Book Review | The Dark Wife by Sarah Diemer


I’ve always loved mythology. Growing up, I did a lot of research about Egyptian myths, but as time passed I became increasingly familiar with Greek mythology. I’m very proficient in Greek mythology and can carry a conversation about this stuff with anybody really. I know quite a few of the myths and details, and can name quite a few of the gods both major and minor.

I was on the hunt for a few indie books about a year ago, and was pleasantly surprised when I stumbled upon this book in a list of recommendations. It was described as ‘myth retelling’, which we’d talked about a lot in my University classes in third year. So, naturally, I bought it.

And then proceeded to read it in literally a day.

Let’s give a bit of background: the original myth of Persephone and Hades says that Persephone was stolen by Hades and forced to the Underworld. After negotiations with Olympus and a marriage to the Lord of the Underworld, Persephone agreed to spend six months with her husband in the Underworld, and another six on Earth with her family. The story explains why we have winter – Persephone is the Goddess of Spring, so with her down in the Underworld, the world freezes over into winter. When she returns, spring blooms again. She is the illustrious and kind Queen of the Underworld, and Diemer’s novel is told completely through her point of view.

Oh, and Hades is a woman.

That’s right, the ‘lord’ of the Underworld is actually a very beautiful woman, and Persephone isn’t stolen away, rather she willingly goes to escape a fate she thinks is worse than death – having to live alongside Zeus on Olympus.

Why is this terrible? I’m glad you asked.

There’s a very common joke with people who know Greek mythology that everything that happens is all Zeus’s fault. In this novel, this is taken to a whole new level. In common Greek myths, Zeus is the King of the Gods, who does whatever (and whoever) he pleases. He’s fathered demigods and monsters alike, and he, as said in the novel, takes whatever he wants coz he’s the ruler. Persephone hates him, for something he did that wronged her terribly in the past. And because of this, she refuses to even be anywhere near him. Zeus in this narrative is described as what he probably would have been – an arrogant selfish man, hellbent on getting his way at every turn. He spreads lies about other gods to make them less favourable; he forces himself on Demeter and then tries to do the same with her daughter (who is also his daughter); at a point, he even tries to orchestrate Hades’s murder.

Persephone runs away from all this, and nobody can blame her really. And she does it all to find her own happiness and make her own destiny.

Who knew that that meant that she’d end up running into the arms of a woman?

As far as myth retellings go, I think this book is spot on. It keeps to the original myths very well, with some changes towards the end that I’m sure are justified for the sake of the story. Persephone is a wonderful narrator, who is full of emotion and who leads you through the story gently, rather than with the boring tone some first person narratives tend to take. And the romance, while a slow burn (and I fucking hate slow burns) is a very satisfying one, even though it  got a little cheesy towards the end. But hey, we all need some cheese in our lives sometimes!

Final rating: 4.5/5. A must read for fans of Greek mythology and LGBT literature alike.

Buy it here!

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