The Dark Wife
by Sarah Diemer
May 11, 2011
YA/ Fantasy/ Lesbian
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Three thousand years ago, a god told a lie. Now, only a goddess can tell the truth.
Persephone has everything a daughter of Zeus could want--except for freedom. She lives on the green earth with her mother, Demeter, growing up beneath the ever-watchful eyes of the gods and goddesses on Mount Olympus. But when Persephone meets the enigmatic Hades, she experiences something new: choice.
Zeus calls Hades "lord" of the dead as a joke. In truth, Hades is the goddess of the underworld, and no friend of Zeus. She offers Persephone sanctuary in her land of the dead, so the young goddess may escape her Olympian destiny.
But Persephone finds more than freedom in the underworld. She finds love, and herself.
The Dark Wife is a YA novel, a lesbian revisionist retelling of the Persephone and Hades myth.
First I’ll start off with a disclaimer that I know nothing of Greek mythology other than the most basic of stories. I do know some of the gods and what they represent, but that’s the extent of my knowledge. So I read this book basically at face value as a sort of epic fantasy set in the world of Greek mythology. However, I think this story might be really fun and interesting to someone who does know a lot about Greek mythology. I understand it’s a different twist on the Persephone/Hades original story.
This is a debut, indie published novel by author Sarah Diemer and it’s quite impressive. The writing is absolutely gorgeous, lyrical and clean, like writing is her second skin.
I’ve never read any YA books. I’m an older woman and essentially they don’t appeal to me. But this book brought up that inner awe and wonder I felt when I read Marion Zimmer Bradley back when I was a young woman. Those stories that sparked my imagination. There’s a similar feeling about this book and those books. Like those books, the world building is lush, layered and colorful and exquisitely executed in The Dark Wife.
Persephone is young goddess who’s been brought up by her mother Demeter. She fell in love with Charis, a wood nymph from her mother’s forest, and they were having beautiful love affair when Zeus raped Charis and turned her into a rose bush. This shattered Persephone’s heart into a thousand pieces. Even more devastating, Persephone finds out that Zeus is her father and that her mother is helpless to save her when Zeus decides it’s time for her to live on Mount Olympus with him and the other Immortals.
Hating him with a passion, Persephone feels this is a fate worse than death and escapes to the only place she knows Zeus has no influence, the underworld, which is ruled by Hades. She has met Hades before and something about Hades intrigued her and grabbed her heart, so she felt that she would be accepted by Hades and given safe harbor.
While in the underworld, Persephone learns many things and finds out that she has a special destiny, one that has been prophesied. But can she muster the courage to go through the hell she might have to endure to fulfill that?
Persephone is a great character. She’s so innocent and loving and pure, but has tremendous courage to fight for what she believes in. She's willing to risk things to have her life. The Dark Wife is written in first person POV and usually I find that POV to be limiting or the story is told in linear fashion by the character. In this story, Persephone is that rare self-aware character who has deep insight to her being, the subtle layers of her emotion getting recognized and expressed, which turned her more into a multi-dimensional and rich character than is usual.
If there is any gripe I have with this story it’s that it would have been nice to get more into Hades’ head. She’s the least developed character in my opinion. I got a better feel for Pallas even, a dead person living in the underworld and friend to Hades. Hades is the main love interest for Persephone and while I felt it to be a sweet love story, due to the lack of depth in her character, some build up and tension was lacking in that area.
That said, where the story lacked in a romantic build up for me, it shined in the intensity of the drama and growth of Persephone as a character. So it’s just a minor complaint for me.
The Dark Wife moves at a fast pace and there’s really never a dull moment in Persephone’s life. There’s a perfect balance of action with reflection so it doesn’t slip into a too much of either area at the expense of the other. The plot is rather typical to fairy tales or fantasy with many of the same elements of good vs. evil with a sort of moral/spiritual aspect to it, however, it felt fresh to me, like I’ve read something new and unique.
I will absolutely be buying Sarah Diemer’s other books. I love her writing style. Much heart and passion comes through and her ability to spin a fantastic and original tale is above par.
Heat rating: 0- this is not an erotic romance. There are beautifully written, and not in the typical purple prose, sexual scenarios that are not graphic in nature, but express clearly what the characters are feeling. That in itself is an art. This is a YA after all.