The Game, which protected the great cities of the ancient world, trapped evil inside the labyrinths created by the great Kingmen and Mistresses of the Labyrinths. Ariadne, one of the most powerful Mistresses, daughter to King Minos of Crete and half-sister to Asterion, the Minotaur at the center of the famed Minoan labyrinth, fell in love with Theseus, future king of Athens. She gave Theseus the secrets to defeat Asterion, who had been killing Athenian men for years. After Ariadne betrayed her family and ran away with Theseus, he deserted her because she can only have female children, as is true of all Mistresses as part of their roles. Cast aside, she vows to destroy Theseus and all he touches. She makes a horrible deal with the now-dead Asterion, and takes apart the Game and all the labyrinths -- all except one.
As long as a labyrinth exists, so does the Game. Ariadne moves to Llangarlia on the island of Albion, where modern-day Britain lies, and passes her hatred and her evil plans down to her daughter, who passes it down to hers, and so on, until the final act of revenge can be acted out five generations after Theseus abandoned Ariadne. Brutus, a Trojan Kingman with no kingdom, is the leader of a band of wanderers and trained in the Game. The Trojan War destroyed Troy; its citizens have been enslaved by their conquerors. When an opportunity arises to create a new Troy, Troia Nova, in a faraway land, Brutus jumps at the chance. He leads his people to the new land, forms a dangerous alliance with a mysterious woman, and starts the Game all over again. Cornelia, the princess of Mesopotama, is a fourteen year-old child who becomes caught up in a web of suspicion and deceit. After Brutus forces her father from power and takes her as his wife, she is carried off, along with the Trojans of Mesopotama, to the new land. She dreams of Hera, one of the last remaining Greek deities. The rest of the old gods were so weakened by Ariadne's
actions that they died, and Hera forewarns her of trials and tragedies yet to come.
Sara Douglass has spun a powerful and complex yarn of revenge, deception, death, and hope that moves from Late Bronze Age Greece, to Llangarlia one hundred years after the Trojan War, to 1939 London, and back again. The story is so interwoven with Greek mythology that it is difficult to decide where mythology ends and Douglass' story begins. Hades' Daughter is a detailed piece of historical fantasy, very nearly an epic at 584 pages. Most of the tale is told in third-person and makes up the majority of the book. However, in separate chapters Cornelia speaks in first-person, a twist that allows readers to know her on a more personal level, pulling them into the story in a compelling strategy that creates an emotional connection with this childish, brave heroine. Readers feel her pain, joys, tears, and triumphs. The ability of an author to create these connections between readers and characters is what sets Douglass high above her contemporaries.
The chapters set in twentieth-century London give just enough hints to make readers think they know what future books in the series will hold, but deep down Douglass' plans are too deep and complicated to guess at. Even the most astute reader cannot know what awaits Brutus, Cornelia, and the others. And after reading Hades' Daughter, no one will be able to help him or herself from seeking out Books Two and Three of "The Troy Game." The writing, characters, and storyline are that compelling.
The reading starts out slow and somewhat tedious, and the dialogue is similar in flavor to Homer's Iliad -- which means close attention to detail is necessary to understanding the plot. The unique storyline is an immediate hook. It isn't easy or quick, but it does quickly draw the reader into the world of Brutus and Cornelia. By the time I reached the end, I found myself already needing to find out more. Will I be able to wait for the next book in "The Troy Game"? I hope so! And I think I know what is going to happen... but then again, maybe I don't.