cover image Phaedra


Laura Shepperson. Alcove, $19.99 trade paper (304p) ISBN 978-1-63910-153-5

Shepperson shines in her debut, a plausible revisionist take on Greek mythology that gives voice and agency to Phaedra, a Cretan princess. On Crete, the Athenian prince and mythical hero Theseus manages to elicit the secrets of the island’s labyrinth from Princess Ariadne and kill the feared Minotaur. Phaedra, Ariadne’s younger sister, is horrified; her brother had been born with a deformity but was a gentle soul, not the man-eating beast of legend. Her distress is compounded when she’s given in marriage to Theseus and must start a new life in Athens, where she’s housed in a dirty room and isolated from her new husband. While Theseus seems to have no interest in her, his teenage son Hippolytus, rumored to be the son from Theseus’s rape of an Amazon queen, does, despite his vow of chastity to the goddess Artemis. That leads to another act of violence that Shepperson adds to the traditional telling of the myth, along with a different, but still tragic, resolution. Shepperson’s infusion of psychological depth into mythical archetypes will remind many of Robert Graves’s Hercules, My Shipmate. This inspired feminist retelling will captivate readers. Agent: Nelle Andrew, Rachel Mills Literary. (Jan.)