Thursday, November 17, 2011

Dark of the Moon Book Review

Author: Tracy Barrett. Release date: 2011. Publisher:  Harcourt Children’s Books. ISBN: 9780547581323.
Annotation:  The myth of the Minotaur has taken many forms since its creation in ancient times. In this version, Ariadne is a reluctant priestess in training who is fiercely protective of her older brother, Asterion, whose deformities and childlike nature have given him the reputation of being a monster.
Personal thoughts:  As a huge fan of both historical fiction and mythology I was really excited to read this book. I was glad that I did! Although I love historical fiction, I often find that the pacing can be a little slow. That was not the case with Dark of the Moon. Changing perspectives between Ariadne and Theseus was a good move on the part of the author in terms of keeping the plot moving forward. I also really enjoyed how in-depth the character development was, even for the more minor characters. I look forward to seeing if Tracy Barrett published more myth re-tellings.  
Plot summary: In the ancient Krete, teenage Ariadne is in training to become a goddess of the moon, as her mother, mother’s mother and so on have done for centuries. Ariadne, known as She-Who-Will-Be-Goddess, spends most of her life confined in the palace walls, cut off from the world by the fear the people of Krete feel at offending the Goddess. Ariadne takes comfort in the love she feels for her older brother, Asterion. Although Asterion was born with severe deformities and a childlike nature, Ariadne is fiercely protective of him. The people of Krete greatly misunderstand Asterion, whose complete ignorance of his own strength causes him to accidentally hurt or even kill those who are offered up as his companions. In an effort to avoid the wrath of Krete’s navy, neighboring countries frequently send gifts to the island in the form of goods, luxuries, and human sacrifices. One day, Theseus, a prince of Athens, is sent by his vengeful stepmother to become a companion to Asterion, who the Athenians refer to as the “Minotaurus.” Ariadne encounters Theseus by chance shortly after his arrival and is surprised to find that he is actually friendly with her, unlike the rest of the palace residents who want nothing more than to avoid her presence. Ariadne enjoys her friendship, and budding romance, with Theseus, but senses that there is danger lurking. In the original telling of the myth of the Minotaur, Theseus kills the monster before marrying Ariadne. Will the same fate befall Asterion, Ariadne and Theseus in Dark of the Moon?
Review:  Bringing to life a centuries old myth and making it relevant to young adult readers is no small-feat, but one that author Tracy Barrett manages to accomplish in Dark of the Moon. The story of Theseus, Ariadne and the Minotaur are likely to be somewhat familiar to most young adult readers, even if it is limited to fleeting images of a vicious monster with the body of a man and the head of a bull. The myth is actually quite interesting in its own right, but Barrett’s re-telling brings a level of poignancy not found in the original tale. The narration of the novel changes between Ariadne and Theseus throughout the novel, allowing each character to be given a rich back-story and appropriate amount of development. Instead of being a lumbering soldier who uses his brute force to slay the evil monster, Theseus is actually a young man who struggles with confidence as a result of years of bullying and neglect from his mother and the people in his small village. Ariadne is not merely a mystical priestess, but a teenage girl who doubts that she has the ability to follow in her mother’s footsteps and bring prosperity to Krete by becoming the human incarnation of the moon goddess. Almost as interesting as the primary characters are Asterion, the lovable Minotaurus himself, and Prokris, a scheming Athenian girl who accompanies Theseus to Krete with a plan to overthrow the “barbarians” in charge. Overall, Dark of the Moon is a multi-layered and entertaining take on an old tale; certain to be equally enjoyable for adult as well as teen readers.
Genre: Historical Fiction/Myth
Reading level: Grade 6+
Similar titles: Sweet Venom by Tera Lynn Childs, Cleopatra’s Moon by Vicky Alvear Shecter.
Themes:  Myths, Krete, minotaur, Ariadne, Theseus, duty.
Awards/Reviews:  Positive reviews from Kirkus and Booklist.
Series Information: N/A   
Discussion questions:
- Read the original myth of the minotaur. How does it compare to the novel? Do you like the way the novel re-told the myth?
- Why do you think everyone thought Asterion was a monster? Do you think he was?
- Why do you think Ariadne felt so lonely?
- What do you think Ariadne’s visions of Prokris and Theseus meant?
- Do you think that Theseus' choice at the end of the novel was the right thing to do? Why or why not? What would you have done?

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