Book Review of Ariadne by Jennifer Saint: Luscious, Visceral Mythology Retelling

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Ariadne by Jennifer Saint Book Cover Image



Rating: 4 out of 5.

Genre Literary, Retelling

Format Hardback

Other Formats Available Paperback, ebook, audiobook

Publication Date March 2021

Length 389 pages

Content Warnings Rape and sexual assault, suicide, murder, violence, enslavement, birth descriptions, animal sacrifice

What It’s About

Everyone knows the heroic story of Theseus in the labyrinth, and how Ariadne helped him to defeat the terrifying Minotaur. Yet with this act of bravery, a betrayal of her tyrannous royal father, Ariadne’s story is only beginning. The epic tales of ancient poets rarely pause to consider her sacrifice, or what it meant to leave behind her Cretan home and family.

Lost in a new kind of labyrinth, Ariadne must quickly learn what it means to be a woman, and a mortal, in a world ruled over by men and gods.


I don’t think I will ever get bored of ancient Greek mythology retellings! Although I knew Ariadne’s role in the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur, her story beyond this connection was completely new to me. Saint’s novel is a feminist correction to the overshadowing of mythical women, focussing on Ariadne and her sister Phaedra.

“No longer was my world one of brave heroes; I was learning all too swiftly the women’s pain that throbbed unspoken through the tales of their feats.”

~ Jennifer Saint, ‘Ariadne’

I enjoyed both Ariadne’s and Phaedra’s points of view equally. The relationship and interactions between the sisters really lent nuance to each of their characters. In fact, the book is full of dramatic character arcs – it’s impossible to predict how different characters will react, grow, and develop as they navigate unfamiliar waters.

Every page of the book is rich with luscious descriptions and gilded language. For my own taste, though, I found these descriptions a little excessive and became satiated after a while.

Saint brings the darkness of ancient myths into the foreground, exploring the violence of the original narratives and blurring the divide between heroes and monsters. There were many grotesque and shocking moments that made me want to squeeze my eyes shut!

Ariadne by Jennifer Saint Keywords


Diversity and Representation

Like all my favourite retellings, Ariadne has strong feminist themes. I especially liked the complex and ambivalent compromises that the women characters had to make in order to gain small steps towards power, freedom, and sexual expression.


  • Myth
  • Gender and sexuality
  • Power
  • Violence
  • Sisterhood
  • Family
  • Mothering
  • Betrayal
  • Secrecy
  • Love
  • Fate

Beyond the Book

Through Ariadne and her sister Phaedra, the author presents two different experiences of motherhood. The often unspoken pain of motherhood seems popular to explore currently, with books such as The School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan and films such as Netflix’s The Lost Daughter. I wonder why this theme seems to have taken off at our particular cultural moment?

Discussion Questions

If you’re reading Ariadne as a book club pick or just looking to ponder the story in a little more depth, these questions should help get you started:

1. Have you read any other mythology retellings? If so, how does Ariadne compare?

2. The novel is narrated from two different perspectives – Ariadne and her sister Phaedra. If you could add one more point of view, which character would you choose?

3. Are there moments of this ancient story that you found particularly resonant to the present day?

The Round-Up

Favourite Quote

“I would not let a man who knew the value of nothing make me doubt the value of myself.”

~ Jennifer Saint, ‘Ariadne’

Read If

You want to luxuriate in a rich and visceral mythology retelling.

Buy Now

You can get Ariadne via Amazon UK and Amazon US – or why not try listening on Audible?

Alternatively, support independent bookshops and ethical retailers with these links:

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Have you read Ariadne and if so, what did you think? What are your favourite mythical retellings? Let me know in the comments – I would love to hear from you!

15 thoughts on “Book Review of Ariadne by Jennifer Saint: Luscious, Visceral Mythology Retelling”


    Liked by 1 person

  2. I see what you mean with the fact that after a while very lush descriptions can become excessive if not used well. I don’t read too many of these retellings, but I love that it explores feminist themes, wonderful review as always Florence! ❤


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