Release Date: May 12, 2011
Age Group: Young Adult/Adult
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Three thousand years ago, a god told a lie. Now, only a goddess can tell the truth.
Persephone has everything a daughter of Zeus could want–except for freedom. She lives on the green earth with her mother, Demeter, growing up beneath the ever-watchful eyes of the gods and goddesses on Mount Olympus. But when Persephone meets the enigmatic Hades, she experiences something new: choice.
Zeus calls Hades “lord” of the dead as a joke. In truth, Hades is the goddess of the underworld, and no friend of Zeus. She offers Persephone sanctuary in her land of the dead, so the young goddess may escape her Olympian destiny.
But Persephone finds more than freedom in the underworld. She finds love, and herself.
The Dark Wife is a YA novel, a lesbian revisionist retelling of the Persephone and Hades myth.
When Persephone was young, she had a friendship and relationship with a nymph. After witnessing the brutal rape and murder of the nymph at Zeus’s hands, she is afraid of him. From him, she lost everything that was dear to her. Zeus is her father; Demeter is her mother. Soon, Zeus wants to take her to Olympus with him, and she could lose everything.
When she discovers that Hades, the person she always assumed was a man, is in fact a woman, her world is upside down. Due to Zeus’s cruel joke about her, Hades has suffered by the belief of the world for thousands of years. When Hades offers Persephone refuge in the Underworld, she doesn’t know what to think.
When she accepts, she finds a world that she never knew existed. One that she can find freedom in, help around the Underworld, and even fall in love.
This book was one that I liked to branch out with. I don’t usually read many self-published books, and I haven’t read many dealing with LGBT literature, or about Persephone, other than maybe two others (Persephone books, I mean). I decided to read and review this (thanks Sarah!) because I was trying to expand my reading horizons. I was very surprised by this book (in a good way).
The writing was excellent. Sarah Diemer is very talented with her prose. Her description of Persephone in the beginning was amazing. She really described things the way that I think Persephone would have seen them – flowery and as if everything were new to her. The setting was beautiful and harsh, depending on how she spun it and you saw everything perfectly through Persephone’s eyes.
The characterization of Persephone was great too. You could really see how she grew and matured with every experience. At the beginning, she was naive and innocent, fresh. Towards the end of the book she became stronger and more confident in her decisions. She interacted with the other characters very realistically and you watched her grow throughout the novel.
Zeus for me was very one-sided. Although Sarah Diemer did an excellent job of characterization with Persephone, I was kind of bummed to see that own growth and roundness with Zeus. He was perceived as straight evil, with no room for change or improvement. Although to watch him grow would have been more difficult to advance the plot with, I was bummed because I thought that it could have lent itself to so many more possibilities.
Although this book is characterized as a “young adult” book, I think that more older teens and adults would enjoy this. Or, this book could be one of the rare crossover books from young teen to adult. Persephone found herself in adult situations and she didn’t cower from them but it was all spun as more of a young adult book.
Most LGBT books deal with discovering their sexuality and wondering how the world will treat them. It was refreshing to read a book where the main character already knew about her sexuality and it was more of a background to the book, not the main focal point. It wasn’t even much about that; it was mostly about Persephone growing up and discovering her place in the world.
The idea of this book was one that I never would have thought of. I really like the tagline “three thousand years ago, a god told a lie. Now only a goddess can tell the truth” because it’s musical, fits perfectly with the book, and was a very clean way to pitch the book. To be honest, at first I thought this book would only be “okay” or “pretty good” but I found myself really liking it.
I loved the message in this book. It was about unconditional love, becoming stronger, and finding yourself. Although the story on the surface was of Hades and Persephone, I found myself enraptured by the undercurrents of the book. It also talks about prejudice and how lies can affect everybody.
The friendship and relationship between Hades and Persephone was also well written. The author can write from personal experience, and you could really see that she was inspired and passionate with every word that I read. Every encounter was written beautifully and the dialogue was magnificent.
The ending was utterly perfect. It fulfilled things politically and emotionally and tied up the loose ends perfectly. Overall, I think that this is definitely a book to check out and devour.
Possible book club questions:
How did Persephone deal with the politics of the Underworld?
How do different myths and stories show different sides of Zeus (some show him as kinder and stern, while others with a more negative edge)?
How can one lie have a snowball effect?