Ruins in the cleared landscape of Tusdale, once nicknamed The capital of Skye”.
As one of a growing number of fans, I loved the initial, Bronze Age section of Rebecca Lochlann’s ‘Child of the Erinyes’ series, and the subsequent novella, ‘The Moon Casts a Spell’.
I have been looking forward to the issue of this continuation of the epic, and am happy to say I was in not disappointed by this, the sixth life of the three main characters.
In the first novels, we met the lithe and enticing, brave and generous, but in some ways tragically deluded Queen of ancient Crete, Aridela.
We encountered Menoetius, the great warrior illegitimate son of the King of Mycanae, who unwittingly betrays her trust, and pays an appalling penalty of physical and mental suffering.
We met too, the always riveting and bold, but arrogant and misogynistic, Lion of Mycane Chrysaleon, the King of Mycanae’s legitimate heir, who is sent over to win the throne of matriarchal Crete, and whose bondsman Alexaire braves the wrath of Athene to forward his master’s aims.
Finally, we met one of the characters I enjoy most out of a whole, memorable set, and that is the appalling one time practitioner of the black arts Harpalycus.
This villain swaps from body to body, and life to life, avoiding the rebirths that are the lot of the other three, and gleefully causing them as much misery as he possibly can, for he remains a dedicated torturer and sadist. Throughout the series, he provides moments of grim humour of the darkest kind: only Chrysaleon retains enough memories of his former lives to know his enemy:
“Aodhan had never learned Harpalycus’ secret for sensing them and finding them. But find them he did, and it always meant chaos and death.’
The great irony is that in this current novel, this women hater has no choice but to take on the form of the sex he despises…
The events that were set in motion, partly through the actions and reactions of these four and their devoted followers, have largely changed the history of the world. Through their mistaken choices then, Chrysaleon and Alexaire have set themselves up as Athene’s opponents on earth, condemned to find love and happiness elusive.
The former Aridela is through Athene’s will, blind to her past, those of her two lovers, and the destiny of them all.
The novella, ‘The Moon Casts a Spell’ relates a subsequent life of these three on the lonely Scottish island of Barra in the mid tnineteenth century, about the time of the infamous Highland Clearances. Two of the members of this life triangle came to premature ends (I won’t say more for fear of making a spoiler for those readers who haven’t yet read it).
Now in ‘The Sixth Labyrinth’ some twenty years later, Aridela is reborn as Morrigan, the inn keeper’s daughter and survivor of the clearances. She falls for and marries Curran Ramsay, the reincarnation of Menoetius, now a golden and handsome young Highland laird, while Chrysaleon is the poor fisherman Aodhan Mackinnon.
Once again they are reunited, and after more than three thousand years, their adventures come to a climax.
Chrysaleon in particular senses this: He is weary from his endless, desperate fight against Athene’s power; he believes that he must win.
‘Curran would fail. Athene would fail. A bit more time – that’s all he needed. Athene would diminish. At some point, she wouldn’t have enough power to bring back Menoetius or those other sycophants – Selene and Themiste…Then he would drink sweet revenge, as sweet as the old god’s necar.’
There are stirring characters in this, larger than life but fully believable, and intense passion; loyalty and betrayal, hatred and cruelty, horror and abuse, humour and tragedy. As ever, I was deeply impressed by the strength of the writing and the depths of the historical research, which is ever present, but never laboured.
Here is an example of the vividness of the word pictures that even brings the palace of Knossos to life: Here is a distant memory of the former Chrysaleon (the only one of the triad who retains his memories): –
‘Flanked by a wary Menoetius, he stepped into the palace courtyard at Labrynthos. Sunlight beat against the paving. He could feel the blinding heat richoting from those stones. Sensations and images blinded him, of carved pillars supporting gigantic stone awnings, of vibant frescoes displaying black bulls and blue, flittering birds. He’d heard of Crete’s magnificent architecture, but the reality left him awe struck…’
But now the former Aridela is the new wife of the beguiling laird to his empoverished, dour and middle aged fisherman. How can he win her?
Yet he will try, just as he knows that the now Morrigan, though drawn to him, will strain her utmost to be loyal to her handsome new husband, and that Menoetius’ love for her is more loyal and less selfish than his own. Harpalycus will discover them, and wreak havoc. It is the nature of them all.
This book is long, but it’s a page turner, so that it doesn’t seem so. I read it through at record speed, and recommend it as a fascinating, engrossing story from an epic series to be enjoyed on many levels.
One of the smoothly interlocking themes of this great novel is the tragic depiction of the abuse of woman, and in particular, it’s destructive effect on the feelings of self worth of the woman who is subject to it. Morrigan has scars on her psyche, the result of the abuse of her bitter father,who has always doubted her paternity. I don’t want to write a spoiler; but it is this sense of not feeling good enough for happiness and the love of a truly admirable man, which greatly contributes to some of Morrigan’s mistaken decisions in the book.
The former Chrysaleon remembers her in her incarnation as the fearless Aridela, and this is the supreme irony of his thousands of years’ long crusade against female power. In attacking it, he has brought about a change he hates to see in the one woman he loves and respects as an equal: –
‘Had he fought all these centuries only to lose her to this world’s joyless new order – the world he had helped to create when he caused the destruction of Crete and the last stronghold that honoured women?’
But Aridela has more strength than he knows: and Athene’s eclipse from the face of the earth and modern understanding may be part of the Great Mother’s plan…
I can’t wait for the next in the series!
‘The Sixth Labyrinth’ is available on amazon.com at
and on amazon.co.uk on