The Beast with the Strength of Ten Horses
Exciting retelling of Greek dramas for YA
Anyone who insults the gods or the king of a city state must expect revenge. In Greek dramas, everything happens for a reason. However ingenious these tales may be, this means it can take a long time for the action to get going. If you want to hear the captivating love story of Theseus and Ariadne, you need to have quite a lot of patience before the highlight of the story comes: the labyrinth and the monster.
That, however, is not the case in this retelling by Lida Dijkstra. The author goes straight to the exciting part: when the fourteen young people sent from Athens as sacrifices are lowered into a dark tunnel. Step by step, it becomes clear how they came to be there, as frescos and other messages on the walls of the labyrinth reveal the story leading up to this point.
The wonderful story of the architect Daedalos and his over-confident son Ikaros, for example, and how Daedalos murders a rival inventor out of jealousy and has to flee from Athens to Crete. Or how King Minos angers the sea god Poseidon, who makes Minos’s wife, Queen Pasiphaë, fall in love with a bull and, as a result, give birth to the Minotauros, half boy, half bull. And how Daedalos and Ikaros escape with wings made by the inventor himself.
The framing story is cleverly constructed. Dijkstra first satisfies the reader’s basic needs. In her version, Theseus has smuggled along some friends disguised as girls and concealed a sword inside his boot. Their journey initially feels more like a school trip gone wrong. However, the closer they come to the monster and to the denouement of Minos’s story, the grimmer it becomes.
Dijkstra skilfully reimagines the story, telling it slowly with lots of new details, and succeeds in making it so realistic that — in spite of gods and monsters — it actually could have happened. This YA novel is just as intelligent and exciting as the legend deserves.
- Djenné Fila (b. 1995), an illustrator from Tilburg, makes her debut in this book.