Friday, December 7, 2012

Book 11: Quiver

Book 11: Quiver
Quiver, by Stephanie Spinner

The story begins at the Calydonian boar hunt, where the female hunter Atalanta draws first blood. This leads the prince Meleager offers the skin to her, which causes a large fight and many die, including Meleager. Upset that men died as a result of her, Atalanta goes to the Oracle of Delphi on the way home, and she has three dreams. One warns her that if she marries, it will ruin her. However, she thinks nothing of it because she has already taken a vow of chastity in the name of Artemis. But shortly after she arrives at home her biological father arrives – the man she only knew as the one who abandoned her at birth when she wasn’t a boy. It turns out her father is a king, and he needs an heir, so he tracked her down and she must go and live with him. He wants her to marry, but she refuses, remembering her vow and her dreams. Eventually, she agreed to marry only if her suitor could beat her in a footrace. Many men try, and many die. Eventually, though, this changes. Eros shoots Atalanta so that she falls in love with Hippomenes, and Aphrodite apparently gives him three irresistible golden apples to slow her down. Distracted by the apples and distressed at the idea of his death, Atalanta lets him win, and so they marry. They are happy for a time, but then they have sex in one of Zeus’ temples, are turned into lions as punishment.

Use of Myths:
Atalanta herself is a character from Greek mythology, and all of the events in this novel are as well. The events are all with the traditional story, but Spinner adds in a few components. One key addition is the occasional inclusion of the dialogue between the gods watching Atalanta during all of this. The reader sees the discourse between Artemis, Apollo, Eros, and Aphroditie, showing how the gods impacted mortal lives. Another addition is Atalanta’s trip to the Oracle and the dreams. These are not part of the traditional story, but are likely given the time period.

Quiver includes a couple of archetypes. Artemis serves as a combination of the mother and father figures, as she guides Atalanta through her physical and emotional journey, cares for her, and protects her, even though Atalanta never meets her. Atalanta herself serves as the underdog. Because she is a woman doing her best to operate in a man’s world, she is constantly at a disadvantage. No matter what happens, she pushes through to win respect from those around her, up until she is married and later turned into a lion.

Several components of Quiver overlap with other books. For example, in Nobody’s Princess Helen meets Atalanta at the Calydonian boar hunt, where she observes the actions of the beginning of this novel. The Oracle and learning from dreams is prevalent in many books based on mythology, including the Percy Jackson series and Nobody’s Princess. Furthermore, like Nobody’s Princess Spinner’s novel directly addresses some of the sexist components of Greek mythology.

A fast-paced read about one of the most gender-role-defying characters in Greek mythology, Quiver is an interesting read. It looks at the side of mythology often glossed over in favor of the glamorous and romantic stories, but does not do so in a depressing way. I would suggest it for high school students.

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