Danae is imprisoned by her father after a prophecy from the oracle which says that her son will depose his grandfather. Yet she finds love and is brutally expelled from the city of Argos. Together with her son Perseus, she tries to build a new life in Seriphos. The young woman Medusa and Andromeda also face their own challenges, until they meet young Perseus, hunted by his ambition to become a hero and a king.
I previously read Heywood’s debut novel about the sisters Helena and Clythemnestra of Sparta (Daughters of Sparta) and now she is back with a story about Perseus and the three women in his life: his mother Danae, his victim/monster Medusa and his wife Andromeda. A story reminiscent of Haynes’ her recent book about Medusa (Stone blind).
But Heywood has a style of her own. As in Daughters of Sparta, she removes all divine intervention, magic or fantasy elements from the story. Danae is not seduced by the god Zeus and Medusa does not have snake hair and a deadly stare. The myth is told here as a kind of historical narrative.
Not an obvious choice, which I thought worked better in her previous book. The story of Perseus and certainly that of Medusa is so entrenched in myth and fantasy that you get something very different if you leave that part out. And while I loved Medusa’s new backstory, Perseus quickly became a hurt and therefore extremely dangerous young man.
The book has a very feminist nature as the three women are all shortchanged by the world they live in and the men who surround them. Some scenes did touch me. I personally found Danae’s perspective the most engaging, even if the beginning of her story was not so realistic.
Heywood remains a bit unnoticed in the immense popularity enjoyed by other writers of Greek myths. Between a Miller, Haynes, Barker and Saint, she does not stand out so much. Though she does make intriguing choices that still make it worth reading her books. I enjoyed ‘The shadow of Perseus‘ but I liked Daughters of Sparta more. I’m curious to see which myth she takes on next.
Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.