Ariadne is destined to become a goddess. She leads a lonely life, filled with hours of rigorous training by stern priestesses. Her former friends no longer dare to look at Ariadne, much less speak to her. All that she has left are her mother and her beloved, misshapen brother Asterion, who must be held captive below the palace for his own safety.
So when a ship arrives one spring day, bearing a tribute of slaves from Athens, Ariadne sneaks out to meet it. These newcomers don’t know the ways of Krete; perhaps they won’t be afraid of a girl who will someday be a powerful goddess. And indeed Ariadne finds a friend in Prokris, a pretty young woman who has come to marry the Minos.
But the ship also brings Theseus, the handsome son of the king of Athens. He has been sent to be killed by the monster beneath the palace—or to kill him. And that “monster” is Ariadne’s brother. . . .
Ariadne weaves a new tale in a historically rich reworking of Theseus
and the Minotaur. . . . Bucking the trend of torrid retellings, Barrett (King of Ithaka,
2010) focuses more on history than romance. Food, politics and clothing
are described in ornate detail, and the formal language—if a bit
stilted—lends the tale gravitas. While mythological characters appear in
abundance—Medea makes a surprising cameo and gets an unexpected
redemption—the gods are presented as religion rather than reality. A world and story both excitingly alien and pleasingly familiar. (Historical fiction. 12 & up)
— Kirkus★Starred review
Barrett gives new life to Ariadne as a lonely priestess with a
disfigured and disabled brother: a wholly human Minotaur. Using a rich
historical framework, the story alters events and characters enough to
build fiction from mythology. Complex characters and relationships guide
the plot to the prordained but still satisfying conclusion.
— Horn Book
Ariadne is the daughter of She-Who-Is-Goddess, high priestess of the
Moon worshippers on Krete and the most powerful woman in the country.
Someday she will follow in her mother’s footsteps, but until she does,
she is simply a lonely teenager, feared by even the people she played
with as a child. When she hears of a ship arriving from Athens, she
sneaks out to the docks to see the new arrivals. Among them are Theseus
and Prokris, sent as tributes from the king of Athens. Ariadne hopes
that these newcomers will be her friends, but they are already working
on a plan to overthrow the government of Krete. Sweet, shy Ariadne
becomes an unwitting part of their intrigue, as does her handicapped
brother, Asterion, whom many view as a monster. This retelling of the myth of the Minotaur is deft, dark, and enthralling.
Barrett spares readers none of the gore and violence of the Kretan
goddess-worship, which involves both human and animal sacrifice.
Ariadne’s beliefs, though alien to modern readers, are given sufficient
context to make them comprehensible. Though Ariadne and Theseus do not
share the deathless romance readers might expect from the original myth,
their hesitant relationship has a charm of its own. This thoughtful,
well-written reimagining of a classic myth is a welcome addition to the
— School Library Journal
Barrett's story, like her King of Ithaka, is a reimagining drawn
from antiquity, this time the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. The
beast, however, is not a monster but 18-year-old Asterion, born deformed
and mentally incapacitated; he's capable of gentleness but more often
tends to accidentally kill his playmates. The narrative largely centers
on 15-year-old Ariadne, Asterion's sister and the future priestess of
Krete, the most important position on the island, which is currently
held by her mother. Ariadne believes in the traditions of her home, but
secrets that her mother has kept, including doubts of Ariadne's validity
as her successor, cause big problems when her mother dies. The balance
of power is further threatened when a ship containing tributes from
Athens arrives, including the scheming Prokris, seeking to take over
Krete with 16-year-old Theseus, who narrates portions of the book as
well. Barrett offers clever commentary on the spread of gossip and an
intriguing matriarchal version of the story. Fans of Greek mythology
should appreciate this edgier twist on one of its most familiar tales.
— Publishers Weekly
Dark of the Moon will forever change the way its readers imagine
Theseus and Ariadne, and its influence will certainly be felt for as
long as their stories are told.
— Chapter 16
Readers need not be familiar with Greek mythology, but those who are
will appreciate seeing Theseus, Ariadne, and the Minotaur, among many
others, reinvented as sympathetic and very human characters. The
straightforward narrative shifts between Ariadne and Theseus, building
tension and balancing the story by offering two very different
perspectives. This is an intriguing interpretation of the myth of the Minotaur that is as compelling as it is inventive.
