Medea by Eilish Quin
Published by Atria Books
Publication date: February 13, 2024
Genres: Debut, Fiction, Fantasy
There are some criminal court cases where the defense attorney cannot argue their client’s innocence because guilt is so clear. Other ways of mitigating the evidence must be found. Author Eilish Quin successfully adopts the same strategy in her debut novel, Medea, about one of Greek mythology’s most despised women. A woman who killed her brother and later in revenge for being scorned, her two children. In both cases hacking the bodies into pieces as seen by numerous witnesses. And the prosecution rests.
Quin doesn’t dispute the facts of the Medea found in ancient Greek texts. She was the daughter of a powerful sorcerer king ruling an isolated island who learned much of his craft, but was desperate to escape his tyranny. The arrival on their island of the hero Jason on his quest for one of her father’s most prized possessions—the golden fleece—allows her to strike a deal. In exchange for the magic needed to obtain the fleece she demanded Jason marry her and take her away. In doing so, she kills her brother and later, when Jason betrays her, she murders their two children.
All of this is true, but given the ancient Greeks attitudes towards women can it be any surprise that Medea is an offensive disappointment to the king as she’s neither a male or pretty and compliant enough to be marriageable? The young princess is left to her own pursuits, fueled by a questioning mind and a desire to prove her father wrong about her worthlessness. She delves into and succeeds in areas of magic he’s never attempted. When Jason arrives on their shores the stage is set for the tragedy that is her destiny.
An interest in mythology isn’t a prerequisite for Medea. Yes, the gods are still at play with the lives of humans, but Quin uses her own brand of magic to breathe life into a cardboard cutout of a woman. Her Medea exists fully formed on the page with all the traits and actions of a child, and later a woman, repressed and denied. The change is a shift in perspective. No longer is it the one-note tale of fearsome sorcerer King Aeetes or noble hero Jason. Instead, this is a vivid, gripping story of how a woman with a fierce intellect strives to escape the bonds imposed on her by men and is left to deal with the consequences of the gods. Medea is bloody, but marvelous reading and a great addition to the pantheon of Greek mythological retellings.
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