Tuesday 28 May 2024


Book review: Hera by Jennifer Saint [blog tour]

Jennifer Saint is the queen (or should that be goddess?) of Greek mythology retellings. She may not be the first author I've read who's turned the classic stories on their head, but she's arguably the best. She gives often unsung heroines their deserving chance in the spotlight in an incredibly captivating and enlightening way (three years on, and I am still not recovered from her stunning retelling of Ariadne's story). And this time she turns her hand not to another mortal heroine but rather to one of the great Olympian goddesses herself: Hera. 

About Hera

Hera is Zeus' sister and was crucial in bringing the old Titans down, launching the reign of the Olympians. But as a woman she isn't handed the skies, seas, or even the underworld on a gold platter to rule. Instead, her thunderbolt-wielding brother thinks she will make a suitable wife. Completely forgetting – or simply ignoring – that without Hera he wouldn't be sitting on his cushy throne on Mount Olympus.  

Needless to say, the equally powerful Hera doesn't just let her brother dictate the course of her existence. She's clever, cunning, and determined to carve out her own path in life; Zeus and his countless offspring merely a hindrance along the way. But as she takes on her single-minded mission to show her siblings, newer gods, and even mortals what she is made of – it becomes evident that maybe what she's looking for will forever linger just outside her grasp. 

My review

What Jennifer Saint does best is bringing a whole host of disconnected and even contrasting stories together to create something far richer and superior than any of the individual old tales. Though, as she deftly weaves together a myriad of myths, it also surfaces the absurdity that sits at the heart of so many of them. And never moreso than with this book, because it has one of the gods at its centre – and they truly do, and experience, some of the most bizarre moments in storytelling.  

With her tales about mortals, such as Atalanta and Ariadne, there was a certain level of humanity to ground the characters and, ultimately, the story. That was something lacking in this exposé of Hera, who felt far colder and disconnected as a result. While of course she deserves as much praise and power as her infamous brother, as a reader it's hard to truly care and root for her as she makes so many equally despicable choices herself. That isn't to say that there weren't moments where I was engrossed in Hera's tale, quietly cheering her on from the sidelines as she deployed another scheme to get what she wants. But 385 pages of one failed coup after another was too much.

And while there were some myths woven into the main plot that I didn't realise were connected to hers (particularly the monsters were a very fascinating aspect I wish to have read more of), unfortunately, it seems inevitable that all roads lead to Troy. I appreciate the immense impact this particular tale has had on shaping the foundations of Greek mythology, but it's simply been done too many times in recent years and despite the best efforts of the author it has lost all originality. 

While I'm a huge fan of Jennifer Saint's stunning writing and impeccable research, this is my least favourite of her novels to date. This is probably partly due to being exposed to too many Greek retellings in recent years, but it's also because those told from the perspective of an immortal being simply aren't as engaging as those that have a mortal protagonist. The stakes aren't as high and the characterisation makes it harder for readers to connect to the novel's heroine. We want more tender moments and genuine peril, aka more Ariadne and less all-powerful goddess.

Hera by Jennifer Saint is published by Wildfire (part of Headline Publishing) and you can now buy your copy from your favourite local book shop!

Blog tour stops for Hera by Jennifer Saint

This review for Hera is part of the blog tour for the launch of the book. Make sure to check out the other stops too!

Disclaimer: This book was gifted to me, but this has not impacted this honest review.

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