Ithaca by Claire North
‘The greatest power we woman can own, is that we take in secret . . . ‘
Seventeen years ago, king Odysseus sailed to war with Troy, taking with him every man of fighting age from the island of Ithaca. None of them have returned, and the women have been left behind to run the kingdom.
Penelope was barely into womanhood when she wed Odysseus. Whilst he lived, her position was secure. But now, years on, speculation is mounting that husband is dead, and suitors are starting to knock at her door . . .
But no one man is strong enough to claim Odysseus’ empty throne – not yet. Between Penelope’s many suitors, a cold war of dubious alliances and hidden knives reigns, as everyone waits for the balance of power to tip one way or another. If Penelope chooses one from amongst them, it will plunge Ithaca into bloody civil war. Only through cunning and her spy network of maids can she maintain the delicate balance of power needed for the kingdom to survive.
On Ithaca, everyone watches everyone else, and there is no corner of the palace where intrigue does not reign . . .
I was really excited when I saw this book whilst book shopping in Bath as I love an Ancient Greek retelling. A book that focuses on Penelope rather than Odysseus was like a breath of fresh air, Odysseus has enough literature about him.
The other element I really enjoyed was the fact that the gods were involved and we could see their interactions with each other and with the mortals. So many retellings tend to ignore the gods because I think people don’t see them as trendy enough anymore but they play a vital role in the myths and I believe they should still be included.
Hera is the main god to feature in this book and it was really nice to see her involved as it is usually the male gods taking centre stage or the impressive female gods like Athena and Artemis.
Penelope is the queen of Ithaca but as all queens of Greece she might appear beautiful and regal but she has very little power. Clytemnestra is a perfect example of what happens to a queen of Greece who tries to rule in a mans world and Penelope knows she must avoid this at all costs. So Penelope is the perfect example of a meek and mild woman who listens to her male advisors and appears to be the perfect queen. However, behind the scenes we see a very different queen. Penelope is a woman of two faces and we get to see both.
I really got into this book and really enjoyed it to start with but towards the middle the story really started to drag for me and to be honest I got a little bored. This meant my reading slowed down which made the book worse because it felt like it was never-ending. Thankfully, I kept with the book because the ending was better. This book was really well written but I felt it was just too long and could have been shorter. Overall, I enjoyed the book but for me it did drag. However I will give the next book in the series a chance because I would like to see what happens next. I give this book 3 out of 5 Dragons.
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About the author
Claire North is actually Catherine Webb, a Carnegie Medal-nominated young-adult novel author whose first book, Mirror Dreams, was written when she was just 14 years old. She went on to write seven more successful YA novels.