Cover Image: Medusa's Sisters

Medusa's Sisters

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Member Reviews

I requested this one at a time when I was really into literary Greek myth retellings, but truthfully I just don't have that reading taste anymore, so this one really didn't do anything for me. I still will recommend this to people itching for a good mythology story, it just wasn't for me.

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I read this after reading Natalie Haynes book Stone Cold about Medusa, where Stheno and Euryale make several appearances, although in that retelling they have always been in gorgan form. It was interesting to read a retelling where they are just as beautiful as their mortal sister Medusa. Bear's writing is beautiful and thoughtful. She doesn't shy away from the story of Medusa's rape, which makes this a heavy read. But what truly stands out is the bond between sisters. Perfect for fans of Madeleine Miller.

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My lifelong love of Greek mythology is always rekindled when a new retelling comes my way, especially when that re-telling comes from the perspective of overlooked characters. Medusa’s Sisters is the debut novel of Boston author Lauren J. A. Bear, and follows the lesser known sisters of Medusa from birth and past the death of their beloved sister.

Medusa, Stheno, and Euryale were born to Phorcys, god of the sea’s hidden dangers, and Ceto, goddess of sea monsters. They were born before Zeus overthrew his father, and they witnessed Prometheus and the eagle, and the dawn of mankind as we know it. They were immediately a disappointment to their mother, as none were born with fangs or talons, they were simply ordinary. But none more ordinary than Medusa, the only one of the three born mortal. Initially believed to be dead, they quickly realize that only her “immortality was still born.” Those assembled for the birth argue over a mercy killing before she is named Medusa, and allowed to live by her mother. Her older sister Enyo then poses a question that drives the entire narrative of the book. She asks, “What can a life mean for one who will die among those who cannot?” And while Medusa is usually the focus of her story, in Medusa’s Sisters, the focus is definitely on what can a life mean for those who will not die, loving so feverishly one who will?

All three sisters are curious about mortals and their lives, and so they enter the human world in search of a place to belong. Eager to observe, they are quickly embroiled in the lives of not only the humans, but also the Olympians. They find themselves always on the outskirts of greater stories than their own. Watching their story reminds me of watching a disaster movie from the perspective of a side character, and it is a captivating perspective. Their lives are so important, and nuanced, and interesting, yet so marginal to the thrust of the major stories we remember.

“Monsters, but not monstrous,” Stheno and Euryale come to the forefront in this story for the first time to tell of how all three lived and were changed by each other. Bear explores the struggles of individuality and sisterhood, and where the individual stands between myth and truth. I find myself enjoying this in the same way that I enjoy the relationship of Glinda and Elphaba in Gregory Maguire’s Wicked, and with the same joy that the act of true love saving Arendelle was that of the sisters, not the lovers. While love is a central theme in Medusa’s Sisters, it is how those relationships affect the sisters that we are focused on.

The story begins with a prologue, and so the ending we all know of Medusa’s decapitation is revealed immediately. This has us asking on page one what this story is actually going to be about, if not about the most often cited part of Medusa’s story. I am usually irritated by the use of time in this fashion, but loved that this story began in this way so as to re-direct our focus away from Medusa’s main story into contemplation of the tangential straight away. Bear addresses the elephant in the room immediately, and now we can focus on the sisters and not the ending.

Of the three sisters, only Euryale and Stheno are given a narrative voice. Euryale above all else seems to crave experience. She wanted to experience love, she wanted to experience the mortal highs and lows, and above all else she wanted to experience Poseidon. Her love of the sea god drives so many of the joys and disasters that come her way. This is not Percy Jackson’s dad, this is the vengeful, selfish being of disaster. Stheno does not crave closeness to humanity in the way her sisters do, but craves her sisters. In many ways, she is the link between the mortal Medusa, and the experience-seeking Euryale. The love among the three, the jealousy, the familial complications, all are explored as the sisters move from one mortal experience to another.

