by Kaitlin Bevis (April 2015)
Recommended for fans of:
* Greek mythology retellings
* A YA romance with natural development, not instalove
* A believable heroine that avoids the extremes of weak or all-powerful
One day Persephone is an ordinary high school senior working at her mom’s flower shop in Athens, Georgia. The next she’s fighting off Boreas, the brutal god of Winter, and learning that she’s a bonafide goddess—a rare daughter of the now-dead Zeus. Her goddess mom whisks her off to the Underworld to hide until Spring.
There she finds herself under the protection of Hades, the god of the dead, and she’s automatically married to him. It’s the only way he can keep her safe. Older, wiser, and far more powerful than she, Hades isn’t interested in becoming her lover, at least not anytime soon. The Underworld is a very cool place, but is it worth giving up her life in the realm of the living?
My result: Recommended
You should know: I received Persephone as an ARC from the publisher, free through Netgalley.
Persephone and Hades is always tricky to retell because of the darkness of the original myth. Forced abduction and marriage is pretty hard to romanticize, yet we keep doing it anyway. Bevis delivers a retelling that’s more fun than most, but not so light as to rob the myth of its power.
In Persephone, Kaitlin Bevis shifts the most violent aspects of myth to Boreas, the God of Winter. Boreas is an all-around villain, with psychotic tendencies and a history of rape and torture. (Also, an actual figure from mythology, so Bevis is mixing things up, not adding entirely new elements.)
This leaves Hades free to be the hero, as he saves Persephone from Boreas and whisks her off to the Underworld as his bride. It’s a disconcerting shift for mythology fans, but works well for a YA retelling. Hades remains a powerful god and ruler, but not a creepy pedophile. He still has a dark side, but it’s far more palatable for the YA market than most Persephone retellings.
By mixing several myths together, Persephone still allows for surprises. It’s a joy to see roles for Cassandra, Helen, Charon and Thanatos, and their dialogue (often worthy of a chuckle) is a high point of the book. The plot doesn’t strictly follow the original myth, and is never too predictable. It’s surprising all the way to the end, with a final twist that will leave you eager for the sequel.
A realistic heroine with a new world to explore
Persephone is a believable teen with believable reactions. Bevis doesn’t skip over her confusion and disbelief when she finds out she’s a goddess. She doesn’t instantly master her powers either. In a YA lineup of butt-kicking girls who take on the whole world within a few chapters, it’s refreshing to see Persephone take time and practice to become powerful.
But Persephone has strength of character long before her powers grow to match. She doesn’t make stupid decisions. She’s honest and outspoken, but not unkind.
I love the balance Bevis maintains between the human, nurturing side and the goddess Persephone will become. Most retellings don’t do much with the spring maiden side, and it makes me happy to see Persephone done so well here. This time, the myth isn’t all about Hades. They balance each other. Persephone is the breath of life that the Underworld needs.
Ah, the Underworld. I love the realm of the dead shown here. It’s a vast domain, though the story sticks mostly to the Fields of Asphodel with a brief trip through Tartarus. The Underworld feels like a real community, interdependent and connected, even if it’s not made up of the living.
Mythological elements are used well. The rivers of the Underworld mark the borders of each realm, and block passage. I particularly love the use of the Lethe’s memory-stealing waters. It can erase the trauma of an agonizing life, or give a blank slate to those who are still have a chance at redemption.
The Underworld is not ignorant of the changes above. Everything that dies comes here, including technologies and artifacts of the modern world. They can’t interact with the living, but it’s a clever way to keep the people of the Underworld from seeming a million years out of date. Like in Percy Jackson, the ancients are easy to understand, and capable of making a modern reference or two. But they’re still grounded in myth, and won’t alienate mythology fans.
Persephone is a slow-build romance that develops naturally as the two characters get to know each other. There’s no instant love, and neither character suddenly turns into an idiot because of a pretty face. Both characters resist romance, at first.
Persephone has just had her life turned upside down, and has more important things on her mind. She’s not particularly impressed by Hades. It’s only as she sees him deal with the people of his realm that she begins to soften. She respects him, and it makes her look past the trappings of his office.
Hades has ruled the Underworld for centuries, and does fine without a queen at his side. The dead come to him for justice, for punishment, and for reward. It’s the dead who matter, not a young girl who’s there as a victim of circumstance.
But Persephone brings change. She’s a goddess of life in a realm that knows only death. She shows Hades that there’s more to the afterlife than just judging fairly. There’s also compassion. Maybe she does deserve a place at his side. Even if she is about a bazillion years too young for him.
The Final Verdict
Persephone and Hades are a perfect match, made all the more perfect because their relationship isn’t like most YA romances. Persephone and Hades fall for each other because of their personalities. Their beliefs, and how those beliefs translate into their actions. Not for their looks, or an emotional head over heels rush.
Persephone is a fun take on the classic myth, perfect for a fast YA read. It features strong character development that makes me care for Hades and Persephone separately. The romance isn’t rushed, and there’s plenty to look forward to. With an unexpected twist at the end, I can’t wait to see what happens next.
If you like Persephone, try these titles
I adore Greek mythology, and Persephone has been one of my favorite myths since I was 8 or 9. So instead of recommending stories based on the different traits of this particular Persephone interpretation, you get an all Persephone, all the time list. I’ve also included one written by yours truly, if you’re interested. They’re arranged by maturity level, from YA to borderline erotica. 🙂
More Persephone & Hades stories:
- Persephone’s Orchard – Modern world. An American college student learns she is Persephone, reincarnated. Past and present lives are told in alternating POVs and the reincarnation thing is done more believably than most.
- Spring Maiden’s Shadow – Ancient Greece. Spring Maiden’s Shadow is a flash fiction story (500-1000 words), by me. Sensual, but not sexual, in a short format that you can enjoy in a few minutes time.
- For the Love of Hades – Ancient Greece. An adult romance with Hades as the tragic wounded hero you can’t help but love.
- Seeds, Volume 1 – Ancient Greece. Seeds includes a lot more of Demeter’s story than you usually see, which I love. For adults only, with lots of steamy sex scenes.