From Publishers Weekly
Beutner's debut tackles the Greek myth of Alcestis, who so loved her husband that she sacrificed herself to Hermes in his place. Beutner's retelling, set in ancient Greece, involves a more complex character: her Alcestis is a misfit who has deeply mourned the loss of her sister Hippothoe since childhood. Through Alcestis's eyes, Beutner provides a cagey look at men and gods, driving her narrative into the Underworld after Alcestis's husband, Admetus, proves so afraid of facing his own death that he demands a replacement. Alcestis goes instead, not for romance or martyrdom, but to find her dead sister. While hunting the land of the dead, Alcestis sheds the good girl identity she's begrudgingly worn her whole life and finds her fate tied to those of Persephone and Hades; eventually, she learns much about gods and men (especially from stubborn, simple Heracles). Beutner renders her multilayered heroine with beauty and delicacy, and concerns herself with no less than the intricacies of the soul; unfortunately, an abrupt ending sucks the wind out of Beutner's sails. (Feb.)
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Beutner has elevated a relatively minor character in Greek mythology to a major player. Taking center stage in this debut novel is Alcestis, the fabled “good wife” who sacrificed herself in order to save her much loved husband, King Admetus. In this reworking of the classic legend, a decidedly more complex and restless Alcestis is provided with an intriguing backstory involving her childhood and the untimely death of her favorite sister, Hippothoe. When Admetus is too cowardly to face his own death, Alcestis, hopeful of reuniting with Hippothoe, agrees to take his place in the Underworld. It is here in death that Alcestis wrestles with the true nature of love and loss, as she falls under the seductive spell of Persephone. Perched precariously between two worlds, she finds she belongs to neither when Heracles, her would-be rescuer, declares his intention to deliver her back to her husband. Beutner spices up this classic tale with a decidedly Sapphic flavor. --Margaret Flanagan