Top positive review
At last the legend makes sense
19 January 2018
Review 5 stars
Emily Hauser’s second novel in the Golden Apple Trilogy, For the Winner, is a reimagining of the myth of Atalanta and the legend of Jason, the Argonauts and the search for the Golden Fleece.
The opening vividly portrays Atalanta being abandoned as a baby on the slopes of Mount Pelion, but she only discovers what happened when she is eighteen – although her father’s identity is not immediately revealed to her.
I knew some of the mythology but loved the way that Emily Hauser retold the tales and early on learnt to expect clever sidesteps. As with many myths, there are different versions and interpretations in the surviving tales so there was room to ‘reimagine’ and this novel is an excellent retelling.
Atalanta is a strong determined heroine from her opening scenes, an athletic warrior with rounded emotions. But she has vulnerabilities and insecurities that she needs to resolve over the course of the novel. In a world dominated by men, she must disguise her identity as a woman to prove herself more than a match. But she is tested at every turn of the adventure and learns quickly who to trust and who to beware of.
This main part of the novel is written in the First Person POV, so the reader gets drawn deeper into the character’s life and head. Having Atalanta tell her own story, without the male assumptions of the ancient tales, made the words stronger and more realistic. This was a motivated woman at every step of her epic journey,
As in many Greek myths, For The Winner shows the Gods and Goddesses on Mount Olympus, especially Zeus and his wife Hera, constantly plotting and trying to interfere in human affairs – not to mention sleeping around. Emily Hauser crafts humorous scenes, written in the Third Person POV, portraying them as petty and riven with human frailties – just as expected from what I knew. I was reminded of those Classical Greek writers that chose to portray the Gods in this manner and this thread kept me amused.
I was interested when this thread impacted on the main adventure, and a few times asked, “Where is Artemis when Atalanta needs her?" She prays to this huntress goddess and the answer would be a spoiler of sorts, so read this excellent book and find out if any immortals aid her.
The Ancient world of this Greek period comes alive in the writing and clearly, Emily Hauser has done extensive research. Her author’s notes at the end of the book provide valuable insights into the legends, the historical and archaeological evidence for them as well as identifying many of the places. She is an academic and classicist, but she resists overwhelming the reader and the novel is alive and rich.
For me, I knew that the legendary foot race was inevitable, and I loved the clever resolution to the ‘male plot flaw’ in the legend. It had me grinning, and I was fascinated to read in the author’s notes that this was a ‘starting point’ for reimagining Atalanta’s motivation. At last, the legends make sense.
Story – five stars
Setting/World-building – five stars
Characters – five stars
Structure – five stars
Readability – five stars
Editing – five stars