Hera by Jennifer Saint

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Fans of Saint’s other books Ariadne (2021), Elektra (2022) and Atalanta (2023) will eagerly reach for her latest, Hera, about the sister and then wife of Zeus, a queen of the gods with a reputation for jealousy and cruel revenge. Saint is expert at bringing to life the overlooked women in Greek mythology, telling their stories of resilience, rebellion and empowerment in a male-dominated world. This is another.

There is a reason for Hera’s fury. She fought by her brother Zeus’s side when he and their siblings defied their father Cronus and defeated the Titans, seizing power as supreme gods. She expected that seven of them would share the glory in the halls of Mount Olympus and that she would sit alongside Zeus as his equal. The three male gods divide the realms between them, the goddesses have instead to argue for their place.  Hera discovers that instead of being granted her rightful status, as daughter of Cronus, Zeus decrees that her position is to be his wife, subservient to him. She will be the goddess of marriage, patroness of brides. Her realm is one of ‘empty promises, of stunted hopes and ruined faith’, whilst Zeus assuages his rapacious appetite with conquest of goddesses, nymphs and mortals.

Hera’s rebellious spirit rises and she determines to avenge herself. She undertakes many secret plots, but each seems to turn back on her. Zeus even seems to enjoy the challenge of trying to outwit her. Their marriage is one of distrust and constant sparring.

Saint’s novel become one long tale recounting one misadventure after another, and she references many of the famous myths. There is a simplified, but still complicated, divine family tree at the beginning of the book showing primordial deities, Titans and Olympians and their offspring. This is helpful, but there are still many more characters encountered along the way. Because of this, the story of Hera is not as enthralling as Saint’s previous novels, lacking a more dramatic central plot. I would recommend reading the other books before this particular one, and then if the reader still has a thirst for tales of strong female characters in Greek mythology, this latest book provides a grand overview of many familiar characters and stories.

Themes: Greek mythology, Goddesses, Women, Sexism, Power, Revenge.

Helen Eddy