Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement.

House of Odysseus is the second book in the Songs of Penelope trilogy and therefore this review may contain spoilers for the previous book, Ithaca.

house of odysseusPenelope has settled back into the role of host to her suitors, doing whatever she can to appear the grieving widow, when Orestes, King of Kings, turns up on the small island of Ithaca with his sister Elektra. While she would be honoured to host a king, Orestes appears quite mad, overcome with the guilt of killing his mother. The women know they must hide his madness from those who would seize his throne, which would be bad news for everyone, but especially the women of Ithaca.

Because the Greek myths don’t exactly dwell on the day to day activities of women, Claire North has a lot of legroom to tell their stories without straying from the main narrative of The Odyssey. So there are some things that are set in stone and she weaves the fabulous story of Penelope and her maids around that.

So in this second instalment, Penelope is tasked with hiding Orestes until he is better and finding out who plots against him. Is it the Furies sent by Clytemnestra, hungry for justice? Is it someone in the Royal household poisoning him? Elektra watches over him so carefully, how could anyone get close enough? Perhaps he is merely mad.

No one will forgive you. No forgiveness will ever be enough. And no one but you can make your actions the apology that the dead are owed. Repent and live – and stop asking the dead to take all the pain away. They cannot.

All these women’s lives depend on the whims of powerful men, and when yet another of them rocks up on the shores of Ithaca, Penelope despairs. Is this going to be the moment when she is bartered away to another man, when her maids are separated and sold? These women, so often overlooked, might just be the ones to save Greece from a tyrant.

This time Aphrodite is the narrator, her focus on love and sensuality. I much preferred Hera’s snark, and Aphrodite does get distracted by hunky arms and sexy thoughts a bit too often. Her language is glaringly modern at times but I think she is forgiven by being a deity.

When my husband said we were visiting Ithaca, I will not lie, I thought, how dull. How backwards and tedious and dull. But actually it’s all been much more exciting ever since we got here!

Knowing how The Odyssey ends, I almost don’t want to read about what comes next, I’ve really grown quite fond of this ragtag bunch of women.

House of Odysseus is published by Orbit and will be available in hardback, ebook and audiobook formats from 24th August 2023. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

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