STARFALL by Michael Cadnum


Phaeton and the Chariot of the Sun
Age Range: 9 - 14
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A classic cautionary tale, the first of a proposed trilogy based on Ovid’s Metamorphoses, is stripped of its moral. Phaeton is truly blessed by the gods: graceful, handsome, swift of foot, valued by his stepfather, beloved of his mother and sisters, idolized by his cousin. Yet he remains becomingly modest, dutiful, and content—until a thoughtless taunt from a jealous rival sends him into a spiral of self-doubt and adolescent bravado that can be resolved only by demanding a fatal token of favor from his true father, the sun-god Apollo. This lapidary retelling remains mostly faithful to its source, the polished archaic diction enlivened by touches of sun-drenched sensuality. But while fleshing out mythological archetypes into sympathetic characters grants the tale greater poignancy, it robs it of meaning. To make Phaeton likable, devoid of his overweening hubris, devolves his story into a senseless family tragedy, and the fate of his loved ones becomes needlessly cruel. An original grace note palliates somewhat the grim conclusion; but for all its elegance, readers are left with only a sense of exquisite grief. (Fantasy. 9-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2004
ISBN: 0-439-54533-1
Page count: 128pp
Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 2004


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