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LOST IN THE LABYRINTH by Patrice Kindl

LOST IN THE LABYRINTH

By Patrice Kindl

Age Range: 12 & up

Pub Date: Aug. 26th, 2002
ISBN: 0-618-16684-X
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

The legends of Theseus and Icarus are here braided together in a historical novel imagined from the Cretan perspective. The 14-year-old Princess Xenodice keeps herself out of much of the intrigue of the court of Knossos; in this place of seething emotions and barely suppressed resentments she is more than content to be an observer. A loving, if sometimes exasperated sister, she does the bidding of her imperious older sister Ariadne—heir apparent to the throne—but manages to find time for her two pleasures: visiting with the handsome craftsman Icarus in his father’s workshop, and with Asterius, her part-boy, part-bull younger half-brother, in the Bull Pen at the center of the Labyrinth. But then the latest shipment of Athenian slaves arrives. The hairily uncouth Theseus and his vow to kill Asterius precipitate a chain of events that leaves Xenodice herself utterly alone. Kindl (Goose Chase, 2001, etc.) does a good job at imagining the setting, creating out of the wisps of legend and archaeology a fully realized matriarchy (an author’s note explains that this is her own hypothetical leap), a cultural and economic powerhouse that holds itself as vastly superior to the upstart Athens. Xenodice’s narrative, however, is overly formal, resulting in a frequently ponderous tone: “My head drooped; I stared at my feet. Never before had I desired another’s death. But now I was frightened. I did not know the precise nature of the danger, but my forebodings centered around the young Athenian.” Only very rarely is this tone leavened by the wry and clever wit that has marked the author’s previous novels, and although the story is certainly compelling, Xenodice is always somehow at arm’s length from the reader. Worth purchasing for the originality of the perspective and careful realization of the setting, it would do well paired with a new copy of Renault’s The King Must Die (cited as suggested further reading). (Fiction. 12+)