Rather than just retelling the expected story, the book manages to take the roots and make the story its own.
One of the most fascinating aspects is the examination of religion and
the effect it has on this myth. The result is not the characters you
expect to see, but a mentally ill brother, a boastful hero, and a young
woman who is conscious of her duty as future goddess.
— San Francisco Book Review
Barrett delves into the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur to explore the political and religious underpinnings in this thoughtful retelling grounded in rich historical detail and insightful character portrayals.
Ariadne is She-Who-Will-Be-Goddess, training to become the moon
goddess’ vessel during the yearly festival and ensure her people’s
future on Krete, just as her powerful mother, She-Who-Is-Goddess, does
now. Theseus comes to Krete as a tribute from Athens, expecting to be
fed to the evil Minotauros, only to discover the monster is no more than
a deformed boy of simple mentality, though capable of accidental
violence. Ariadne and Theseus become tentative friends, and Theseus,
embroiled in a plot to overthrow Krete’s matriarchal rule,
second-guesses his assumptions, while Ariadne learns that there are
doubts about her credibility as her mother’s successor. Barrett subverts
many elements of the classic myth to create a realistic historical tale
(including minimizing the romance), yet doesn’t lose the drama and
darkness of the original tale. Fans of historical fiction and Greek
myths should be pleased.
[T]his is no sappy romance novel with a predictable plot. Barrett (King of Ithaka)
moves the story along with vividly drawn characters and surprises at
every turn. The brutish Asterion, Ariadne's brother, evokes sympathy in
unexpected ways, and even minor players are richly imbued with their own
histories and motivational contexts. The sensory elements of place and
time are evoked in all their gritty detail, from writhing snakes and
briny ocean scents to the bloodied dust of the bull ring. As Ariadne
crafts her own choices, alternate storylines emerge for many mythic
elements, among them Medea's fate and the origins of the Minotaur. An intriguing and inventive recreation of a well-known tale.
— Children's Literature
Ariadne and Theseus are appealing teenage protagonists, and they narrate with honesty and emotion. Dark of the Moon is a fabulously-conceived reinvention of the story of Theseus and the Minotaur. Highly recommended.
— Historical Novel Society
Editor's Choice Pick
Traditional versions of the Minotaur legend often portray Ariadne as a
tragic figure: After helping her lover Theseus escape the labyrinth, she
is later abandoned on an Aegean island. Tracy Barrett’s retelling of
the legend, Dark of the Moon, turns this image on its head.
Barrett’s Ariadne is a powerful but socially isolated priestess, and the
Minotaur who lives under her palace is no monster, but instead her
beloved, deformed brother Asterion. Ariadne is confident in her
hereditary role of She-Who-Will-Be-Goddess and the future it will bring
her. But when she meets Theseus and his fellow tributes, she finds
friendship for the first time, learns about the world beyond her palace
and begins to question the role she might play in determining her own
Barrett both incorporates and undermines well-known aspects of her
story, giving new interpretations to Ariadne’s ball of thread, Theseus’
interaction with the Minotaur and the reason for black sails on the
Athenians’ returning ship. Details of the complex politics and rituals
of her reimagined Krete abound, as do references to other people and
places of Greek mythology. She does not shy away from violence, but the
bloodiness always serves to establish the characters and setting and is
never gratuitous. Chapters are alternately narrated by Ariadne and
Theseus, allowing the reader to gain insight into the actions, thoughts
and motivations of both characters. In the end, this tale leaves both
its characters and its readers questioning the very nature of how
stories are told and retold. Fans of mythological retellings will relish
this fresh, feminist interpretation of the tale of Ariadne and Theseus.
Teenagers will relate to the loneliness and questioning Ariadne and
Theseus experience as they discover the hero’s need to embellish and the
priestess’s aspiration to embody the divine. Barrett’s fiction, steeped
in historical fact, vividly carries the readers back to a time when
people believed in gods that required animal and even human sacrifice.
Barrett’s rendition exposes the “good” side of “evil” and the “evil”
side of “good.” Behind the story lurks a challenge to reinterpret the
underpinnings of our own beliefs about good and evil. Barrett
skillfully unravels the darker side of humanity revealing the universal
struggle to redeem ourselves, each through our own story and in our own
— Readers Favorite
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