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I live in New York City and I'm surrounded by books all day and when I go home I have more books waiting for me. Read my "About" page on top to see what I mean. I just want to share my book experiences and my love of all-things-books, with hopefully the occasional review thrown in. If you wish to contact me, the address is polishoutlanderATgmailDOTcom

Alcestis by Katharine Beutner

In Greek mythology, Alcestis is known as the good wife; she loved her husband so much that she died to save his life and was sent to the underworld in his place. Alcestis tells of a childhood spent with her sisters in the bedchamber where her mother died giving birth to her and of her marriage at the age of fifteen to Admetus, the young king of Pherae, a man she barely knows, who is kind but whose heart belongs to a god. She also tells the part of the story that’s never been told: What happened to Alcestis in the three days she spent in the underworld before being rescued by Heracles?

So here’s some info about the original myth that I found via Wikipedia: Alcestis is a princess in Greek mythology, known for her love of her husband. Her story was popularised in Euripides’s tragedy Alcestis. She was the daughter of Pelias, king of Iolcus, and either Anaxibia or Phylomache. In the story, many suitors appeared before King Pelias, her father, when she became of age to marry. It was declared she would marry the first man to yoke a lion and a boar (or a bear in some cases) to a chariot. The man who would do this, King Admetus, was helped by Apollo, who had been banished from Olympus for 9 years to serve as a shepherd to Admetus. With Apollo’s help, Admetus completed the king’s task, and was allowed to marry Alcestis. After the wedding, Admetus forgot to make the required sacrifice to Artemis, and found his bed full of snakes. Apollo again helped the newly wed king, this time by making the Fates drunk, extracting from them a promise that if anyone would want to die instead of Admetus, they would allow it. Since no one volunteered, not even his elderly parents, Alcestis stepped forth. Shortly after, Heracles rescued Alcestis from Hades, as a token of appreciation for the hospitality of Admetus. Admetus and Alcestis had a son, Eumelus, a participant in the siege of Troy, and a daughter, Perimele.

So the book follows this myth very closely. I wasn’t totally familiar with the original myth so I had to go and read about it. The part that the author focuses on during the last part of the book is Alcestis’ time in the Underworld. Now, I was wholly enjoying everything about the book while I was reading it, but when it got to those three days spent in the Underworld, I felt a slight disconnect. But first….

I really liked the fact that the gods were part of the mortal world, and that they weren’t just some deities that people worshiped and you never got to see them as being living and breathing beings. Here, the gods are real. Alcestis’ grandfather is actually Poseidon and the god that Admetus loves so much? That would be Apollo. And who takes Alcestis down to the underworld? That would be Hermes.

The author did a wonderful job of describing the Underworld by having Alcestis explore it while trying to find her sister that she loved, and who had died years earlier.

So what was my disconnect in the Underworld? Mainly it was the relationship between Alcestis and Persephone. I just didn’t get it. I didn’t see it. I couldn’t fathom why Alcestis would fall in love with the Queen of the Underworld. Was I missing something? Cause I thought there was something missing there! Persephone came off as very manipulating at times. I could understand why she was very hesitant to tell Alcestis where her sister was (since she knew that the sister would never recognize Alcestis, and it would be too painful for Alcestis to witness). But that still didn’t make me like her.

And Hades? I couldn’t get him either. It was like he was Persephone’s lapdog or something. And not the all-powerful Lord of the Underworld I had imagined him to be.

Despite this, if the author does write another book though, I think I will check it out anyway, especially if it deals with another little-known myth.

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