The Shadow of Perseus

Written by Claire Heywood
Review by Linnea Tanner

The legend exalting the Greek hero, Perseus, is stripped away through the perspectives of three women in The Shadow of Perseus by Claire Heywood. The epic tale begins when an oracle foretells that Danae will give birth to a son who will slay her father, King Aristides. To prevent the dark prophecy, Aristides mercilessly imprisons Danae in a small chamber. Instead of Zeus visiting Danae, a baker’s son steals into her chamber through a hole in the ceiling and becomes her lover. When Aristides discovers Danae is pregnant, he casts her into the sea in a wooden chest, but a fisherman saves her, and she gives birth to Perseus. The tale of Perseus’s upbringing and seafaring adventures, as seen through the eyes of Danae, Medusa, and Andromeda, casts him as a volatile, embittered warrior determined to create his own legend, no matter the cost.

Heywood’s reinterpretation of the Greek myth of Perseus is unique and profoundly moving. The historical backdrop is consistent with the brutal and misogynistic Bronze Age without the intervention of the gods. Three women strive to find their places in a paternalistic society in which their lives are controlled by men. Medusa, a compassionate leader of women who have fled male violence, becomes a victim of Perseus’s outburst when she rejects his marriage offer. After surviving tragic events caused by Perseus, Danae and Andromeda eventually find their voices and collaborate with each other to steer him toward redemption and his destiny to become King of Mycenae.

The reimagined tale of The Shadow of Perseus sweeps you into the heartbreaking tragedy of women mistreated by Perseus, but whose mother and wife ultimately rise out of their misfortunes and mold their destinies with his. Highly recommended.