Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Bull God - Roberta Gellis


When gods still walked the Earth, a king could pray for a sign and have a white bull rise from the sea to confirm his claim to the throne. But a god's price was high, and when Minos did not keep his promise to the god Poseidon, the god meddled with Minos' wife...and the Minotaur, a child with the head of a bull, was born. The question is, did Poseidon intend his son to be worshiped as a new god, or is he the god's curse on Knossos, a monster that will destroy it?

Ariadne was the Minotaur's half-sister, the only one who would touch him and care for him when he was born. She was also high priestess of Dionysus, sworn to interpret his Visions, but one Vision destroys her peace. Dionysus Sees that the bull-head must die or bring disaster upon the realm. Can Ariadne agree to the slaughter of the deformed half-brother who clings to her as the only one who cares for him? Can she protect the Minotaur in defiance of Dionysus' vision and dare the god's wrath? Should she?
I must confess that I was a bit wary of reading books based in the Greek myths. Having studied them in the past I was afraid of finding the use of the Olympian Gods totally out of place and something akin to sacrilege. I'm happy to say that, once again, Gellis totally superated my expectations and created a tale that not only does justice to the them but that so engaged me that I cried buckets for the last 50 pages.

This is the Minotaur story with a twist, Gellis grabs the basic facts -  what lead to the Minotaur's birth, his sisters Ariadne and Phaidra and both their relationship with Theseus, the labyrinth, King Minos - and writes a powerful story that while maintaining the same facts tells something else entirely.

Ariadne is the highpriestess of the God Dyonisus. After a long spell during which the God had not answered the call of the highpriestess of Knossos he cames again when Ariadne is chosen for the role and calls him. She serves him and interprets his visions when need be. She is just a child in the beginning, a child that clearly adores him, and Dyonisus keeps their relationship strictly platonic despite the fact that tradition says that the God must couple with the highpriestess to bless the vines. One of his visions is about Ariadne half brother but despite being a tale of destruction she can't make herself destroy him.

As Ariadne grows up she must stay true to the God she worships and fight agains her parents who want her to worship the new God Minotaur. It is ironic that she is the only one who can control him. She is the one who raised him from birth, and the only one who truly cares or pity's him. The Minotaur, the child with the bull's head, is more than just a monster in this story, he is a pathetic victim of his mother's ambition and Poseidon's revenge on the humans.

Gellis characterization is one of her strong points, in presenting us with this set of characters and making us get to know them and feel for them she has written a wonderful story about the Olympian Gods. I loved how Dionysus explained the other Gods and himself to Ariadne and the love and compassion at the root of this tale. I can't wait to continue with this series and see which other gods have had their myths retold.

Grade: 4.5/5

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