Stone Blind

Natalie Haynes

Stone Blind
Pan Macmillan
United Kingdom
13 September 2022

Stone Blind

Natalie Haynes

‘So to mortal men, we are monsters. Because of our flight, our strength. They fear us, so they call us monsters.’

Medusa is the only mortal in a family of gods. Growing up with her sisters, she quickly realizes that she is the only one who gets older, experiences change, feels weakness. Her mortal lifespan gives her an urgency that her family will never know.

When the sea god, Poseidon, commits an unforgivable act in her sacred temple the goddess, Athene, takes her revenge on an innocent - and Medusa’s life is changed forever. Appalled by her own reflection: snakes have replaced her hair and she realises that her gaze can now turn any living creature to stone. Medusa can no longer look upon anyone she loves without destroying them,, and so condemns herself to a life lived in shadow and solitude to limit her murderous rage.

That is, until Perseus embarks upon a fateful quest to fetch the head of a Gorgon …


Natalie Haynes possesses a marvellous gift for breathing vibrant new life into the oldest of stories. Her novel A Thousand Ships (which was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize in 2020) holds a firm place in my top 10 favourite books of all time. So I was beyond excited to learn that her new novel, Stone Blind, would focus on retelling the tragic story of Medusa.

The only mortal being in a family of gods, Medusa is abandoned by her sea-dwelling parents and lovingly raised – as well as fiercely protected – by her Gorgon sisters. Despite the best efforts of her sisters, Medusa suffers an unforgivable and inexcusable act at the hands of the sea god Poseidon in the newly constructed Temple of Athene. Outraged, Athene punishes not the offender, but the victim, and Medusa is transformed into a monster more terrifying than any other.

Yes, there may be countless retellings of the myth of Medusa, but Stone Blind is superior to them all. Haynes’ expansive knowledge of mythology gifts these ancient characters with a vibrancy and presence that characterises the best kind of fiction, and she weaves layer upon layer of deep thought, consideration, compassion and empathy into this heartbreaking, magical retelling. This is mythology viewed through the lens of modern sensibilities, and the reader will be left to ponder many questions subtly and not so subtly posed within the text: questions of feminism, victim blaming, societal perceptions of blame and fault, power and hierarchies.

Stone Blind is every bit as breathtaking as A Thousand Ships, and surprisingly littered with gems of genuine humour. Give yourself an entire day off to read this one.

Tye Cattanach is a bookseller at Readings Kids.

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