In the space between productivity and the illness that has plagued me the past week and a half, Receiver of Many, an interpretation of the myth of Persephone and Hades by Rachel Alexander has filled the void of bored fatigue. I think she may have self-published this using a kickstarter, which I personally feel is bomb AF. All writing is a labor of love, but when other people are just as committed and excited/in love with your work it probably means you’re sitting on something special and timely.
So basically, I bought this book for my birthday because I had seen a whole lot of hullabaloo about it on tumblr. I am a regular in the Persephone tag (this, probably, will have to be its own post), and I am contractually obligated this lifetime around to track down and read every Persephone re-telling or interpretation that exists.
Being said, I won’t deny some amount of burnout after so many re-tellings, especially given that I am a snob. 🙂
Luckily enough, Rachel Alexander’s worldbuilding caters to people snobby as me! This is the most thoroughly researched fictive interpretation of the myth I’ve come across so far. It hits the ball out of the park in that regard. Clothing, details of ritual practices, even the Greek (not too much or overdone, don’t worry if you don’t speak it – I sure don’t), was on point and made the story feel richer and more believable – something to really sink your teeth into. Moreover, and this was very impressive to me and something very important, is that you see Persephone (and Aidoneus) consciously aware of and often struggling against period-typical (and some period/culturally specific) sexism/attitudes about gender roles and gender politics in setting the boundaries of their marriage and what I hope will eventually come to fruition in the sequel, their kingdom. It also seems to purposefully center Persephone in the political landscape after the Titanomachy. Check, check, check.
Also, quickly I just want to mention that despite the fact this is written about actual gods and figures of myth, there is a really nice humanity to all of them – no one in the story is perfect, no one makes the right choices 100% of the time (Hecate aside, maybe. But she remains an exception to every rule and a soft spot in my cold, dark heart). I felt this was especially the case for Demeter, whose grief is palpable and believable even when it feels irrational. (Irrational only because we as readers know the fate of her daughter isn’t as she fears, to clarify). Just wanted to throw out that the characterization is pretty good, some characters more stand out in this regard than others, but every character is well thought out, has weaknesses and blind spots, and I can’t wait for the sequel to expand upon these in greater detail and round out these character arcs.
I will admit, in my eagerness to buy this book after hearing the hype surrounding it, I didn’t actually research it that much myself before adding it to my cart. Maybe that was for the best, because if I had I might have not gone into it with as open a mind (see: snob). (See also: prudish). Because this book describes itself pretty clearly in its synopsis as “erotic fiction,” which I feel…some level of ambivalence towards. I just feel, overall, a bulk of my experience with that genre has been underwhelming/bizarre/uncomfortable. (One I tried to read involved a microwaved banana, you can use your imagination to fill in the blanks there). Listen, sex is hard to write; I actively avoid writing it myself for that reason. And reading about it, pardon the expression, just doesn’t usually do it for me either. Being said, there is less gratuitous sex in here than others of its ilk, and overall I don’t think the plot centers on their sexual encounters – you could gloss over them entirely and still have plenty of other “stuff” to enjoy about the book. But still, those scenes are at a much higher caliber than microwaved banana, so I didn’t mind them, really.
So that is entirely my fault for being an Eager McBeaver and not doing my research as to what genre the book I bought was. :’) But I will say, despite the fact that I overall enjoyed it and will be buying the sequel (Destroyer of Light, coming out in the Spring of 2016), I feel like when this book ends, you’re only just getting to the climax (ha!) of the story. I wish this book were longer because I thought pacing wise the story worked, but when I flipped to the last page I was so engrossed I was, like, genuinely confused it had ended! Surely, I thought, this was a printing error. I needed the story to finish!
So purely for the fact that it ended when it was really hitting its groove, and that I am a prude, I’m going to give this 3.85 pomegranate seeds out of 5. I’m looking forward to the next installment!!