The Huntresses of Artemis must obey two rules: never disobey the goddess, and never fall in love. After being rescued from a harrowing life as an Oracle of Delphi, Kahina is glad to be a part of the Hunt; living among a group of female warriors gives her a chance to reclaim her strength, even while her prophetic powers linger. But when a routine mission goes awry, Kahina breaks the first rule in order to save the legendary huntress Atalanta.
To earn back Artemis’s favor, Kahina must complete a dangerous task in the kingdom of Arkadia— where the king’s daughter is revealed to be none other than Atalanta. Still reeling from her disastrous quest and her father’s insistence on marriage, Atalanta isn’t sure what to make of Kahina. As her connection to Atalanta deepens, Kahina finds herself in danger of breaking Artemis’ second rule.
She helps Atalanta devise a dangerous game to avoid marriage, and word spreads throughout Greece, attracting suitors willing to tempt fate to go up against Atalanta in a race for her hand. But when the men responsible for both the girls’ dark pasts arrive, the game turns deadly.
Warnings: attempted sexual assault
I will admit that until I read the first chapter, I did not know about Atalanta, which I immediately rectified by Googling. The base for the story is an interesting one, certainly – a legendary huntress who demanded that her suitors beat her in a footrace to win her hand, but defeated by distraction via some golden apples (how the heck does THAT happen?). Anyway, so this book fills up her story, introducing some new characters, taking a few liberties with some stories, and tells us about a girl who was so glad to have a family she felt indebted, and another who is escaping the will of a god.
During the slaying of the Calydonian bear, Kahina was the one to strike the killing blow but Atalanta the one to take the credit, not knowing it was her. Due to this, Kahina gets punished by Artemis to go reclaim a temple in Arkadia, coincidentally the same polis where Atalanta is about to return as a lost princess. The initial interactions between the girls is strained, because Kahina resents having to be her handmaiden (that’s her cover), and also she doesn’t like Atalanta having taken credit for her kill. She doesn’t tell her reasons for her anger nearly halfway into the book, though, Atalanta is just a little confused, and wary of Kahina. However, soon, they move towards tolerance and a tentative friendship, formed from empathy towards each other (both were, after all, running from things), and rounding out their trio is Phelix, Atalanta’s half-brother, and the king’s bastard. While he is mostly in the margins, he does provide a tempering presence to the earlier volatile stages of their relationship.
It builds on the characters slowly in the first half, and the writing was good enough, but I felt some reactions of the characters were exaggerated. Some things were mentioned, some tension sensed that isn’t resolved or explained even until the end. The race doesn’t get through until like halfway through the novel, and Kahina helps Atalanta keep the suitors off her back with a cleverly planned race that alleviates the latter’s duty towards her kingdom (Arkadia is broke, and she is supposed to marry a rich guy) but also keeps her out of marriage. Here’s where their relationship starts to dip into romantic territory, which is sort of a slow burn. There’s still their respective futures standing in their way, as Kahina needs to stay in the Huntresses to be safe from Apollo. When the god forces their hand, there is a big showdown that incorporates a sibling feud, a rescue and some clever Kahina plans. This climax was probably the reason I got off the fence about how to rate it – it was chaotic, confusing, and not as big as it was building up to be (it is supposed to be two GODS fighting dammit). Also, the one seemingly significant character death didn’t feel like anything, which maybe because the characterization felt like it left a few holes.
Overall, a good mythology retelling, but wasn’t compelling enough.
Is it diverse? It is an f/f romance, with one of the main characters being bisexual, and the other suggested to be biracial.
Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from Flux, via Netgalley.
Releases on November 27, 2018