Whilst some of this story felt inevitable, there are parts of this narrative that absolutely broke my heart. Bear writes female stories with such passion and such a finely tuned sense of the myriad of ways to be a woman. She explores so many aspects of the sisters’ sexuality, from a simple crush to a an all consuming desire. I absolutely loved how Bear explored the relationship of these sidelined characters to their more famous relatives, and how that changes who they are. There is an Olympian party scene with Eurayle skirting the edges, that feels like a regular family wedding. These are complicated women, and becoming gorgons is probably the least interesting thing about them. I cannot wait to see which characters Bear decides to re-imagine next.

It’s a retelling of Greek Myths so there is a lot in this book that could be triggering. This book depicts prostitution, rape, and childbirth.

GeekMom received a copy of this book for review purposes

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I have read many different retellings of the Medusa myth, some leave out the sisters entirely, or they are mere footnotes, a few have had them with larger roles. This book has probably been the best retelling of these women's story. I loved the writing, I loved the deep dive into greek mythology and how Lauren didn't shy away from all the horrible events they went through and handled them beautifully.

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This novel is beautifully written and full of heart,

All three sisters are written in a way that you can't help enjoy all of their stories. sexuality and queerness is also explored, and pretty decently and lesbian identity is not hidden.

A solid read.

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I love how this book explores the before of greek myths we are commonly told, deconstructing the popular morals and values we're told to derive from such tales. So cool!

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There has been a true deluge of feminist Greek myth retellings getting published since Circe’s success, and I haven’t really dipped my toes in until now. Medusa’s Sisters met the general expectations that I’ve developed for this type of book based on reviews by trusted friends - awkward attempts at lyrical prose, a few interesting subversions of classical mythology, and a somewhat confused attempt at being feminist by showing lots of awful men and violence against women.

One of the most glaring elements that didn’t work for me was the writing. Especially in the first half, I could almost feel Bear flipping through her thesaurus on the regular. This book’s attempt at elegant prose is largely characterized by using fancy/esoteric words with a result that feels pretty stilted and awkward instead of sophisticated. Probably the worst example I found was this:

“I sheltered her too much,” she told Euryale, for despite their tenuous start, Desma had come to appreciate Euryale’s sagacity - especially compared to Medusa’s and Semele’s penchant for the quixotic.

Even if you look past the anachronistic use of “quixotic,” it’s just… not good. To be fair, this tendency gets notably better in the second half, either because the prose actually changes or because I got more used to it, I’m not sure.

Bear made an interesting choice in having her protagonists Euryale and Stheno be deeply flawed characters. Euryale spends much of the book being callous and self-centered, while Stheno is a hardcore placater who has no real identity out of caring for her sisters. Both of them grow throughout the book - not necessarily in the neat, expected way of becoming selfless and independent, respectively, but in ways that I did find interesting nonetheless. My biggest disappointment with characterization is that Medusa herself is so flat and boring - she is just perfectly sweet and beautiful and smart and curious and everyone except mean, mean Euryale loves her until she goes through horrible things and dies tragically. I can understand giving more interiority to the eponymous sisters, but it’s really glaring to me how bad Medusa’s writing feels compared to theirs, and I think the big theme of Sisterhood could have been a lot more interesting if Medusa was more interesting, too.

Like I said, there is definitely an attempt at feminism present via showing copious violence against women and endlessly brutal and selfish men, but I don’t feel that the book has anything particularly interesting, distinct, or novel to say about any of this. Otherwise, I do like that Bear clearly thought about how women are conditioned to turn against each other and hurt each other for many reasons in a patriarchal world - this is something that was definitely lacking in Circe, as were any meaningful, complex female relationships like the ones sometimes present here.

My reading experience with this book is kind of similar to my experience with The Witch’s Heart in that I didn’t really enjoy it and noticed a lot of flaws throughout, but I still ended up feeling moved by the ending. There is something that just GETS TO ME about the inevitable passage of time for lonely immortals - their loves and losses fading as life moves on and on past their horrors and tragedies to continue in some new way. Idk, I just LIKE it!

