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Customer reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
Lost in the Labyrinth
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on May 25, 2012
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on December 11, 2007
This is a book for a Christmas present for a teen age girl. I have not read it but she requested it. I was happy to find it for her.
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on October 6, 2011
My fourth grade son is interested in Greek mythology and archaeology. I pre-read this book, and I think it may be intended for an older and more feminine reading population.

I think there is a market for books that retell and fictionalize the old myths; we found a few good ones when he was interested in Ancient Egypt. This book has Ariadne, Theseus, the minotaur (Asterius), also Daedalus and Icarus -- all interwoven.

It's an interesting idea for a story, but it was very heavy on the goddess-worship that Patrice Kindl imagined for the island. We've done a lot of reading about what they have found of Minoan civilization, and with all the emphasis on the Bull in the murals and artifacts found there, it's hard to believe that Knossos was a Queendom, as this story suggests.

It's an entertaining book, but it may be a better book for kids who are interested in a good love/heartbreak story, rather than a good historical story.
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on March 28, 2011
I read this in order to preview it for my 11 & 13 year old sons as we wrap up our study of Greek myths. I was intrigued by the idea of a retelling of an old tale, but this is not what I was looking for. In Kindl's version, Theseus is far from a hero. Instead, he is portrayed as an arrogant murderer. King Minos is portrayed as an adulterous weakling while the nation is ruled by a line of queens that make it a habit to get pregnant out of wedlock.

Much of the story felt more like a Judy Bloom book than an adventurous myth. Readers get to hear about the main character's menstrual cycle, crushes, and a description of her pubescent breasts. It might be an interesting read for a 12 year old girl, but not for my guys.

Any adventure that might have existed in the original myths is delivered here with a deadpan tone. The main character is not a heroine and never claims to be one. She is a tool used by others and everything that happens just....happens. Rather than Greek gods, the religion in this book centers around a goddess. This goddess religion plays a central theme in the book. It had a dark, icky feel to it.

Also, the author switches back and forth between present and past tense, which is a little annoying.
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on September 8, 2003
The epic adventures of Theseus have never been among my favorite Greek myths. They always seem so polarized, with a clear antagonist (the Minotaur, in this case) who, by the end of the story, is always neatly dispatched by the heroic Theseus.
But that is the version told by Greek men. Lost in the Labyrinth is Xenodice's version.
And who, you may well ask, is Xenodice? She is the third, unambitious, sometimes overlooked daughter of Queen Pasiphae and her consort King Minos of Crete; younger sister to haughty Ariadne (yes, *that* Ariadne); half sister to Asterius, better known as the Minotaur; friend to exiled Athenian craftsmen, Daedalus and his handsome son Icarus. In short, standing as she does at both the center and the circumference of a labyrinth of myths, close to the main actors but rarely one herself, she is in the perfect position to tell it like it really happened.
All is not well in the labyrinthine palace of Knossos. Years ago, Queen Pasiphae's eldest son was killed. She blames his death upon Athenian treachery and King Minos's carelessness. In vengeance, she demands an annual tribute of fourteen Athenian youths; and to forever shame her husband, she conceives a monstrous son with the bull god. Their relationship, as you might imagine, never quite recovers. But it isn't until Theseus arrives among the latest shipment of Athenian youths and vows to dispatch the flesh eating Minotaur (who actually has no part of Minos in his parentage and is moreover strictly vegetarian) that old resentments give rise to new mutiny and increasing hostilities and plotting at court. Worse yet, Ariadne falls in love with Theseus and, in her determination to save him at any cost to herself or those around her, triggers a series of tumultuous events. Caught in between, a troubled Xenodice finds her own loyalties increasingly divided between those she loves and their private agendas.
Patrice Kindl does an excellent job with the often tricky first person voice. Xenodice's narrative is direct, immediate, and compelling, and the many details of her world are mentioned unobtrusively, since they are ordinary to her, and the more effective because of it. Seeing the events from her eyes also brings the epic nature of her story down to a more human and intimate level. Characters, despite imposing names and famous (or infamous) fates, come across as believable people-- mothers, fathers, sisters, and friends-- with sympathetic motives. There are no heroes in her direct, unornamented narrative, and no true villains, either: Asterius is a simple creature, violent only when provoked, Theseus is a typical hero, carelessly leaving a trail of bodies and broken hearts behind him, though doing no intentional evil.
Lost in the Labyrinth has much to recommend itself, but what I wanted was more-- even more detail about Xenodice's life in ancient Crete, and further acquaintance with the various characters, many of whom are seen only briefly. And be forewarned! This book has little of the frothy wit and lightness that characterized Kindl's earlier novel, Goose Chase. Being familiar with the myths on which Lost in the Labyrinth is based, I winced as the young Xenodice vowed to marry Icarus or no one early on in the book. And Kindl never allows the reader to forget that what is seen from one perspective as a triumph is, in another, a tragedy.
Although not the first exploration of Theseus and the Minotaur, Lost in the Labyrinth is one of the most thoughtful. Richard Purtill's out of print fantasy, The Golden Gryphon Feather, makes an interesting companion book, as it details many of the same events and characters from the perspective of one of the Athenian youths brought to Crete. Greek mythology fans may also want to try Lloyd Alexander's whimsical The Arkadians, and Megan Whalen Turner's The Thief, which is not based on any myth in particular but reads like it could be. And for those interested in other books featuring overlooked or unusual perspectives, there are Donna Jo Napoli's retold fairy tales.
Patrice Kindl is a strong writer and a highly versatile one. I hear her next book has lots and lots of insects...
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In recent years there has been a massive increase in the publication of re-told fairytales and mythologies, usually with the author twisting the known facts and meanings of the original source material into something more contemporary: villains become sympathetic characters, we see the proceedings through the eyes of a minority group such as a slave or a female, or hidden agendas and meanings are revealed behind the bare-bones of the story.

