|Sara Douglass: Hades' Daughter (Book One of the Troy Game)|
(Paperback), ISBN 0-765-30540-2
After Theseus abandons Ariadne for her sister Phaedre, Ariadne vows vengeance upon all Greeks. Theseus, using information from Ariadne, slew Ariadne's half-brother Asterion, the minotaur. Ariadne makes a pact with Asterion's shade -- if he teaches her the Darkcraft, she agrees to use it to destroy the Game, a magical mystery which traps evil in the hidden labyrinth of the city, thus freeing Asterion. After learning Darkcraft, the pregnant Ariadne moves west and north, eventually settling on the isle of Albion.
Five generations later, Genvissa, a descendant of Ariadne, controls the Darkcraft knowledge. She also co-rules Llangarlia as the MagaLan, the human representation of the mother goddess Mag (her consort being Aerne, the Gormagog or human representation of the stag god Og). The spirits of both Mag and Og linger, but weakly.
Genvissa plots to lure Brutus, a Trojan descended from Aphrodite, to her to rebuild the Game and establish Troia Nova -- New Troy. Brutus, easily swayed by promises of power and love from "Artemis," overthrows the ruling Dorians in Mesopotama and frees the Trojan slaves. Afterwards, he takes Cornelia, a spoiled Dorian child-princess, as his wife. As Brutus leads the 12,000 Trojans to ships to sail to their new home, the vengeful Cornelia attempts to thwart his plans by planning a slaughter of the Trojans. But Genvissa's magical power, combined with Brutus' powers at destroying the city's labyrinth, prove too strong and all of the Dorians save Cornelia die a gruesome death.
Thus begins a treacherous and dangerous game. Brutus, power-mad and greatly desiring "Artemis" (Genvissa), hates his wife, Cornelia. Cornelia slowly comes to love her husband, especially after the birth of their son, Achates. But Genvissa senses a great power in Cornelia and tries again and again to do away with the girl. Cornelia, however, seems strongly protected physically by friends and perhaps by some higher power as well.
Sara Douglass weaves a complex tale of power, deceit, jealousy, sex and magic. Merging the cultures and mythologies of two ancient civilizations on the surface looks a bit odd, but she does so easily. Sometimes keeping up with the huge number of secondary and tertiary characters becomes a challenge but not terribly difficult after the first 100 or so pages.
Douglass' greatest strength turns out to be the manipulation of the reader's sympathies. At the beginning, the reader loathes certain characters and roots for others, and by the end everything reverses. A twist at the end of the book, coupled with short scenes set in 1939 London, set the stage for the next three books in the series.
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