To be perfectly honest I was sold as soon as I saw the gorgeous cover art. Then I read the blurb which only heightened my excitement. I snatched this book up as soon as it was released and it not only lived up to my expectations but blew them out of the water.
I’ve never read anything by Alexandra Bracken before, but I’ve been madly in love with Greek mythology since childhood. I’m the type of annoying classics fanatic who cringes when people use the phrase “Pandora’s box” (it was either an urn or Pandora herself!) and no matter how amazing the soundtrack is, “Hercules” always irks me with how ridiculously off the mark it is (the least of its sins is the Romanization of Herakles). Suffice it to say, as eager as I was to read the book, I had no prior experience with the author so I was slightly concerned about how the mythos would be represented. I was pleased to learn that the book had been so well researched in term of both the mythology and Greek language. It was fun to learn that Bracken drew upon her own Greek heritage and her passion for the subject matter was so palpable throughout the entire novel.
I loved the whole premise of the Agon, it was such a wonderful way of reimagining Greek legend in a modern setting while maintaining the integrity of the original myths. Lore was the exact kind of strong and fierce female protagonist that I love to see and there was a diverse cast of supporting characters all intriguing in their own ways.
Bracken makes a powerful statement about the corrupting nature of power and prestige, as well as how history is often willfully misinterpreted to further certain agendas. To quote John C. Maxwell, “In most cases, those who want power probably shouldn’t have it, those who enjoy it probably do so for the wrong reasons, and those who want most to hold on to it don’t understand that it’s only temporary.” The entire structure of the Agon was so fundamentally flawed, yet the families were so desperate for power, for honour, for a lasting legacy that they did not care how fleeting their time in the sun was, nor how much violence or destruction was wreaked in order to obtain it. The fact that the families dictated that only men could ascend as new gods, even though members of the nine original gods were female, also illustrates how tradition and skewed interpretations have been used as tools of oppression against women throughout history.
This was such a brilliant book! Riveting, action packed, thought provoking and deeply emotional. I’m so glad I read it and I highly recommend it to fellow mythology lovers!
It’s not always the truth that survives, but the stories we wish to believe. The legends lie. They smooth over imperfections to tell a good tale, or to instruct us how we should behave, or to assign glory to victors and shame those who falter. Perhaps there were some in Sparta who embodied those myths. Perhaps. But how we are remembered is less important than what we do now.