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Hades' Daughter    by Sara Douglass order for
Hades' Daughter
by Sara Douglass
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2003 (2003)
Hardcover, Audio

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I'm sure you've heard of Ariadne's part in the Cretan legend of Theseus and the Minotaur, but did you ever wonder what happened to her after Theseus ditched her on the island of Naxos? Sara Douglass develops a tale of the consequences through the ages of the draconian revenge taken by this woman scorned in a new series The Troy Game, of which Hades' Daughter is the first volume.

In this Aegean civilization each city is grounded by a labyrinth. As the Cretan Mistress of the Labyrinth, Ariadne controls the Game, 'a powerful spell-weaving which uses both male and female power to protect a land against all evil set against it.' She curses both Theseus and the Greek gods with 'Irrelevance. Decay. Death ... "Catastrophe"' and so ends a stable, peaceful and successful civilization - 'Cities fell to the invaders from the north and west, or were consumed by earth tremors, or by fire.' Almost dying in childbirth, Ariadne bargains with the Death Crone and frees Asterion, the brother she helped murder. He drives a hard bargain, but agrees to teach her his darkcraft.

Ariadne eventually ends up in Llangarlia, Albion, where she allies with a local goddess, Mag. Her female descendants continue her ruling role of MagaLlan until the time of Genvissa, who manipulates the ambitions of Brutus to rebuild his ancestor's city of Troy, through dreams in which she poses as Artemis (Genvissa needs a Kingman to control the Game). She sends Brutus first to Mesopotama, where Trojans are enslaved. There we meet the young, spoiled princess Cornelia, who is warned by a dying goddess Hera of Asterion's hunt, and informed that she will have to learn the Game to save mankind. Once Brutus defeats Cornelia's father through magic and takes her as his wife, they fight their mutual attraction.

Genvissa continues pulling the strings that bring Brutus and thousands of freed Trojans to what will eventually be Britain. She lures Cornelia into committing an act of treachery against her husband, with dire consequences, so that Brutus' seer labels Cornelia 'Hades' Daughter'. Though distrust and even hatred grow between husband and wife, Brutus' feelings prevent him from killing Cornelia as Genvissa desires, and she gradually matures from a spoiled child to a responsible woman. Eventually Cornelia bears Brutus' son, arrive in Albion and, amidst plot and counter-plot, they build a new Troy. Genvissa's plans comes to fruition, but the old gods are still (barely) in the game and so is Cornelia.

This series is different from the author's previous Wayfarer Redemption with its various alien races, being more of a traditional historical fantasy, albeit with the dimension of time. It is slow to develop as the author builds the foundation of an epic series. It occasionally fast forwards to 1939 England for Asterion's Gathering, and hints at a final confrontation between reincarnations of the major players.

Though the story is richer in plot and imagination than in characterization, Cornelia does develop from her initial passive role - indeed, if her reaction to a brutish attacker immediately after childbirth is a sign of things to come, she could turn out to be a strong heroine - and Brutus' 1939 embodiment is more likeable than his early personality. I look forward very much to book 2 of The Troy Game.

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