Cover Image: Phaedra

Phaedra

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reads like fanfiction which makes me sad 
and there's just nothing of substance in here it's so empty
if i had a nickel for every time i read a phaedra/ariadne retelling that marketed itself as feminist and turned out to bring absolutely nothing interesting to the table i'd have two nickels! which is weird that it happened twice
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There is certainly an audience for this book, but I am not sure how satisfied they will be by this retelling of Phaedra's story.

In Greek mythology, Phaedra is the daughter of Minos and Pasiphae, sister to Ariadne and the Minotaur, and wife to Theseus (the slayer of the Minotaur, who did so with Ariadne's help). Upon returning to Athens with her new husband Theseus, she becomes entangled with her stepson, Hippolytus. In early versions of the myth, she either attempts to or actually does seduce him, accuses him of rape, and kills herself after her accusation results in his death.

As with most of the recent reimaginings of Greek mythological figures, the author here takes a different angle: what if Phaedra actually was raped, and as one of many women who are frequently raped in the Athenian palace, decides to voice her accusation to rightfully punish Hippolytus for his crime? What if Phaedra despises Theseus for murdering her brother, praying to the gods to punish him only to discover that her body is to be the instrument of that punishment? And what if the gods don't answer--what, then, might a woman do?

There is an interesting idea floating around here, but the execution isn't well done. If this was an intro creating writing seminar, the main feedback would be "show, don't tell." Most of the characters are relatively flat: Phaedra is vengeful and naïve, Hippolytus is horse-obsessed and arrogant, Theseus is sociopathic, her nurse is fretful, etc. And while Madea (a fascinating, complex character if ever there was one) is introduced, she is largely a plot device rather than being fully formed in her own right: skulking around, listening in doorways, and offer key information to motivate Phaedra.

Much in the style of Natalie Haynes's A Thousand Ships, we hear from a chorus of abused women, and each chapter shifts to a new woman's voice...well, all but one recurring first-person narrator who is a cagey old man who advised the last king of Athens. Why does he pop up in this chorus of women? No idea, other than I suspect the author didn't know how to imply his motivations so we had to experience them first-hand. And many of these first-person perspectives are primarily composed of people listening at other people's doors--again, unclear why this would need to be a first-person vs. third-person narrative choice. Phaedra had the potential to be an interesting character, but we didn't get enough access to her interior space to illustrate her evolution over the course of the story.

Basically, this is an underbaked novel that needed a stronger editorial hand. This is fine if you are desperate for ANY Greek mythology to tide you over until the next Madeline Miller, Natalie Haynes, or Pat Barker book, but it will likely not be truly satisfying on a plot, character, or style level.
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This book reminded me of the Me Too movement of Greek Mythology. I always live retellings and this book is no exception.
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Thank you Netgalley and Publisher for this Arc! 


I love a good retelling and this completely hit the spot for me.  However,  there were some points in this story that I personally did not like.  All together,  this was an interesting story and I'm glad I had the opportunity to read this!
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Story begins with Theseus slaying the minotaur and taking Phaedra as his bride. The story centres on Phaedra's experience living in Athens as his bride. 

I was excited for this one but potentially it suffered from comparisons to Madeline Miller's work. It fell a little flat and at points I found myself getting bored. I do feel like we got to know Phaedra's character well but the world around her was shallowly described. 

I enjoyed some of the scenes between Trypho, Medea, Theseus and Phaedra. But for a lot of the book I was struggling to maintain whose POV was whose. It was interesting to hear about Phaedra's story and I wish there had been more focus on the relationships between women, such as Kendake and the night chorus. 


Thank you to Netgalley for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
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This would have been much better without the excess points of view that distracted from Phaedra's story.  Several were characters we only met briefly and contributed nothing- one character in the beginning of the novel disappeared and didn't return until the end of the book and another had just one pointless chapter. Others that did contribute to the story weren't fleshed out enough.  It was also hard at times to remember which narration I was on, as they all sounded the same and at times some of the dialogue/narration felt modernized.  I did read it fairly quickly and it kept my interest, but it could have been so much better if it hadn't been bloated down with a lot of unnecessary voices.  If patrons have exhausted their Greek retellings and are looking for more I would probably recommend this one, but I wouldn't choose to recommend it over Circe, Elektra, or Ariadne. I will give this author another chance, though.  Thank you to Alcove Press and NetGalley for the DRC in exchange for an honest review. 3 stars.
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I liked that this was a retelling of Phaedra"s story from a woman's perspective. Again, the men write history and have the power. I did not find it as compelling or insightful as I hoped.
Thanks to NetGalley for providing an ARC of this title.
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Thank you the NetGalley and Alcove Press for the ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.
Pub Date: January 10, 2023