Famous examples of this have been Marion Bradley Zimmer's "Mists of Avalon", Gail Carson Levine's "Ella Enchanted" and any of Donna Jo Napoli's wonderful canon of reshaped fairytales. Patrice Kindl takes a similar path with "Lost in the Labyrinth", a retelling of the Theseus and Minotaur myth, and though she is not quite as successful as the above-mentioned authors, she still gives us an interesting and sometimes haunting read.

The original myth took place entirely on the island of Minos, where twelve young Athenians were taken each year in order to be sacrificed to the vicious Minotaur, the offspring of a bull and the goddess-cursed Queen Pasiphae. King Minos was disgusted by his Queen's bestiality and the sight of her son, and so employed the inventor Daedalus to design a labyrinth in order to hide this Minotaur, and sacrificed the Athenians to it in order to keep it under control. Finally, Prince Theseus of Athens came to the island, and with the help of the king's daughter Ariadne he slew the monster and made his escape.

This story however, though it keeps all the basic facts, changes the meaning and reasoning behind these events. It is told in first-person by Princess Xenodice, who is satisfied with her lot in life: helping at the menagerie, enjoying the comforts of palace life and in love with Daedalus's son Icarus. But changes are brewing for Xenodice when a ship bringing the latest group of Athenians comes ashore, bringing with them Prince Theseus who is eager to continue his heroic feats by slaying the Minotaur.

But the Minotaur - or Lord Asterius as his family call him - is not the monster that the Athenians have longed believed him to be. The boy with the bull's head is not a monster, but rather a docile beast that is dangerous only when provoked and Xenodice is very fond of him. Concerned for his safety Xenodice does all in her power to protect the ones she loves when she discovers her elder sister Ariadne is in love with Theseus and there is a plot afoot to topple the royal prince.

Despite all the changes from the original source, Kindl falls to a new set of clichés that abound in this new genre. Starting with "The Mists of Avalon" is this constant trend of presenting ancient societies as matriarchal utopias, where the women are in charge. Not only is this historically incorrect, but the fact is that all the darker components of the myth are "sanitised" in order to fit into this New Age idea of ancient civilisation. For example, the Minotaur in Kindl's retelling is a creature who owes its existence to the will of the Goddess and the mythic figure of "the Bull of the Earth", not a potent symbol of the animalistic side of man. The Athenian sacrifices are brought to the island simply to tend to the royal family rather than sacrifices. The continued imprisonment of Daedalus and Icarus is based on a technicality rather than suspicion and jealousy. The sinister curves and twists of the labyrinth is now the ancestral palace of the royal family. In other words, all the juicy bits have been removed! There's nothing wrong with changing myths in order to find a deeper meaning to them, but often it felt that Kindl simply catered to a New Age ideology that brings no deeper resonance to the story.

However, all this is just my personal opinions on what myths mean and how they should be retold, and most young readers will be delighted with this retelling. Kindl's details of the particulars of Minoan life are detailed and realistic, and the labyrinthine palace with its luxurious baths and dark prisons come to life on the page. Her characterisations are thoughtful, with no true heroes or villains, and she brings touches of intrigue to the tale, such as Xenodice's vision of Ariadne, the resurrection of Glaucus, or her haunting last paragraph. If you are aware of the ending of this particular myth then you'll be dreading the ending, but Kindl manages to hit the right note of poignancy without being too depressing or too uplifting.

"Lost in the Labyrinth" was my first read of Patricia Kindl, but it shall not be my last.
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on May 18, 2007
Lost in the Labyrinth, by Patrice Kindl, is a great book I would recommend to 6th-8th graders. A little bit advanced and complicated, mixed with puzzles and mysteries, the main character Princess Xenodice discovers her family's deep secrets. This book is based on Greek myth about the Minotaur and Theseus. I would recommend this book to kids who would enjoy reading a historical fiction book of Ancient Greece and discover mysteries that lies beyond the labyrinth.
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on December 9, 2007
I picked this book out because i love Ancient greece! I loved it, it was well written, with interesting characters. In is about a girl named xenodice, Adrania, falls in love, which is hard on Xenodice, because who does she fall in love with? Theasus, of course, and he is trying to kill her brother, and she is loves her brother, Asterius, very much. When she discovers plots for his death,she is there to protect him in a minute. It is very sad, but i liked it a lot, i read it in one day!
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