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Book Review: House of Odysseus by Claire North

House of Odysseus by Claire North is a brilliant return to Ancient Greece in the second installment of her Songs of Penelope series. North's unique approach to the tale of Penelope, Helen of Troy, and Elektra breathes new life into this well-trodden world. The story unfolds through the lens of the goddess Aphrodite, who brings a fresh perspective to the famous trio of cousins in her watch over Ithaca. The narrative takes an unexpected turn as Aphrodite oversees Helen's return to the island with her estranged husband, Menelaus, introducing a dynamic layer of divine observation to the unfolding drama.


Some readers may initially find contemporary vernacular unconventional for an Ancient Greek setting, but I found it to be a breath of fresh air. North's choice injects vitality into the narrative, steering away from traditional approaches and offering modern accessibility to a classical tale. The juxtaposition of ancient myth and modern language adds a layer of relatability that makes the story feel remarkably contemporary.


Focusing on the period after the Trojan War, specifically the aftermath of Agamemnon's murder by his betrayed wife Clytemnestra, sets House of Odysseus apart from other retellings. North places Penelope at the forefront, reimagining her as a formidable woman who manages to retain her husband's throne and navigates the intricate political machinations of those seeking to seize it. This departure from the typical portrayal of Penelope solely concerning her suitors showcases North's commitment to crafting empowered and multidimensional protagonists.


North's narrative mastery shines as the story unfolds, offering readers a compelling exploration of power, betrayal, and resilience. The anticipation for the trilogy's final installment is palpable, as House of Odysseus stands as a must-read for those who appreciate empowered protagonists and revel in unique mythological retellings. Claire North's ability to infuse classical tales with a contemporary twist makes this series a standout addition to the genre, promising an unforgettable journey into the heart of ancient myth and timeless empowerment.

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