Somewhere around 3.5 stars.  This was a relatively quick and engaging read - a retelling and reshaping of the story of Phaedra.  I was concerned going into it because I had seen a few less-than-stellar reviews but I enjoyed it.  There are multiple POVs (all first person) which I usually enjoy anyway and I thought it really helped capture all of the different perspectives and thoughts of the story without getting too complex or confusing.
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I was expecting a deep dive into Phaedra's life and viewpoint, but didn't ever really feel immersed in her world or thoughts.  I did appreciate the author's emphasis on the lack of power of women in this time period.
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Thank you to Net Galley and Alcove Press for an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Phaedra is a fully mixed bag of interesting nuance and painful simplicity.

On the negative side, there are far too many PoV characters. I was lost on the minor characters from beginning to end. The plot seems to waver back and forth on whether to adhere to modern or ancient feminist politics, creating dissonance. Phaedra's so-called naivety is not well-handled and repeatedly hammered into the reader.

The way Phaedra treats the concept of gods and the influence of this on society, on the other hand, is an interesting and more unique take. My issue with a lot of retellings is how far they reach to make events un-magical - bending over backwards to make mundame from myth, and then going further by laughing and deriding the notion of magic being real in the text. Phaedra does fall into this trope quite severely, however it walks the line carefully and in a much more nuanced way than most that attempt the same thing. Especially through the eyes of Phaedra herself, whose belief in the gods despite derision truly carries the story, this trope compelled me more than it ever has before.

My favourite part of the book was hands down the relationship between Medea and Phaedra. Medea is one of my favourite mythological characters, and the genuinely heartfelt and logical sounding-out of the murder of her children is not something most writers bother to spend time on. The paralleling of this with the climax of the book was genuinely well-written and compelling.

The setting does seem more inspired by 5th Century BC Greece than the so-called ancient setting it claims to be set in, though to a non-Classicist reader this is unlikely to affect enjoyment.

I would've loved way more exploration of the Minotaur and his relationship with Phaedra and Ariadne, as that was definitely one of the more compelling parts of the book.

3/5
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I had high hopes for this, but the POV of all these characters caused it to feel like all the voices blended together. There were times when I struggled to tell who was talking despite having read the name before the chapter. Not much of this felt well-developed or in-depth, and I think there is a way to do a greek retelling and give it depth and justice- this just perhaps wasn't it.
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While I love the idea of a retelling of Phaedra’s story through the framing of victim blaming culture and the dichotomy of male and female cultural expectations of the time during which her marriage to Odysseus takes place, the content falls short for me in respect to the writing. 

Multiple point of view characters usually appeals to me, but when each narrative voice is near indistinguishable from the last, it leaves an incredibly flat taste in my mouth. And while I can respect focus on character dynamics and the deliberate choice to leave many aspects of the setting unsaid, Shepperson’s omission of these things feels more like oversight than artistic decision.

As debuts and mythology retellings go, Phaedra is fine, but by no means a stand-out as the trend goes. If the niche is your thing, by all means, I encourage you to read and enjoy, but if you tbr is a mile long or you’re picky about retellings, maybe skip this one.
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Please check TW/CW prior to reading this book.

Thank you Alcove Press and NetGalley for providing an arc for an honest review. 

I really wanted to love this book. Any type of retelling or re-imagining of mythology will always catch my eye so I was really excited to read this book. Unfortunately it just fell flat for me. It had the potential to be a very hard hitting important story to tell. Much like Ariadne and how women tend to be the ones who are forgotten or harmed when it comes to the legends of men. That same idea could have been conveyed beautifully in this book but it was lost in all of the POV's. The character's were not fleshed out enough and they only took away from the overall story. Many of them were unnecessary and didn't add anything substantial to the narrative. I would have loved to have either just heard from Phaedra or Phaedra and Medea.
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Thank you to Netgalley and Alcove Press for the digital copy in exchange for my honest review.

If you enjoyed Ariadne by Jennifer Saint or were looking for a new viewpoint on the Theseus and the minotaur myth, this is the thing for you. It tells a very different story.

Narrated by Phaedra, the wife of Theseus, through the killing of the minotaur, the disappearance of her sister, and the ordeal of her life in the lawlessness of Athens.

When the king is away, the women are not safe.

Phaedra tells the story of Greece’s first democracy passing a verdict on the crown prince. It also tells the story of how democracy can still fail, and all that’s left to set things right is a woman’s rage.

There are several POV characters to give more background to the story and provide information about women from all levels of the caste system, as well as a night chorus where women share their grievances with one another. Most of the POVs were hard to differentiate, and I found the night chorus, often, badly written. Phaedra’s voice is the one that shines through. I didn’t see the payoff of having all kinds of viewpoints of different women, because it was stealing focus from the main character and not as much detail was given about the others.

