Shadow of Athena

Written by Elena Douglas
Review by Eileen Charbonneau

In 7th century B.C.E. Greece, the Fall of Troy is still fresh enough to demand sacrifice. The homeland of the disgraced Greek warrior Ajax still sends maidens on a perilous journey to Athena’s temple at Troy for a yearly enslavement and lifetime virginity. As she turns sixteen, the lottery falls to a direct descendant: Marpessa, daughter of a rich merchant.

More a woodland-loving daughter of Artemis than Athena, Marpessa leaves her family and beloved mother under the care of a family slave, Arion. Arion grows to admire Marpessa, but once they overcome perils to reach the temple, he leaves his charges and plots his escape to freedom. Soon after, barbarians raid Troy, leaving Athena’s temple defiled and in ruin, and Marpessa barely alive. Arion returns, smuggles out the girl he’s come to love, and cares for her as she returns to health. The two become lovers in their hiding. Going home has its dangers for both the transgressors, but they decide to return as Arion observes “how unfair the decrees of the gods and the laws of men.” Fresh hell awaits them there.

Fast-paced and dynamic, Shadow of Athena’s hero and heroine are worth following through Hellespont and beyond. Marpessa’s quiet devotion to Athena is a great match to her more practical lover (who is respectful of sometimes hidden female power) as they struggle with a violent and manipulative former suitor, mob force, cruel strangers, and the perils of life at sea.