Dark of the Moon
See the author booktalking Dark of the Moon at a bookstore event.
Ariadne weaves a new tale in a historically rich reworking of Theseus and the Minotaur. . . . Bucking the trend of torrid retellings, Barrett (King of Ithaka, 2010) focuses more on history than romance. Food, politics and clothing are described in ornate detail, and the formal language—if a bit stilted—lends the tale gravitas. While mythological characters appear in abundance—Medea makes a surprising cameo and gets an unexpected redemption—the gods are presented as religion rather than reality.
A world and story both excitingly alien and pleasingly familiar. (Historical fiction. 12 & up)
Kirkus ★Starred review
Barrett gives new life to Ariadne as a lonely priestess with a disfigured and disabled brother: a wholly human Minotaur. Using a rich historical framework, the story alters events and characters enough to build fiction from mythology. Complex characters and relationships guide the plot to the prordained but still satisfying conclusion.
Ariadne is the daughter of She-Who-Is-Goddess, high priestess of the Moon worshippers on Krete and the most powerful woman in the country. Someday she will follow in her mother’s footsteps, but until she does, she is simply a lonely teenager, feared by even the people she played with as a child. When she hears of a ship arriving from Athens, she sneaks out to the docks to see the new arrivals. Among them are Theseus and Prokris, sent as tributes from the king of Athens. Ariadne hopes that these newcomers will be her friends, but they are already working on a plan to overthrow the government of Krete. Sweet, shy Ariadne becomes an unwitting part of their intrigue, as does her handicapped brother, Asterion, whom many view as a monster. This retelling of the myth of the Minotaur is deft, dark, and enthralling. Barrett spares readers none of the gore and violence of the Kretan goddess-worship, which involves both human and animal sacrifice. Ariadne’s beliefs, though alien to modern readers, are given sufficient context to make them comprehensible. Though Ariadne and Theseus do not share the deathless romance readers might expect from the original myth, their hesitant relationship has a charm of its own. This thoughtful, well-written reimagining of a classic myth is a welcome addition to the genre.
School Library Journal
Barrett's story, like her King of Ithaka, is a reimagining drawn from antiquity, this time the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. The beast, however, is not a monster but 18-year-old Asterion, born deformed and mentally incapacitated; he's capable of gentleness but more often tends to accidentally kill his playmates. The narrative largely centers on 15-year-old Ariadne, Asterion's sister and the future priestess of Krete, the most important position on the island, which is currently held by her mother. Ariadne believes in the traditions of her home, but secrets that her mother has kept, including doubts of Ariadne's validity as her successor, cause big problems when her mother dies. The balance of power is further threatened when a ship containing tributes from Athens arrives, including the scheming Prokris, seeking to take over Krete with 16-year-old Theseus, who narrates portions of the book as well. Barrett offers clever commentary on the spread of gossip and an intriguing matriarchal version of the story. Fans of Greek mythology should appreciate this edgier twist on one of its most familiar tales.
Dark of the Moon will forever change the way its readers imagine Theseus and Ariadne, and its influence will certainly be felt for as long as their stories are told.
Readers need not be familiar with Greek mythology, but those who are will appreciate seeing Theseus, Ariadne, and the Minotaur, among many others, reinvented as sympathetic and very human characters. The straightforward narrative shifts between Ariadne and Theseus, building tension and balancing the story by offering two very different perspectives. This is an intriguing interpretation of the myth of the Minotaur that is as compelling as it is inventive.
Rather than just retelling the expected story, the book manages to take the roots and make the story its own. One of the most fascinating aspects is the examination of religion and the effect it has on this myth. The result is not the characters you expect to see, but a mentally ill brother, a boastful hero, and a young woman who is conscious of her duty as future goddess.
San Francisco Book Review
Barrett delves into the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur to explore the political and religious underpinnings in this thoughtful retelling grounded in rich historical detail and insightful character portrayals. Ariadne is She-Who-Will-Be-Goddess, training to become the moon goddess’ vessel during the yearly festival and ensure her people’s future on Krete, just as her powerful mother, She-Who-Is-Goddess, does now. Theseus comes to Krete as a tribute from Athens, expecting to be fed to the evil Minotauros, only to discover the monster is no more than a deformed boy of simple mentality, though capable of accidental violence. Ariadne and Theseus become tentative friends, and Theseus, embroiled in a plot to overthrow Krete’s matriarchal rule, second-guesses his assumptions, while Ariadne learns that there are doubts about her credibility as her mother’s successor. Barrett subverts many elements of the classic myth to create a realistic historical tale (including minimizing the romance), yet doesn’t lose the drama and darkness of the original tale. Fans of historical fiction and Greek myths should be pleased.
[T]his is no sappy romance novel with a predictable plot. Barrett (King of Ithaka) moves the story along with vividly drawn characters and surprises at every turn. The brutish Asterion, Ariadne's brother, evokes sympathy in unexpected ways, and even minor players are richly imbued with their own histories and motivational contexts. The sensory elements of place and time are evoked in all their gritty detail, from writhing snakes and briny ocean scents to the bloodied dust of the bull ring. As Ariadne crafts her own choices, alternate storylines emerge for many mythic elements, among them Medea's fate and the origins of the Minotaur. An intriguing and inventive recreation of a well-known tale.
Ariadne and Theseus are appealing teenage protagonists, and they narrate with honesty and emotion. Dark of the Moon is a fabulously-conceived reinvention of the story of Theseus and the Minotaur. Highly recommended.
Historical Novel Society
Editor's Choice Pick
Traditional versions of the Minotaur legend often portray Ariadne as a tragic figure: After helping her lover Theseus escape the labyrinth, she is later abandoned on an Aegean island. Tracy Barrett’s retelling of the legend, Dark of the Moon, turns this image on its head. Barrett’s Ariadne is a powerful but socially isolated priestess, and the Minotaur who lives under her palace is no monster, but instead her beloved, deformed brother Asterion. Ariadne is confident in her hereditary role of She-Who-Will-Be-Goddess and the future it will bring her. But when she meets Theseus and his fellow tributes, she finds friendship for the first time, learns about the world beyond her palace and begins to question the role she might play in determining her own path.
Barrett both incorporates and undermines well-known aspects of her story, giving new interpretations to Ariadne’s ball of thread, Theseus’ interaction with the Minotaur and the reason for black sails on the Athenians’ returning ship. Details of the complex politics and rituals of her reimagined Krete abound, as do references to other people and places of Greek mythology. She does not shy away from violence, but the bloodiness always serves to establish the characters and setting and is never gratuitous. Chapters are alternately narrated by Ariadne and Theseus, allowing the reader to gain insight into the actions, thoughts and motivations of both characters. In the end, this tale leaves both its characters and its readers questioning the very nature of how stories are told and retold. Fans of mythological retellings will relish this fresh, feminist interpretation of the tale of Ariadne and Theseus.
Teenagers will relate to the loneliness and questioning Ariadne and Theseus experience as they discover the hero’s need to embellish and the priestess’s aspiration to embody the divine. Barrett’s fiction, steeped in historical fact, vividly carries the readers back to a time when people believed in gods that required animal and even human sacrifice. Barrett’s rendition exposes the “good” side of “evil” and the “evil” side of “good.” Behind the story lurks a challenge to reinterpret the underpinnings of our own beliefs about good and evil. Barrett skillfully unravels the darker side of humanity revealing the universal struggle to redeem ourselves, each through our own story and in our own way.