Greek mythology’s untold tale of sisterhood The woman behind the stone-gray eyes

The world of Greek mythology is humungous, ranging from classic hero tales to stories of betrayal and mistrust. Some of the myths are buried underneath years of translation, but others are ones known among the masses. The story of Medusa is a popular tale, one spoken in both perspectives of her killer and herself – but no matter what, the story remains a devastating one just the same.

“Medusa’s Sisters” is a book by Lauren J. A. Bear, who writes the story through the narratives of Stheno and Euryale. The two are Medusa’s older, immortal sisters who were cursed alongside her. The use of those around Medusa to tell the tale instead of Medusa herself, creating the world through a new lens that extends past the events of Medusa’s death.

The book switches between the perspectives of both Stheno and Euryale, but both are executed in such a fashion that the reader never groans at the start of another’s telling. Stheno, the oldest sister, tells the story in a logical and reflective way that makes it as if she is talking directly to the reader. These added moments call the reader back to the beginning , as the book opens with Stheno. Stheno’s grounding sensation quickly develops her as the mother figure of the trio, bringing along with her a sense of guilt and responsibility for their fates, which she references several times throughout the book.

Euryale, on the other hand, is the middle sister who feels unseen, likely due to middle child syndrome. She wants to explore the world with a feverish glee, unbound from Medusa’s mortality that Stheno seems to tend to every moment. Euryale brings forth the tension and unspoken words between the sisters, along with the emotion and rage within each of them that would otherwise remain suppressed.  

There are a few specific scenes that draw attention to the carefully crafted beauty which strings the novel together. One of these is the scene where Stheno and Euryale deface Athena’s shield. It’s woven together in such an emotional way that it deserves a standing ovation. The way in which Euryale denies vandalizing Athena’s shield, claiming a maiden’s blood is a sacrifice to the goddess, is extremely clever. The interaction with Thyone (formerly known as Semele) brings a caring and grieving release to the surface. Both of Medusa’s sisters make sure Athena remembers the curse she laid upon both her and her sisters. At this moment, Euryale and Stheno slowly start to trust each other after having a fractured relationship due to Medusa’s death. This scene allows for finality in a way that every grieving person deserves.

Another scene of mention is where Euryale pushes Poseidon away. In this scene, readers are able to see the growing relationship between Euryale and Stheno. The sisters come close, and Stheno defends Euryale in a way that only a protective older sister could.  Stheno’s sudden understanding of the grief Euryale faced when Medusa died comes to life when Stheno finds the painting in Euryale’s cove. It also goes to show the many ways that people grieve, both silently and vocally. This scene allows the two to have another moment of closure, one for the two of them rather than avenging the third. The closure in this one is sweet and mournful compared to the vengeful one earlier in the novel; Both are extremely wonderful.  Bear approaches grief in a manner that allows readers to fully understand the emotions that the sisters are going through.

This novel is definitely worth the read. Not to say too much about the ending, but the final chapter is written in a callback that really rounds out Stheno’s character and the reason Stheno and Euryale’s tales aren’t talked about in the same way Medusa is. With so many Greek mythology retellings, there are a few that blow expectations out of the water. “Medusa’s Sisters” is one of them.

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