Next up: “Receiver of Many” and “Destroyer of Light” by Rachel Alexander
Romance! Lots of romance. Greek myth retelling.
This is an in-depth retelling of the myths of Hades and Persephone. It brings together a lot of the classical material regarding the two deities, covering the backstory of the origin of all the gods, the division of the realms, Hades’ theft of Persephone, her growth as the Queen of the Underworld, Demeter’s tantrum (the Greek origin story of the seasons), and more. It is a heavy romance story (it might be billed as erotica, but I don’t really understand what divides it from the romance genre?), but it deeply explores and expands the myths of the gods, pulling in myths regarding the rest of the Olympians to flesh out the story.
The myth of Hades and Persephone is one of my favorites, mostly because Persephone comes out of it much better off than many of the other women in Greek myths. While there are a lot of arguments about the presence or absence of consent in the myth, as far as I know the myth itself is open to interpretation (but maybe I only read the sanitized-for-school version?). I prefer the interpretation that Persephone had at least some agency in her fate and was happy with her husband. Hades does seem to be the only loyal husband in all the Greek myths, in any case, and he does make her a Queen with actual power.
These books use this interpretation as well, and do a pretty good job avoiding the pitfalls this sort of story might have (ie consent issues and abuse). A point is made to have Hades and Persephone actually communicate about their relationship, and any problematic behavior that is present is also addressed and discussed and reviewed by both parties. It’s such a nice change from most other romance, especially ‘romantic’ retellings of Hades and Persephone, where Hades is depicted as a surly asshole who never talks to Persephone. In case all my other reviews on this blog haven’t made it clear: I really frakkin’ hate when abusive (physical, emotional, mental, whatever) men are portrayed as so hot and broody and dark. Ugh. Get that shit out of my romance, I want healthier relationships please. Not to say I don’t like some tension and steaminess too, but, like, safe-sane-and-consensual.
Speaking of steamy, these books do have a lot of sex in them. If that’s not your jam, it’s probably not worth your time to check these out. The sex itself is semi-explicit. There is a fair amount of description, but honestly I felt like it was mostly tasteful. I don’t recall encountering any of the horrible euphemisms that riddle the romance genre (no throbbing meat shafts here… sidebar, what an un-sexy term anyway). Nothing really out-there or scandalous, as far as I remember. The first instance of actual sex (they kind of do dream sex before-hand?) is skirting dubious consent, but where it falls on that line may be up to personal interpretation (as I mentioned before, the characters do discuss and address this in the story).
The author has very clearly done her homework on the mythology this is based on. I mean, as far as I can tell. I, like everyone else in the Western world, studied Greek mythology in high school, and from what I can remember things are accurate. There’s also a lot of details and things that I’d forgotten and that I wasn’t aware of. On this aspect, these books are really interesting. There is some expansion that is derived from interpretation (a fair amount of personality for the gods is author-developed) but I don’t feel like they’re ill-characterized. I will say that, since I’m aware of the myths of Hades and Persephone, I’m probably not going to read the third book (which is teased at briefly). The second one ends at a pretty good place and minimal loose ends, and I know some of the tragedy that awaits the couple… I don’t know if the author is going to follow those myths, but I’ll pass. Let me pretend nothing bad ever happens to them and they live happily ever after.
Also, I don’t know how much more of Demeter being all crazy I could take. I just wanted to smack her basically the entire time. Jesus, lady, respect your daughter’s agency. I guess my one complaint would be that she kept going ‘okay, I will just have to live with this’ and ‘I’m going to fuck shit up!’ I guess that’s in agreement with the myth, but… it kept hurting other people. I nearly cheered when Persephone called her a selfish sow (and then grumbled when she apologized for that and let her mother off easy), because man was she ever.
Anyway, a pretty decent retelling of Hades and Persephone, and pretty decent romance. Kind of a lot of sex, but whatever, at least it wasn’t some florid purple prose stuff. If romance is your cup of tea, you should probably at least check to see if this is a story for you.
Arguable dubious consent. Violence and death. Cursing and swearing.