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If you’re into Greek myth retellings, Medusa’s Sisters is one to pick up.

What made it different for me is that it included the sisters’ lives before they ever became gorgons.

What made it relatable is the family dynamics that are depicted in the book. Love, anger and all those other feelings you have towards your sibling can be found in this book.

Personally, I found myself heartbroken wishing the best for these girls, even though we all know how Medusa’s story ends.

Oh and there’s WLW rep

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I don’t know that I have adequate words to describe this powerful Greek mythology retelling.

Heartbreakingly beautiful.

I never imagined Medusa as a sister, let alone a triplet. To be honest, what I knew of her was simply that her gaze turned men to stone and that she had snakes for hair. I did not know the true depths of her story, or the cruelty and injustice she faced at the hands of the Greek gods and goddesses.

This story made me feel the full gamut of emotion - anger, betrayal, heartbreak, love, fear, anxiety, hate. I cried numerous times, and as an older sister, I found myself really relating to Stheno and her instinct to protect both Medusa and Euryale. Her absolute and unconditional love for them broke and touched my heart, and harkens to the love I have for my sister.

A story of womanhood, sisterhood, love, the highest of highs, the lowest of lows, and all that both humanity and immortality entail, this absolutely gorgeous story surprised me in the best way.

Thank you so, so much to @laurenjabear @berkleypub @prhaudio and @berittalksbooks for my gifted e- and audiobook copies. If you get the opportunity, please listen to the audiobook because @taytayharvs and @zurajohnson do an absolutely incredible job of narrating this story. If you love @madeline.e.miller @nataliehaynesauthor and , definitely give Medusa’s Sisters a read!! You won’t be sorry!

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𝑶𝒖𝒓 𝒄𝒉𝒐𝒊𝒄𝒆𝒔 𝒅𝒆𝒇𝒊𝒏𝒆 𝒖𝒔, 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝑰 𝒄𝒉𝒐𝒔𝒆 𝒕𝒉𝒊𝒔 𝒕𝒓𝒂𝒈𝒆𝒅𝒚, 𝒐𝒖𝒓 𝒇𝒊𝒓𝒔𝒕 𝒐𝒇 𝒎𝒂𝒏𝒚.

A beautifully written, dazzling retelling of the Medusa myth that is accessible to any reader and shows a decidedly human side to Medusa and her sisters.

Stheno and Euryale are pretty much doomed to the pages of mythology as the Gorgon sisters of Medusa, but this retelling brings them to the forefront. The writing was so poetic, so crisp, that I was transported to the ancient world of Greece.

The only mortal among them, Medusa and her sisters travel to the human world to find their place among the mortals, looking for a place to belong. Their experiences are so utterly human, and I was completely engaged in each sister's story. Then the author began a seemingly separate story about a princess and her newborn son who were discarded into the sea, left to float in a wooden chest. But scholars of mythology know that the newborn was Perseus, who would grow up to become the slayer of Medusa. Mythology has too long treated Medusa as a monster and Perseus as the famed hero who took her head, but once again, this retelling will have you seeing things differently as these two storylines weave into one horrific crescendo of sorrow and pain for Stheno and Euryale.

Athena's portrayal was perfectly done; she was cold and detached as she hands down Medusa's punishment for having dared to be violated by Poseidon in her temple. Be forewarned, that scene and its aftermath were brutal.

I look forward to more titles from this author. A big thank you to NetGalley and Berkley for this review copy. MEDUSA'S SISTERS is out now and deserves a place on your shelf.

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You always hear so much about Medusa and not much about her gorgon sisters. Lauren J. A. Bear did a fantastic job bringing light to their stories. And though this was focused on Stheno and Euryale for the most part, it also showed us unfairly Medusa was treated. Bear painted Medusa in a sweeter light than I had seen before.

Like some of the other recent retellings and reiterations of mythology, Bear does the women in this novel the justice that they haven’t always been given throughout history. I thought it was beautiful to see Stheno and Euryale’s relationship with Orion, who is arguably more famous than they are.

