Review: Hades' Daughter

Hades' Daughter Hades' Daughter by Sara Douglass
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Note:  This review was originally written in the early 2000s and published for a no longer running website: AudiobookCafe.This review addresses both the book and the audiobook. The first book in Sara Douglass’s quadrology begins with the myth of Theseus breaking free of the famous Labyrinth and winning the love of Ariadne, mistress of the Labyrinth and sister of the minotaur, Asterion. However, like many Greek heroes, Theseus’ pride and arrogance brings about his downfall and ultimately all of Greece’s demise as well. When Ariadne cannot bear him a male child, he abandons her on an island and takes her sister. Ariadne recruits Asterion from beyond the grave to gain revenge on Theseus.

Flash forward a hundred years and we find Brutus who carries the lineage of the Trojan prince Aeneas, aimlessly wandering the ocean searching for a home for the landless Trojans. While set aground one night he is visited by a vision of Artemis, who is in fact Ariadne’s heiress Genvisa. She directs him to the last Greek stronghold, where through cunning and magic, he conquers the native Greeks and frees his enslaved Trojans. He gathers supplies and begins a long voyage to the island of Albion (Britain). But before leaving, he lays claim to a wife, Cornelia—the daughter of the island ruler. His new wife is a young teenage whom he quickly impregnates which ironically ensures her life while still with child, for Cornelia proves again and again to be troublesome, and constantly tries to thwart Brutus’s plans.

Once departed, they continue with the guidance of “Artemis” who Brutus is smitten by. Through their traveling escapades, they gather ten thousand homeless Trojans. Upon arriving on Albion, they meet with a matriarchal society with their own religion in which Genvisa plays an integral part. Her true plan comes to fruition as Brutus learns that he has been enlisted to recreate the Labyrinth in Albion and become a partner to Genvisa. This solidifies the long-running tension of the book which includes the unsteady alliance between Brutus and Cornelia, the jealousy of Genvisa toward Cornelia as Brutus’s wife, and the sadness of Cornelia over Brutus’s longing for Genvisa. By the end of the book, this sorrowful love triangle plays out with everyone losing something.

Where Sarah Douglass falls short is that while it is the first book in a series, the climax was not overly exciting or suspenseful. It passes and not until reflection does one realize that it happened. The story is compelling but the end of the book does not give a proper amount of closure even for just the first book. Another troublesome aspect of the book is that between each part, the story jumps forward to early twentieth century London. Here we watch the characters in their future forms make many unclear references that are only vaguely understood by the end of the book. These interludes often detracted from the pace and atmosphere of the ancient world.

While the narrator’s voice, Sheryl Bernstein was a good choice and enjoyable through much of the book, I did find that she overemphasized many of the conversations and arguments. Sometimes it felt like a cheap soap opera. Granted Cordelia is supposed to be a young petulant teenager, it was sometimes overdone while listening. Cordelia often comes across as a whiny brat, which granted was some of the intention of the author, but I wonder if her character was presented more solemnly, she might not have felt so childish.

The tragedy of the book is that it has too many tragedies. Throughout the book, one is not sure whom to root for. For while each character has reasons for their actions, each character also takes that one extra step too far. Only through the author’s lead do you get an understanding of whom she is rooting for; however, the “villains” of this story are a mere flip of the coin in contrast to the “heroes.”

But when put together, much like other series by Sara Douglass, the book paints a colorful vivid world filled with magic, intrigue, and adventure. In fact, her historical background (PhD in English history) and gift of storytelling make the first half of the book analogous to both the sea-adventures of the Odyssey and the Aeneid. Her characters seem perfectly right as the ancient Greeks of epics and tragedies.

This is the thirteenth published book by the Australian-based author, but this is her first audiobook and her first book published dually in the US and Australia (all her other books have been published in Australia first). She has been compared to the likes of Robert Jordan and Terry Goodkind with her epic fantasy and while I would like to see some of her other books turned into audiobooks, I was still content to find her in a new medium.

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