north americaeurope
the official website for Sara Douglass boasts a wealth of information on her books and worlds, as well as the writing process.
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  in brief
hades' daughter
the troy game , vol 1, sara douglass
the good: skillfully weaves together mythology, history, and fantasy in a cross-cultural epic.
the bad: readers who prefer their heroes sympathetic will be disappointed
we say:
in depth

To set the stage for her epic, Douglass draws on the classic legend of the labyrinth. However, in Douglass's world the labyrinth is much more than a great maze, it is part of a system of magic that confines evil and keeps Aegean civilization secure. The story opens with the Athenian prince Theseus abandoning the Minoan princess Ariadne on his voyage home. Ariadne, pregnant and bitter about the ordeal, curses Theseus and the gods. She has significant powers to draw on to exact her revenge, for she holds the title of Mistress of the Labyrinth, and holds the magic to protect the Aegean world in the palm of her hand. When her life is endangered by the birth of Theseus's child, a daughter heir to which her powers will be passed on to, she makes a desperate bargain with the Death Crone. She makes a pact to destroy the world through destroying the Game. As a means to this end she makes an alliance with her own half-brother Asterion, the minotaur of the labyrinth, who represents the evil at the core of the maze.

Cataclysm rocks the civilized world. The labyrinth is used to bind evil forces that are drawn to civilization, and without it civilizations descend into chaos. Not even the gods hold the power to stop the earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, flood, famine and plague. The cycle of destruction culminates in the destruction of Troy.

Nearly a century later, the story begins anew in the kingdom of Mesopotamia in western Greece, one of the few cities to have survived the catastrophes. We are introduced to Cornelia, a spoiled, sheltered, self-centered princess. A recipient of mysterious visions of the goddess Hera, she is to be one of the key players as the Game revives.

Meanwhile, another protagonist has visions of another goddess. The man is Brutus, heir to the lost kingdom of Troy and the bearer of the last remaining bands of the Kingsman. The bands mark him as the chosen partner of the Mistress of the Labyrinth, one whose power compliments hers in weaving the magic of the Game. The goddess Artemis appears to him, and offers him the power he needs to rebuild Troy in a distant land, and herself as a reward for completing the mission. Brutus readily takes up her offer.

But why would Hera take such a benevolent interest in a young woman? And why would Artemis brazenly throw herself at a man? An alien force is behind their visions, driving them to their fates. Schemes are afoot in the distant Llangarlia, a primal land with primal gods. It's a land succumbing to infertility and blight due to the waning power of their gods, Mag and Og. It's a land now home to the daughter heir of Ariadne, Genvissa, who seeks to restore the Game far away from the Aegean world.

Brutus and Cornelia are both caught up in Genvissa's scheming. As he embarks on his mission to rebuild Troy, his first stop is Cornelia's kingdom to free the Trojan slaves held captive there. When Brutus leaves, Cornelia's kingdom is in ruins and she is forcibly bound to him as his wife.

The relationship between the two characters is perhaps the most problematic aspect of the book. Brutus is unrepentantly abusive to her throughout the novel. Cornelia naturally has a few resentment issues, and at first tries her best to ensure that Brutus is as miserable as she is. However, Cornelia undergoes a change of heart on their journey to their new land. Despite the hatred between them and despite her continued degradation, she begins to develop feelings for him. Cornelia matures into state of complete dependence on her abusive husband and constantly tries to appease him in order to win his love.

The plot is fragmented and jarringly shifts from setting to setting early on in the novel, but smoothes out when the main characters finally come together. The action spans from Mediterranean Europe to the southern coast of England. Additionally, the scope transcends time as well, with frequent prologues set in WWII-era. The cyclical nature of the Game encompasses far-reaching lands as well as times. But no matter where Douglass takes the plot, it is driven by convoluted schemes by characters seeking to further their own power or self-centered goals. Much of the tension in the books comes from drama revolving around issues of jealousy and infidelity. Sex is a dominant theme in the prose, and Douglass treats her characters with extensive descriptions of sexuality. The dysfunctional relationship between the hero and heroine, and the mysterious woman who manipulates them both makes for a soap-opera-like epic that promises to continue throughout future books.


reviewed by K. L. Quick
  in closing
douglass builds an interesting saga with a unique take on classical mythology, but the protagonists are so repugnant that it's hard to care what happens to them.