Orphia and Eurydicius

Elyse John

Orphia and Eurydicius
Format
Paperback
Publisher
HarperCollins Publishers (Australia) Pty Ltd
Country
Australia
Published
3 May 2023
Pages
400
ISBN
9781460763032

Orphia and Eurydicius

Elyse John

A stunning, enthralling story about unconventional love, the power of creativity and the courage of women who struggle to make their voices heard - for fans of Jennifer Saint, Madeline Miller and Pat Barker.

Their love transcends every boundary. Can it cheat death?

Orphia dreams of something more than the warrior crafts she's been forced to learn. Hidden away on a far-flung island, her blood sings with poetry and her words can move flowers to bloom and forests to grow ... but her father, the sun god Apollo, has forbidden her this art.

A chance meeting with a young shield-maker, Eurydicius, gives her the courage to use her voice. After wielding all her gifts to defeat one final champion, Orphia draws the scrutiny of the gods. Performing her poetry, she wins the protection of the goddesses of the arts: the powerful Muses, who welcome her to their sanctuary on Mount Parnassus. Orphia learns to hone her talents, crafting words of magic infused with history, love and tragedy.

When Eurydicius joins her, Orphia struggles with her desire for fame and her budding love. As her bond with the gentle shield-maker grows, she joins the Argonauts on their quest for the Golden Fleece. Facing dragons, sirens and ruthless warriors on the voyage, Orphia earns unparalleled fame, but she longs to return to Eurydicius.

Yet she has a darker journey to make - one which will see her fight for her love with all the power of her poetry.

Review

Elyse John’s Orphia and Eurydicius is a sumptuous, gender-bending retelling of the Greek myth Orpheus and Eurydice. It celebrates the queer magic of storytelling and also women’s voices in an epic adventure across ancient Greece. Having previously published a collection of poetry, John now brings her skill as a poet to this novel and brings the character of Orpheus to life as Orphia, a poet who defies her father Apollo’s wishes in order to give voice to the voiceless women of Greece.

For anyone looking for a retelling of Greek mythology that whole-heartedly embraces its queer possibilities while also giving weight to the often horrifying treatment of women, this hits the mark. I enjoyed how John re-imagines many of the familiar characters in Greek mythology, such as Apollo, Jason and the Argonauts, and the Muses. In particular, I loved John’s depiction of Hera as a figure equal to Zeus in power and ability, as
a complex and interesting deity in her own right, and as the protector of women, rather than a figure sidelined as merely the wife of Zeus. While at times I found that Orphia’s passion for giving voice to the voiceless tipped over from thrilling to slightly didactic, I appreciated Orphia’s intense drive as a character, as well as her unapologetic love of bold women and gentle men like Eurydicius.

Orphia and Eurydicius was a lot of fun to read and stands out among the recent wave of feminist retellings of Greek mythology. I highly recommend it for Madeline Miller readers looking for an epic read.

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