The Goddesses: Persephone's Tale
by Alicia Fields, historical (2005)
Signet, $6.99, ISBN 0-451-21582-6
I have no idea why Signet chooses to market this book as a historical romance when this book is more of a historical fiction. Alicia Fields, by the way, is a nice pseudonym for an author retelling Greek legends, isn't it? (Elysian Fields, get it?) Love Underground is the author's take on the whole Persephone and Hades drama with a less paranormal bent. Which is to say, in this story Persephone and her mother Demeter are humans - Zeus is still a god here, though, worshiped by the people in this story - and the whole thing about them being goddesses come about through future retellings and exaggerations of their tale from generation to generation.
Persephone lives a sheltered life, with her mother warning her to stay away from boys and her friends being the kids around her age, Echo, Narcissa (yes, Narcissa is now a female), and Hermes. As she grows into a young woman, Hermes starts paying court to her but she spurns his affections since he isn't the most discriminate person when it comes to women. However, the drama starts when Hades, spying Persephone at a funeral and taking a fancy to her, has his men kidnap Persephone to his subterranean kingdom. He tries to woo her with jewels and all. What will Persephone do now? What will Demeter do?
At first it is interesting to discover how Ms Fields put together this familiar tale while giving the usually supernatural elements of the legend a more earthly twist here. However, the more the story progresses, the more apparent its flaws are. A very apparent flaw to this story is its complete lack of psychological insight into the main characters. Ms Fields tells me what her characters are doing or thinking or feeling, but she never lets me know the reason or motivation behind those actions. As a result, even after the last page I have no idea why Persephone loves Hades and vice-versa. Since an understanding of why Persephone will fall in love with her captor is pretty important where appreciation of this story is concerned, this story lacks the necessary depths to make it a compelling read. It also doesn't help that this story is told almost entirely through Persephone's point of view and Persephone comes off like a simple wide-eyed child at times.
Love Underground is quite nicely written, with Ms Fields channeling Ursula K Le Guin sometimes. This book comes off more like a throwback to those Jean M Auel-like tales of women in primitive settings defying the odds rather than a historical romance that it is marketed as. That isn't a bad thing if the story is compelling. However, the author barely skims beneath the surface when it comes to her characters. As a result, Love Underground has some fancy writing and the story is most readable, but the characters don't really come alive and therefore it doesn't have that extra something special to make it memorable.
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