shower of gold, knocked up Danae, whose father locked her in a chest with her baby, and then threw them in the sea. We meet Perseus when he is fighting the Kêtos, so that he can rescue Andromeda. He can’t take her to her home, since her father is the one who had her pinned out for the Kêtos to eat. Perseus was going to take her to a friend, but the friend can’t take her. While they are the friend’s location, a man tries to rape Andromeda, but is turned to stone by the Bane of Men. Then Andromeda is invited to an island where there are no men, where she can be safe. She chooses to go to with Perseus, who decides that he’s going to take her to his mom and to the man he considers his father, Diktys.
When they get to Perseus’ home, it turns out that the king, Polydektes, has taken Danae and has held her for weeks. Perseus goes to the palace to get it, but then he finds out that Polydeketes, who probably should be named Poly-dick, isn’t going to give her up, and he’s planning on marrying her. He tells Perseus that the only way to get her back is to bring him the head of the Bane of Men, Medousa the Gorgon. As he’s walking out, Asterion runs after him. Polydektes sent Asterion to go with Perseus, so he can bring back Perseus’ dead body. We also find out that these two guys are cousins, and Asterion wants to help Perseus.
There is a lot that goes into this book, a lot that happens, and there are a lot of things that were really painful to read sometimes. While we don’t see all of Medousa’s rape, we see the end of it, and we also get to see the fall out from it, and really experience the raw emotions of Medousa afterwards. We also get to see her emotions, thoughts, and actions over the years after the rape.
Perseus is neither a bad man or a good man. He has a lot of good and some bad in him, which makes him very much just a man. I think that he’s honorable, at least by his standards of honor. I also think that in a lot of places, he’s very much a man of his times, and he doesn’t get all that introspective all that often. He’s a mercenary, he’s relatively good at it, and he wants to be seen as Perseus, not Son of Olympos, or Golden Son, or Destroyer.
I like the way that Perseus changes over the story. I think that he truly becomes a better person through his journey. He grows, a lot, and thinks about a lot of things that he experiences during the story and looks at his past through new eyes.
Medousa has a very similar journey, I think. She is extremely honorable. She has developed rules that she follows scrupulously, even when her sister Sthenno, who is more than a little bloodthirsty, urges Medousa to break all her rules. But, she won’t, because while Athena told her to rule herself after the curse was placed upon her, the only person holding Medousa to that is herself. I liked watching her questioning her mind, her actions, and her behaviors.
Like I said, I love Greek mythology, and I love how Eris handles the mythology in this book. I think that she is pretty close to the myth, but in another way, she’s really far away from it. Which sounds really weird, but it really does work. She also really makes the myths human and accessible, and gives them a real explanation vs. what the myth says, if that makes sense. For example, we get Asterion’s story. He’s the Minotaur, and we find out what really happened when he was conceived. The myth is that his mother was so enamored of a sacred bull of Poseidon that had been given to her husband, King Minos, that she gets Daedalus to make a hollow cow for her to hide in, and she entices the bull. Of course, the story is different when Asterion tells it.
I’ve always kind of had a soft spot for Medousa. I think that she got a raw deal from history. I honestly cannot tell you how much I love Eris’ take on the Medousa and Perseus story, because I think that she finally gets what she deserves. It also kind of just turns the whole myth on its head, which is always good.
If you like Greek mythology, or just love an incredibly strong female character, you need to read this book. I can’t do it justice in my review. There is just so much in the book that it would take me days and days and days to talk about it. I can say that Perseus and Medousa are going to live in my head for a good long time, and that’s a good thing.
So, go check it out! Happy reading!
This is my favorite statue of Medousa. She’s supposed to be holding Perseus’ head, as a reversal of the famous statue of Perseus holding her head. Instead, I prefer to think that she’s holding Poseidon’s head, and has gotten her vengeance against him.