“The Dark Wife” is a reimagining of the Persephone and Hades story from Greek mythology. Essentially, Diemer takes what we know about the classic mythos and flips it on its head in order to create a young adult lesbian love story. Which, ultimately, I find charming because there just aren’t enough books for LBGT kids that speak and represent them. And I’ll be honest, this was my first time reading a love story like this, and I’m glad I did. In this tale, Hades is not a man, but a woman who is called “lord” of the Underworld as a slight by Zeus for preferring the company of women. Persephone is not tricked and whisked away to the Underworld where she is raped and forced to stay there for part of every year like it is in the myth. Persephone chooses to go to the Underworld. She chooses Hades.
I’m going to come right out and say that I briefly studied Greek Mythology in college. It was one of those Freshmen GE classes you take for the easy A and then I loved the class so I kept taking the next and the next… That’s what first attracted me to this book, my intrigue over the reimagining of such a well-known myth. On that score, I have my mixed feelings. You rarely interact with any of the other gods outside of Demeter, Hermes, Zeus, and Hades so you don’t really feel all that immersed in Greece let alone an immortal community. You don’t see the other gods very much for them to feel much like an actual goddess of fertility and crops, besides Hermes flickering about, he doesn’t feel like the messenger or trickster he was meant to be, either. But, this isn’t really about them, it’s not even really about Olympus or the gods. It’s about Persephone and Hades falling in love, so I’m trying my best to ignore that the “reimagining” was rather selective and mild. Like I said, I’m really into this stuff, if you aren’t it won’t bother you at all.
I did really love how Diemer described Cheron, the ferryman, though. That I thought was superb and I liked the explanation given as to why Hades made him the way he is. I also enjoyed how Zeus was always spreading rumors that make mortals fear the Underworld because to me, when Greek Mythology only has the Underworld with no “heaven” and it’s such a punishing place, it makes sense that Hades would not want that so she tries to make it better, just to have everyone hate and fear her because of what Zeus has the mortals believe in life, that was a nice little twist too. I did think Zeus was a bit too, evil. I mean, he is an asshole in the mythology. He rapes everything, he really does. But it doesn’t make sense that, at least in this story, he’s such a bully to his fellow immortals and not one does anything about it. Sure, he’s the king of the gods and gets what he wants (which only seems to be sex in this story), but Persephone ends up showing he’s not so tough so it leaves me wondering why, out of all the other countless gods and goddesses he abused (again, just in Diemer’s story) no one else rebelled before?
Persephone wasn’t as strong as I’d have wanted her to be either, she’s told to rebel and to run and be strong, but she doesn’t really seem to know what she’s rebelling for or from for the longest time. She comes off a bit weak and lost for large sections of the novel as well. Considering what Diemer has set up for her to do, I just would have preferred her to have a bit more spine throughout the whole book rather than just at the end I guess.
Diemer does have a very lovely and flowery way with words though. “The Dark Wife”, while it’s not the retelling of the classic myth I 100% wanted it to be, she does have a very lovely and poetic way of writing. A lot of time in the “traditionally” published books, editors like to cut that stuff because they view it as unnecessary, but I love it. Because there isn’t too much description of anything else beyond Hades it would seem, having Diemer’s poetic way of storytelling makes up for it. Even when she discusses her character having sex, it’s beautiful. Sometimes those scenes, if not done right, can make you uncomfortable, so it becomes a very fine line. But she’s not graphic or crude or anything, this love story is meant to be beautiful and pure and that’s how she writes the sex scenes. With bright and mesmerizing imagery that ends up making you smile with its sweetness.
So obviously there are going to be a couple of caveats here for the rating. If you DON’T like lesbian stories, don’t read this. If you DON’T like retelling of classic myths or fairy tales, stay away. If you DON’T like a bit of a sappy love story, you won’t enjoy this. For my part, I had fun with it and I think it’s fantastic that these kind of stories exist. I had my issues, but that was mainly around the mythology and some of the issues I had with Persephone’s personality. But for a self-published book, this was extremely well done! I can’t really give fraction of stars but I’d put this more at probably just under 4 stars, so I’ll just round up!