Desert Isle Keeper
This is Jennifer Saint’s masterpiece. Elektra was good. Ariadne had its flaws. But Atalanta is excellent; a retelling of the myth of Atalanta that breathes and cries and roils with emotion. It’s well worth reading, but the slightly rote treatment of the myth means it isn’t a perfect A grade.
Any Greek mythology nut worth their salt knows the story. Atalanta is the daughter of a king who yearned for a son, and when she’s born a girl, he abandons her upon a mountain. She is found and suckled by a bear, and is taken under the wing of Artemis, goddess of the hunt, chastity and the moon. Atalanta grows up in the forest, running wild. Soon, the goddess of war comes to train her young protégé in the art of athletics as well as battle. Running becomes Atalanta’s specialty, as does archery; she’s also strong enough to outwrestle any man. In return for loyalty in her battle corps, Atalanta follows Artemis’ one edict: she must never fall in love with a man. Atalanta dedicates herself to becoming a fierce warrior and soon becomes one of the best among Artemis’ team, second only to her matron goddess in slaying ability.
At Artemis’ request, Atalanta joins the Argonauts as an avatar of her patron goddess, helping Jason with his world-navigating search for the golden fleece. But Atalanta’s journey puts her in close quarters with the married Meleager. As they begin to fall in love, Atalanta wonders if she can keep her vow of chastity. And then fate surprises her with a new romance.
One part warrior’s tale, one part love story, Atalanta will sink you deeply under its spell. It is, at the center of its soul, about a woman seeking to find individual joy and fulfillment of self. Along the way, she learns to deal with the egos of others, to build a life for herself outside of the shadowed protections she’s grown up with, and must deal with and yet appreciate the machinations of the gods.
Atalanta herself stands out as original and interesting, strong and bitterly determined. She is imperfect but feels beautifully real. Her travels with the Argo feel more fully realized than her romances, but her connection with one particular man definitely works, and sizzles properly with tension and slow-burning attraction.
The mythology here is a little rote – all the greatest hits are probed, from the apple chase to the wrestling match to that final fateful trick from Aphrodite. But the spirit of Atalanta is what makes this book so very special, and so worth reading.
Lisa Fernandes is a writer, reviewer and recapper who lives somewhere on the East Coast. Formerly employed by Firefox.org and Next Projection, she also currently contributes to Women Write About Comics. Read her blog at http://thatbouviergirl.blogspot.com/, follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/thatbouviergirl or contribute to her Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/MissyvsEvilDead or her Ko-Fi at ko-fi.com/missmelbouvier
|Review Date:||May 10, 2023|
|Review Tags:||Gods and Goddesses | Greek mythology|