Book Review: The Door in the Mountain by Caitlin Sweet

doormountainThe Door in the Mountain is a place where children are marked by gods and goddesses; a place where a manipulative, bitter princess named Ariadne devises a mountain prison for her hated half-brother, where a boy named Icarus tries, and fails, to fly, and a slave girl changes the paths of all their lives forever.

Received from NetGalley in exchange for a review. Author site here

This is a reworking of the story of the Cretan King Minos, his family and the most famous monster of all: The Minotaur.

Everyone wants to be  “GodMarked” (giving them fantastical powers) but not everyone gets so “blessed”.  Minos has an internal fire burning in him, and this can overspill sometimes with flames blasting from his skin.  Pasiphae, his wife, controls water. Her son, Asterion, is born of heat and gods, to become one of the most iconic of figures.  Icarus’ mark has him sprouting feathers, but ultimately is unable to fly, not matter how hard or often he tries.

Ariadne is not the sweetness and light the myths may have lead you to believe. She is unmarked, jealous and manipulative. She only gets worse as she gets older and her younger step brother develops his GodMark powers into becoming the bull he was destined to be.

Her parents are the worst type of dysfunctional – her father is going slowly mad, frequently confronted with his wife’s infidelity with her god, Poisden, every time Minos is with the bull-boy. Pasiphae realises her son is her most powerful tool, and flaunts his status in front of all who care to notice.  Ariadne has the chance of friendship when younger, but turns away from this due to jealousy, and it only becomes worse as she gets older. Meanwhile, Minos develops a way to deal with the Bull Boy (and all his other “enemies”), as well as waging war on the Athenians who killed his other son, which sets up the story of the Minotaur, the labyrinth and the biannual sacrifice of 14 Athenians.

I knew all the Myths and Legends as a kid (a LONG time ago) and whilst I remembered the important bits – bull, labyrinth, ball of wool so as not to lose one’s way, etc etc,  I had forgotten enough of the smaller pieces to appreciate that the author has taken some liberties, but none are to the detriment of this story.  I dont know if knowing the original myth is a help or not – it allows the reader to predict what happens next (and the likely result of the second/final book in the series) but then the author has made it different enough to beg the question “would it matter if you didnt?”.

It did drag a little at the end, but the author has left the story at a point where Theseus has turned up ready to confront the Minotaur.  Apparently pitched at the YA market, this is a challenging book – not because of any inappropriate scenes – but because of the need to see it through to the end. However with the publication and success of the Rick Riordian books and the followup films, there seems to be an appetite for a retelling of these stories

 

 

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