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Posted June 16, 2013
In this series, historical romance author Roberta Gellis takes on the Greek myths, this book being the story of Hades and Persephone.
Yes, he kidnaps her, with the conniving of Zeus; no, he doesn't rape her. In the Underworld, Persephone, who has long been restless under her domineering mother's thumb, finds purpose, love, and even a name (Demeter has only called her Kore, or "girl," meaning to pass on the name Demeter on her own deathbed).
Gellis's Greek gods aren't, really. They are another race of humans: taller, stronger, much longer-lived - AND they are mages, each with unique inborn Gifts. Hades can pass himself (and anyone he is carrying) through solid rock, as well as melt rock and move it. The people in his Underworld aren't actually dead - they are the outcasts who have been driven away from their villages and homes, for various reasons.
Hades' underground realm is both dazzling and dangerous, full of jewels and crystal, but also wild beasts, a foul ?fungus?, and the threat of cave-ins. There is also the danger of starvation; Hades' people till the ground in some secret valleys, but without a priestess of the Mother to bless the fields, they will not bear the amount of grain required to feed the population.
Demeter has long been blessing the fields of Olympus to similar purpose, but deprived of her daughter, she rebels. Now Olympus is in danger of collapse, and despite his strength and powers, Hades cannot withstand all of the other mages, combined. He has to let Persephone go back to her mother.
This Persephone rules as Queen and equal partner to Hades. Additionally, though her mother Demeter always told her she had no Gift, she finds that she does have a very strong one. Hades teaches her how to use it, and how to shield it from any mage who would try to use it - even himself.
Demeter comes off controlling and overbearing, but in the end, she (somewhat reluctantly) agrees to loosen her demands on her daughter - realizing that the headstrong, grown Persephone is not her little Kore any longer, and cannot be compelled or blackmailed into working as her helper, blessing the fields, but only as a willing partner, on her own terms.
The relationship between Hades and Persephone is such a different take on the old story, and Persephone here is smart and resourceful as well as kind and beautiful. One of my favorites.