by Sara Douglass



592pp/$27.95/January 2003

Hades' Daughter
Cover by Luis Royo

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

It is clear that Sara Douglass has another Byzantine series planned from the earliest pages of Hades Daughter.  Fortunately, as she has proven in the past, she can pull off the complex plotting and characters required for this type of project.  In Hades’ Daughter, she lays the groundwork for the series titular Troy Game and its ramifications across the centuries even if she doesn’t spell out the logic behind the game for the reader.

A mixture of Greek legend, Virgil’s Aeneid and Geoffrey of Monmouth’s version of the founding of Britain, Hades’ Daughter begins with Theseus’ escape from the labyrinth on Crete and his abandonment of Ariadne on a small island.  Douglass postulates that the labyrinth was a key to a game of power which could affect the fate and history of the world and focuses on Ariadne’s use of the game to contact her murdered half-brother, Asterion, the minotaur, and exact her long-term revenge on not just Theseus, but the entire Mediterranean world.

The primary focus in Hades’ Daughter is the effect of her curse on one of the early generations after she first laid it.  Ariadne’s descendent, Genvissa, a priestess in the Llangarlia, where modern-day London is, uses the game to summon the other players to her.  Those characters include Brutus, a descendent of Aeneas who is credited with the founding of Britain and its capital, Trinovantum (also where modern-day London is), his wife, the Dorian Greek Cornelia, and at a distance, Asterion, who Genvissa believes is ineffectual in the distant Himalayas.

Douglass does an extraordinary job handling the historical details of her novel, although this can prove a hindrance as well as a strength.  While the world in which Douglass’s characters find themselves is realistically and historically realized, the inclusion of the Game and the undescribed magic which makes it work is jarring.  Douglass does not offer explanations for Genvissa’s ability to communicate over vast distances, nor for the various godly aspects which appear to Brutus, Cornelia, and others, although there is some indication that some of the gods are real and others are not.

On the other hand, one of Douglass’s strengths is the fact that there are no clearly defined heroes or villains in the work.  The (various) gods seems to be one everyone’s side.  Brutus may be a hero, but he’s flawed.  Cornelia is in opposition to Brutus and, despite her flaws, is a more sympathetic creation.  It is unclear if the reader is supposed to be cheering for the murdered Asterion or his vengeful sister and her avatars.  All of these characters share some of the same goals, while standing in opposition to each other.

While Douglass’s prose in and of itself is not guaranteed to keep a reader turning the pages, her idea and the story will keep the reader hooked until the end of the book.  Her writing does slow the reader down and allows the enjoyment of the novel to last longer, but there is a definite feeling that Douglass is as concerned about her literary style as she is about the plot, characters and setting.  In an epic work of this type, the correct literary style, which Douglass does manage, helps provide as much flavor as the setting she has envisioned.

Hades’ Daughter is a long book, and the writing and ideas do not make it seem any shorter.  More to the point, it is the first book of a four book series which is clearly meant to continue to build until Douglass reaches an epic conclusion.  None of this should scare away potential readers, however, those who enter the Mediterranean world of the Troy Game should know that they are making a lengthy time investment which shows every indication of paying off a large return.

Purchase this book from Amazon Books.

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