Reading Level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books (September 20, 2011)
Source: Finished copy provided by publisher
Cover: I wish there was a bit more interest to this one. I love the Greek column-like parts on the top and bottom and the shadow is one heck of a cool feature. My biggest thing with this is the background just isn't very interesting which is odd since the story is set in such a detailed and gorgeous place.
First Sentence: "It isn't true what they say about my brother--that he ate those children."
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 . . .Review:
The myth of the minotaur has never been told like this. In fact, most of the mythological characters and creatures that show up in Dark of the Moon are turned on their head, their heroic deeds or misdeeds twisted into human feats and explained. Filled with vivid descriptions of the setting and a rich and thriving new culture, Dark of the Moon is equal parts horrifying and beautiful.
Switching narrators from Ariadne to Theseus, the reader gets to see how fate conspired to make their paths cross. Ariadne is a goddess in training, someone that is both revered and feared by her people. Mostly, she's just lonely, being tossed around from training and studying with no friend to confide in. Her love for her mother and brother, the minotaur, is both beautiful and endearing. Theseus's path is a little less than I was expecting. For some reason, I had it in my head that he'd be a noble prince and he really wasn't much more than a scorned boy looking to impress his father. While this was okay, he was a very inactive character--merely letting things happen to him and reacting instead of acting himself. I liked the contrast between him and Ariadne who tried to act on important issues before it was too late.
The culture of Dark of the Moon is rich, vivid and very gruesome. We're talking birthing scenes, human and animal sacrifice, drugs and violence. I have to admit that I was horrified half of the time at what these characters were going to face but I couldn't stop reading to find out more about what the society was going to do next. I liked the differences between Ariadne's land and Theseus' home. They both remark that the other is a barbarian more than once which is fascinating since they both have what we'd concern barbaric customs now. There is a really interesting point in the novel where Theseus talks about his stepmother, the queen, Medea and how hated she is for killing her children to which Ariadne remarks that she is revered in her him. I loved that contrast of views as it really marks the fundamental differences of their cultures.
Another shining aspect of this novel was the beautiful descriptive writing. I'm not much in to loads and loads of scenery description but the passages about the palace where absolutely amazing. I could close my eyes and see it all from the detailed murals on the wall to the dank cellar where Ariadne's brother was locked up for his own good. The minotaur mythology was also unique--that is to say that the minotaur is really a misshapen man-child who doesn't know his own strength.
While there was a lot of really good things about this story, it did feel a bit long in the middle, particularly in Theseus's beginning chapters. I felt myself wishing that the plot would show itself a lot early than it did. I also felt a bit let down about how the story ended, mostly because I was expecting something a little bigger. The book just felt easy to put down for me and was missing that spark. Maybe it was just a bit quieter than I was expecting.
Dark of the Moon utilizes it's rich world building and barbarically fascinating culture to the fullest to craft a new take on the minotaur myth. While the novel drags a bit in the middle, the re-telling and humanizing of the mythological creatures and characters is definitely creative. I might not venture through a maze for this one but if you happen to see it and are in to historical/fantastical re-tellings, go for it!