Continuing my fascination with Greek Mythology we move from an adult modern retelling to a young adult more traditional retelling in Quiver by Stephanie Spinner. Quiver weaves the various myths and stories of Atalanta in this short but competent novel.
Here is the overview from School Library Journal:
Atalanta, a skilled archer and a runner, has dedicated her life to Artemis, the Goddess of the Hunt. She has grown up among hunters, and is as good or better than many of her male counterparts. When strangers appear and command that she return with them to her father, the king, she is shocked and dismayed. King Iasus, who abandoned her at birth, now demands that she marry and produce a son, since he does not have an heir. She balks at this idea, since she has vowed to remain chaste, and poses a challenge: she will only marry a man who can outrun her in a race; all others must die. To her dismay, many accept the challenge and fail. However, when Hippomenes enlists the help of Eros and the Golden Apples of Aphrodite, Atalanta cannot force herself to outrun this man and have him die. Staying very close to the known story, Spinner gives this Greek myth a fresh face and makes Atalanta a strong heroine. The gods are ever present, advancing the plot and commenting on the lives of the characters. The setting is well done, putting readers easily into the ancient world, and the language is refreshingly unmodern.
This book is very much in the vein of The Great God Pan, a well done fictionalization of classic mythology that somehow lacks enough depth or creativity to rise above its limits. These works seem like effective ways to introduce young readers to Greek myths but their simplicity limits the power they have as literature.
Spinner paints a picture of a heroine with unique talents but who is still trapped in a world dominated by men and where those who run afoul of the gods can pay a heavy price. She captures the precarious and often brutal interaction between gods and mortals – and between fellow mortals – in the ancient world as described in mythology. As the above review notes, Atalanta is an interesting and well drawn heroine and Spinner captures the ancient setting well. But overall the story just didn’t grab me.
It was interesting, and educational in the sense of fleshing out the myth, but as a story on its own it seemed a little flat or shallow. Almost a vignette rather than a complete story. But again, this may simply be the limits of reading YA fiction as an adult.
For those looking for a quick and easy to read retelling of the myths surrounding this character, Quiver will fit the bill. Those looking for deeper insight and a more powerful story might be disappointed.