cover image House of Odysseus

House of Odysseus

Claire North. Redhook, $29 (464p) ISBN 978-0-316-44400-2

North (Ithaca) veers between the snarky and the dramatic in her clumsy revisionist take on Greek mythology. Goddess Aphrodite narrates the intrigue on Ithaca, the island kingdom once ruled by Odysseus, who is still making his way back home after the Trojan War. His wife, Penelope, who’s been trying to maintain order during his long absence, gets a new challenge after the arrival of Agamemnon’s children, Orestes and Elektra. Orestes, the ruler of Mycenae, who’d avenged his father’s death by killing his mother, is plagued by the Furies for his matricide, and Elektra seeks guidance from Penelope about the best way to prevent her brother’s throne from being usurped. The saga also includes an investigation into a servant’s murder, and a twist involving Helen of Troy. North attempts to make Aphrodite relatable by injecting her narration with modern usage, but too often gets mired in clunky prose (“Now I’m open-minded about basically everything in the realms of consensual bodily exploration, and I can see where Zeus was coming from, but even so, I doubt the execution of the act was half as exciting in reality as he thought it was going to be in his overactive imagination”). This falls short of other classical updates, including Jennifer Saint’s Atalanta. (Aug.)