The Gifts of Pandora
The winding road of fate unfolds …
In the last days of the Silver Age, the tyrant god Zeus takes whatever and whomever he wants with impunity. He has already torn Pandora from one home and now he threatens to destroy another. When he turns his wrath upon Atlantis, Pandora flees with the Titan Prometheus.
Despite her bitterness, Pandora finds a friendship she never imagined possible. But Zeus is not done with Prometheus, and what Pandora will face next will make all she has endured pale in comparison.
But Pandora has considerable gifts of her own, not least her cunning mind. When Zeus binds Prometheus, Pandora swears to turn all those gifts toward bringing Zeus down and saving her one true companion.
The Gifts of Pandora successfully manages to interweave Greek mythology with a compelling, gritty retelling of the story of Pandora.
This is my first introduction to Matt Larkin’s books, and I have to say that I enjoyed this inaugural foray into his writing.
The story itself is a retelling of the myth of Pandora’s box. However, this retelling successfully merges other characters from mythology and even other timelines to make it an intricately woven tale of love and tyranny.
When we meet Pandora, she is employed as a sex worker whose only goal is to service the needs of the men around her. She is bitter and resentful, especially due to the circumstances that has resulted in her current circumstances. As a child, her mother Europa was sexually assaulted and killed by the tyrant Zeus, and she was subsequently forced into servitude.
However, when she meets Prometheus, all this changes. When disaster (and when I mean disaster, I mean the eradication of the line of Pleiades by the God Zeus), Prometheus saves Pandora and takes her to his Aviary on his secluded island. From there, Pandora discovers that he is not like the other Titans and that he has no desires for her and actually wants nothing from her. Pandora is not used to this kind of treatment and subsequently a friendship grows between the pair.
The story is densely populated with figures from Greek Mythology. However, they are presented in a different light to what you would expect. Most of the gods that are in the book tend to be characterised as insufferably spoilt monsters that kill on a whim and have no regard for anything around them.
Zeus for instance, is a hateful, spiteful tyrant who is paranoid about his position as the God of Olympus. He kills with impunity and forces everyone to accept him as the Godlike figure that he sees himself as. He meters out punishment for no apparent reason and his view on the female of the species is that they are to be used and abused as he sees fit.
In fact, most of the male gods are like this.
In turn, most of the female Olympians are malicious and vile, and it is difficult to see them in the light of they had previously been cast in mythology.
The book is done from multiple points of view that span across characters and timelines. At first, this can be a little daunting as there is a fantastically large cast of characters, with the main one’s centring around Pandora in the Silver Age of man, and then alternating to Pyrrha in the Golden age. However other figures in mythology get to tell their points of view, such as Artemis, Athene and Kirke. And again, flitting along different timelines. At times this complexity can confuse the reader, but once you get used to the format of the story, it does become a little easier.
The Gifts of Pandora is not an easy book to read, primarily due to the massive cast and the alternating timelines. However, it is rewarding when you get used to it. Matt Larkin’s writing is immersive, and you become attached to the characters that it is telling the story of, particularly Pandora and Pyrrha and how they intersect through the various timelines.
Furthermore, Kirke’s story is equally intriguing. In the book, she is the manufacturer of Nectar, which in mythology is the divine drink related to Ambrosia, the food of the Gods. However, in The Gifts of Pandora, Nectar is a powerful narcotic that is outlawed by Zeus as it can bestow the power of the Gods on humans, and that is something that he definitely does not want. Kirke manufactures this on Prometheus’s island with Kalliope. However, she eventually has to move her base of operations when she is found out by Pandora, which leads to some disastrous results
Prometheus is a deeply introspective, benevolent individual who throughout the book is accepting of his fate (which we all know). But even that, in the hands of Matt Larkin is altered and twisted to fit his interpretation of the Greek Legends.
The story itself takes many different directions that I did not see coming, and in all honesty left me aghast. Particularly the ending, which I did not foretell at all.
The book is quite a dark book, and there are several references to sexual assault, although there are no graphic scenes. However, it does highlight the brutal and degrading view that the gods have of women. However, at the centre of the story there is a heartfelt tale of love and family in there that keeps you reading the story.
The story itself is complex and it is extremely well crafted. Especially how the timelines, whilst initially seeming quite disparate, eventually manage to converge and give an end to the story that took me wholly by surprise.