July 12, 2014

The Door in the Mountain

by Caitlin Sweet
ChiTeen (imprint of ChiZine Publications)
251 pp.
Ages 13+
March 2014
Reviewed from uncorrected proof

If you feel the cover image I've included above is larger than the norm posted here, it is.  I wanted to show readers the powerful cover of The Door in the Mountain so that you may well understand why I deferred (worthlessly, I might add) my reading of this young adult novel which helped launch Chizine Publications' new imprint, ChiTeen. The minotaur-like creature frightened me, as I'm sure he would have if I'd met him in a dark, lonely labyrinthe.  While there are treacherous acts and despicable characters in The Door in the Mountain, however, I should not have allowed the cover to discourage my reading.  I. Could. Not. Put. It. Down.  It was like rubber necking at a horrific accident.  You had to see how it would turn out.

"How what turns out?" you might ask.  Well, if you think the stories of Greek mythology have already been told, you are so wrong. What we won't know how it turns out is the culmination of Ariadne's rivalry with all her god-marked siblings, most especially Asterion, her youngest brother, marked by the Bull-god himself, Poseidon. Seems their mother, Pasiphae slept with Poseidon's priest to ensure that son would be god-marked by Poseidon, same as herself, in conflict with her husband, King Minos, who'd been marked by Zeus. (Gifting by a god manifested itself in powers such as shooting fire from one's hands, controlling water, crafting marble, creating wind, etc. ) Shamefully unmarked, Ariadne often found comfort as a child at the workshop of craftsman, Daedalus, whose own son, Icarus, sprouted feathers and bird-like features, though he could not fly. But as she grew older and more beautiful, she found consolation, at least temporarily, in humiliating, even hurting, her siblings.

One of her first acts of vengeance against her little brother Asterion, then age 2, begins as a ploy to see if her hypothesis that his little horns reacted to heat was valid.  Young Asterion endures the pain of being badly burned, but this does not appease Ariadne as the boy's transformation into a bull is seen by her mother and Poseidon's worshippers as another honour bestowed upon him.  Now Ariadne receives even less attention as Asterion is regarded as god-like and included in regular rites of the priests and priestesses.

When Ariadne's eldest brother, Androgeus, is murdered while attending the Games in Athens, everything changes.  Without the protection of Androgeus and with the assignment of Chara, Asterion's only friend, to be Ariadne's slave, Asterion's fate becomes tragically directed by Ariadne's evil resentment. The Greek myths may suggest where this story may go but don't doubt that Caitlin Sweet will show you another path.

More crushing than a Shakespearean tragedy and more surreal than the myths we heard as children, The Door in the Mountain overwhelms. Jealously begets evil, and propositions become ritual sacrifices, and there are no promises or trust that can survive. The only prospect for redemption must come at the pen of Caitlin Sweet as the fates of all in The Door in the Mountain achieve no resolution.  You may hate Ariadne's wickedness and cheer for Chara's eternal caring.  But to what end? Only Caitlin Sweet and perhaps the Greek gods know.  I will leave that capably in her (their?) hands for now.

You can check out Caitlin Sweet's progress on Book 2 on her blog at http://caitlinsweet.com/


nota bene
Again I have learned never to judge a book by its cover. (But, just so you know, ChiZine Publications, the weird face on your address labels and some marketing concepts still creeps me out. Big time.)

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