What creates a monster? What makes someone a hero? To most—even those who are familiar with Greek history and mythology—Clytemnestra usually comes across as neither. But in this imaginative reexamination of Agamemnon’s wife, saintly Penelope’s opposite, we can dive into the head of one of the most famous, yet most underrated women in historical literature and watch as she snatches up some well-earned power. Many thanks to Costanza Casati and Sourcebooks Landmark for the ARC copy.

A brief recap for those who have somehow forgotten (or who haven’t at least rewatched a certain 2004 film in which Brad Pitt goes head-to-head with Eric Bana lately): Agamemnon was the king of Mycenae during the Trojan War. Most of the stories we hear from this period gloss over the ladies involved—unless of course it’s to depict them as exemplary wives or comparable to the temptress that gave all those noble men an excuse to launch a thousand ships and kill each other. Or, they’re Clytemnestra: dutiful wives and queens. That is, until her insufferably arrogant, tyrant of a husband sacrifices one of her children for the sake of placating gods he doesn’t seem to believe in until he has a war to wage.

Suffice it to say that true heroines modern audiences can relate to are few and far between. So, when a story like Clytemnestra comes onto the scene, progressive readers and history buffs alike tend to sit up and take notice.

True to both the nature of the times and the life we know she would have been bred for, this version of Clytemnestra takes her husband’s antics in stride with a quiet sort of grace. Readers soon discover, though, that the narrative tone of the novel is anything but soft-spoken. Merciless, passionate, bloodthirsty—these are words that describe a warrior, not a delicate secondary character destined to fade into the background of the bigger picture. Everything from the descriptions of the Grecian landscapes to the intricate, ruthless schemes woven into the plot and the character’s inner musings skulks across the page; much like our heroine (anti-heroine?), the progression is menacing and beautiful all at once.

Fortunately for us, Clytemnestra isn’t the only familiar face that makes an appearance, or that gets a slight makeover from the characterization we all studied once upon a time. Complex relationships humanize famous, formerly untouchable figures and add to the multi-layered approach that Casati takes in deconstructing a well-known story. In this way, the plot is both accessible and further immortalized in an untouchable trophy case of sorts. If it’s at all possible, she’s cast a host of legends in bronze and added them all to our personal photo albums.

For readers who enjoy historical fiction, badass femme fatales, and good old-fashioned revenge, Clytemnestra is a must-add for your TBR list.

Published by kwatkins

Writer, editor, reader, steering wheel singer. She/her. Twitter and Instagram: @thekwatkins. #kwatkins #writelikeaboss

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