I look forward to reading more of Lauren’s work in the future, as this was absolutely lovely.

I interviewed her earlier in the year here:

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Two book reviews in one day. Who is she. And yet another recent 5⭐️ Greek mythology themed read. You know I love it. Let’s do this.

✨Medusa’s Sisters by Lauren J.A. Bear✨
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5

This is by far the best debut I’ve read all year long. After last year’s upset about a particular book that featured Medusa on the cover, but was severely lacking actual Medusa content I’ll admit I had a fierce hunger. And now I can say that I’m deliciously satiated.

We all know Medusa, but have you been properly introduced to her sisters, Stheno and Euryale? In this epic retelling, Lauren J.A. Bear gives us the lowdown on the sisters who started as wee sea-born immortal babes growing into awkward adolescents who craved freedom and a compulsion to protect their mortal sister Medusa. After entering the human world as freshly minted adults, rivalry between sisters ensues creating a cascade of tragic events that most of us are familiar with—the transformation of these sisters into the iconic snake-headed Gorgons. “Monsters, but not monstrous,” the sisters are forced to flee, forever transformed inside & out.

This retelling is perfection. It has all of my favorite Greek mythology items—eye-gushing beautifully written prose, the quiet reflective moments & the pulse-pounding action sequences, the emotional tumult, the chorus & interludes, and some wickedly smart dialogue. I literally said aloud, “oooooh burn” during a conversation between Euryale and Poseidon there towards the end while listening to the audiobook at work. Speaking of audiobook, the dual perspective narration works so well that I prefer it to print. If you’re planning to read a Greek mythology this year, then please pick this one.

I know some readers don’t like comparisons, but I’m gonna do it anyways. Don’t hate me.
If you loved the quiet beauty of Circe by Madeline Miller, then Medusa’s Sisters is a guaranteed hit. Also if you’ve read & loved Stone Blind by Natalie Haynes, read this one to round out the whole experience. You can thank me later.

Thank you to the publisher for the opportunity to read and review this book. It’s a new favorite and I cannot wait to check out Mother of Rome in 2024.

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An excellent debut, exquisitely written. I was highly impressed with how Lauren J. A. Bear had expanded on fragments of myth to create such a moving tale of sisterhood.

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This is a thoroughly researched book that is a great for Greek mythology lovers. It was refreshing to read a book that went beyond Medusa’s POV and spoke about her sisters as well. Stheno and Euryale are written beautifully with human emotions that shows their feelings, their loneliness and their helplessness at all that unfolds before then. The sisterhood between the Gorgons is explored in detail in this book.

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thank you to netgalley for the advanced reading copy. I really enjoyed this and will be getting copies for my shop.

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I am a huge sucker for any Greek retelling of any sort so I knew I was gonna like this one before I even opened it but wow did it really exceeded all my expectation! It was engaging and so different, and really made me feel like I got to know these characters on a personal level.

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This book was so so so so good! I loved getting Medusa's story, and I loved even more that it came from the perspective of her sisters. Reading their whole story from start to finish was something else, and it was beautiful. As someone who is also the eldest sister and loves my younger sisters more than anything, reading Stheno's perspective really hit home for me, and I loved her character so much. The development all three of characters had, and the story of how they became the gorgons was incredible, and I'm recommending this book to literally everyone. This is one of my favorite books I've read this year.

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I’ve been loving the amount of Greek myth retellings coming out and Medusa’s story is a personal favourite of mine. This was a wonderful, rich take and definitely highly recommended for anybody who likes fresh, feminist takes on the classic myth tales.

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I thought this was very well done. Great for any fans of the Greek mythology reimagining genre. The writing really transports you to another time. Could be dry in some parts. Content warning for a very graphic rape scene.

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This book was wonderful! I keep thinking the retelling of old myths will get old, but this author did a great job of keeping this retelling fresh. I look forward to following this author for more of her work. 5 star read.

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