Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Hetaera: Daughter of the Gods

Hetaera: Daughter of the Gods

J.A. Coffey

3 out of 5

*Mature Content*
She was the original Cinderella....Doricha is twelve when her father is murdered by a roving band of Greeks. Betrayed by a jealous priestess and sold into slavery, headstrong Dori loses her most valuable possession-her freedom. She hopes that one day she can truly be free, but not even Aesop, her mentor, can protect her. The harsh world of classical Greece has little use for the minds of women, and she finds her body traded to another owner, who transports her to a new life of luxury and political turmoil in the faraway deserts of Egypt. All she has to do is be beautiful, all she has to do is love him, and she will be kept safe. The problem is, Dori doesn't want to be kept--by any man. Not even the god-king Amasis, Pharaoh of Egypt. 

From the ancient Thracian temple of the Bacchae to the exotic lands of Egypt where political intrigue coils like a nest of asps, Dori learns that fulfilling her father's dying wish is not about bands around her wrists so much as it is bands around her heart. Based on persons and historical events of 26th dynasty Egypt, HETAERA fictionalizes the life of Doricha/Rhodopis--a most extraordinary woman who changed the world. 

Doricha is a young girl, destined to join the priestesses that honour Dionysus - the Bacchae.  But her world is thrown into torment as her Thracian village is attacked by Greeks, the young girl watches her father killed, and kills a man to escape.
The story follows her life from then on, shifting from one place to another, never feeling like home.

Hetaera is a story that sweeps across the ancient world of Greece, Thrace, Egypt, and all the countries that surround them.  It honours and respects each of these places and their customs, Coffey has painted a very real scene through which our heroine moves.
The Cinderella reference is a mild one, used to good effect.  It does not feel like Doricha's tale was forced to fit the bones of the fairytale; but when similarities crop up, it is enough to make you smile.

But not quite five stars for me.  It is very well told, but it was very hard to get into.  I know that the life of a girl whose father is murdered, followed by the betrayal of her priest and priestess tutors, followed by years in slavery isn't going to be a "nice" story.  But I felt that it was all dark, without light; and without that contrast, it took on a monotony that was hard to push past.  It is definitely one of those books that you need to be in the right mood to read.
The strength of the book hung on the shoulders of Doricha.  Unfortunately, I did not like the lead character for the most part.  I found her unyielding and selfish.  She was incapable of accepting her position, and unwilling to change it.  For years.
It was only when she hit her lowest point and arose as Rhodopis that I began to like her.  She suddenly had purpose, and saw those beyond herself.  The second half of the book flew by, because all of a sudden I couldn't put it down, just to see what happened to Rhodopis.
Luckily the first half of the book featured my favourite character, Aesop.  He was smart, and strong, and willing to stand for what he believed right, in a way he knew would make men listen, not rebel.

Even though the Pharaoh of Egypt is mentioned in the synopsis, and does play an important role in the story; he does not actually feature until the very end.  I felt that the anticipation of waiting for him to appear in the story did overshadow what went before.

Goodreads link

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