An overprotective and misanthropic mother, a rebellious teenage daughter, and a mysterious stranger with a purpose—this partly sums up the plot of Radiant Darkness, Emily Whitman’s debut young adult novel based on a famous Greek myth. A colorful retelling of Greek mythology, Radiant Darkness has the limelight on a great love triangle. Greek goddess Demeter once had a fateful union with Zeus, king of the gods, which ultimately resulted in Persephone, her beloved daughter. This immortal’s unshakeable love and devotion to her only child was proven by the lengths to which she went to retrieve Persephone from Hades, ruler of the Underworld and god of the dead. However, Whitman had a marvelous idea: what if Demeter’s attachment to her daughter wasn’t so selfless after all? And what if Persephone chose to live with Hades out of her own free will?
The author makes a point to always take her characters’ motives into account, which turns into a rather ingenious interpretation of “The Rape of Proserpine.” The author never reveals Persephone’s true parentage; in her version of the story, Demeter’s inclusive hatred of men strains her concern for Persephone with conditional love. This develops later on into an oppressive grip on Persephone’s freedom and limits her choices. Like the Greek deities described in Greek mythology, Whitman’s description of the Olympus council members ironically coincides with that of the Ancient Greeks. She purposely demonstrates that these emblems of supernatural power are unbelievably worse than humans in their unaccountability for their actions and their general immorality. This comparison can provoke laughter in its mockery of Greek mythology. How could humans have conjured up such ridiculous idols to worship?
To be continued…
Radiant Darkness is available in local libraries and bookstores in Fresno, and online.