I did like the chapters told from Medea’s POV but I wish more scheming had been done with her character. My overall complaint for every character is that I wish I knew them and their motivations better. Even when certain characters died, I wasn’t able to feel for them because I didn’t bond to them. And I think a lot of that is because of the POV bouncing around too much.

While I enjoyed the narrative, I felt that the storytelling fell flat at times, and it really needs a final polish to clarify the voices of its characters and also to catch typos. For example, on page 438 of 561, Theseus offers Phaedra safe passage back to “Athens,” but I’m pretty sure it should say “Crete,” being that they are standing in Athens for this conversation.

This has all of the potential to be a hard hitting tale about all of the things Greek myth glazes over, but it falls short of that. While reading, I felt myself comparing characters to other retellings and thinking “Pasiphae in this retelling is stronger,” or “I like this version of Ariadne better.”

Even so, Phaedra takes a completely new spin on this myth and it’s worth reading.

Content warning: rape, assault, child murder
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In a nutshell, Phaedra is a retelling of the Greek mythological story of Phaedra. What I liked most is the witty narrative structure - Shepperson included overlooked voices of women from different classes (princesses, maids, even a chorus of women's voices at night).

I also enjoyed the rapid switch of the narrative views from character to character, each one bringing a different aspect to the journey. As reader, I was felt as being on pins and needles (in a good way!!) to see what will happen next, what's the next point of view.

It is definitely a book that I will recommend reading!
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2.5 stars, rounded up.

I love a good retelling of a mythologic character so I was extremely excited to read this. Unfortunately it fell flat for me. This could have been because I was going into it with high expectation due to other retellings I have read, but regardless, I was left wanting more.

The retelling is told thorough numerous perspectives, which don't get me wrong, I love multiple points of view, when they are adding to the plot, these did not. In fact, the numerous perspectives actually added confusion (and not in a good way) and at times I actually got annoyed with the constant changings. It didn't help that I felt like all of the characters fell flat, sometime I was surprised about due to how rich the mythology is. I felt like more effort was put into trying to get the feminist point across than to actually develop the characters.

If you are looking for another author like Madeline Miller or Jennifer Saint, this is not the book for you. If you are looking for a myth retelling that's main focus is getting the feminist point across without adding much to the myth and without compelling characters, you might enjoy this more than I did.

I received this ARC from the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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This one felt flat for me. I normally love Greek mythology and retellings but this felt a bit juvenile. There were too many point of views in my opinion. If you have multiple POVs it is important to really flesh out each character, give them their own distinct voice, personality, thoughts, etc. and I didn't feel like we got that here. The formatting and editing also need another look.
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Thank you so much to NetGalley and the publisher for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Phaedra follows the trend of many mythological retellings, telling a famous story from a female perspective. This highlights many of the injustices of the time, and the true tragedy of life many endured.
Something that lacked for me was the worldbuilding. I love mythological retellings because I feel like I’m transported to a different time, and that is something that fell short for me here.
I also was not a huge fan of the multiple POVs. Some of the perspectives felt unnecessary, and it didn’t feel like each had their own voice. I yearned for more of Phaedra’s point of view, for she was my favorite part of the book! Overall, I did enjoy the trial aspect of the story.
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TW/CW: Sexual assault, murder, brutality, sexism, violence, teen marriage

REVIEW: I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley and am voluntarily leaving an honest review.

Phaedra is the story of the youngest daughter of King Minos of Crete and her ill-fated marriage to Theseus of Athens.

This is not a bad book, but I thought it compared poorly to Ariadne, which it very strongly mirrored in the first half of the book. The second half was a bit different, and grabbed my attention more. The book was well written, but tended to jump around too much to different viewpoints and different people with different motivations.

One of my problems with this book was that it had too many points of view. I lost count of how many there were (at least six or so) and some of them I cared about more than others. I would have liked to hear more strictly from Phaedra’s point of view, as this was intended to be her story.

The author was attempting to make a point about sexual assault and the way ancient women were mistreated, which is surely a good and important point to make. But I think this book went a bit overboard and pushed the part a bit too hard. It also felt that the pacing was off, as the first part really dragged while the last part – especially the trial – seemed very rushed.

While this was not a BAD book, I would recommend Ariadne before this one, because it was simply a more straightforward and less brutal read.
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I am a sucker for a good Mythology retelling and this one was no different. I currently read the book Ariadne and then I read this book after. I love that we are seeing the characters through a trial and going more into who Phaedra is and what she went through!
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