What if all the legends you’ve learned were wrong?
Brutally attacked by one god and unfairly cursed by another she faithfully served, Medusa has spent the last two thousand years living out her punishment on an enchanted isle in the Aegean Sea. A far cry from the monster legends depict, she’s spent her time educating herself, gardening, and desperately trying to frighten away adventure seekers who occasionally end up, much to her dismay, as statues when they manage to catch her off guard. As time marches on without her, Medusa wishes for nothing more than to be given a second chance at a life stolen away at far too young an age.
But then comes a day when Hermes, one of the few friends she still has and the only deity she trusts, petitions the rest of the gods and goddesses to reverse the curse. Thus begins a journey toward healing and redemption, of reclaiming a life after tragedy, and of just how powerful friendship and love can be—because sometimes, you have to sink in the deep end of the sea before you can rise back up again.
Medusa, who I've long been fascinated by, takes center stage in this story about a young woman struggling to rebuild not only her life, but her trust in love and friendship. The novel is broken up into several parts. We open on Medusa (called "Dusa" by Hermes) on her island as she mourns yet another unlucky soul who surprised her and was turned to stone. She tries really really hard to not let this happen--locks on her doors to keep out invaders while she sleeps, heavy duty sunglasses, scarves to cover her snakes (her "Girls") and maintaining a distance between herself and those she does see. Mikkos, a blind sailor who brings her gifts from the new world and has been visiting for half a century. And Hermes, who she goes to pains to never harm because she couldn't stand the thought of losing her best friend.
Then there's the Assembly where Medusa's punishment is reversed after two thousand years of injustice. From there its Medusa's journey to reclaiming what was taken from her by Poseidon and Athena all those years ago. Its a slow process with some fitful starts. While she trusts Hermes as her friend and trusts that he has nothing but good intentions for her, she's wary of every other God or Goddess she comes in contact with. They must want something from her she reasons because why else would they go to such lengths to trust her so well?
Its by no means an easy road for her. Love is a large part of this book--family love, sibling love, romantic love--and Lyons doesn't make it all rosy-colored. Just because someone loves you doesn't mean you have to love them, and just because you love someone doesn't mean you should expect them to change for you. Hermes explicitly states it at one point, but in Lyons world once a Greek God loves, its forever kind of love. Which this could have very easily become rather trite at times, but Lyons also makes it clear that for those Gods we see in love there was something so much more.
There's a mild spoiler for this next paragraph so highlight to see: [begin spoiler]Poseidon, who is very clearly in the wrong here, is also shown to be motivated by love. While he makes it a point to call Medusa "pretty girl" he explains to her at one point that the fact they could talk for hours and hours meant everything to him. With her he could be himself and that is why he fell in love with her. Granted his love was obsessive, violent and damaging, but its really no different then the love that Hermes and Medusa share. Except where Hermes waited for her to figure it out and was attentive to what she needed rather then what he wanted, Poseidon ignored Medusa's wishes and took what he wanted. Things could have ended very differently if Poseidon had been more patient.[end spoiler]
I'll admit that I did treat Hermes' revelation about genetics and DNA for the Gods' with about as much worth as a grain of salt. It was a handwave explanation to excuse a development that would have otherwise made his and Medusa's lives really really uncomfortable. I also wanted to know so much more about Hades and Persephone. Especially after we learn about how their relationship came to be (let's just say Persephone was the aggressor and Hades was a bit baffled by it all at first) and the ramifications thereof. And while Lyons touches very very briefly on the other Pantheons in existence (Hermes makes an off hand remark about it in relation to his work with Death and there's some Norse tossed in), this is clearly a Greek Pantheon dominated book. Which I have no issues with.
By in large the writing is very easy to fall into. Medusa isn't given over to purple prose (a bit in relation to Hermes) and she's a relate-able narrator. Later when she boils her story just down to the bare facts (no gods mentioned) for a group of people, its no different then anyone else's. She's a girl who tried her best to find a place to fit in, made a friend who took advantage of her and then spent the rest of her life labeled a monster for events out of her control. She spends much of the book railing against the injustice of it all (privately, or with Hermes), but as many characters point out she never came to terms with what happened to her.
In so many ways I loved this book and I fully recommend to not only those into greek mythology, but anyone looking for a novel about a girl who overcomes the traumas of her past to forge a much much brighter future.