Back to Homepage
|IT'S TIME YOU ADVENTURED THROUGH THE REAL LABYRINTH|
How did it feel to be alive—young, old, powerful or poor—in the last high-spirited, independent days of Minoan Crete? Was Ariadne the love-lorn naive princess from myth to Mary Renault, and Theseus of Athens a hero of liberation? What about notorious King Minos—was he the tyrant-father of a man-eating Minotaur, his Queen Pasiphae a reckless decadent? If Crete was neither evil nor a doomed utopia, what was going on here? In the lives of the flesh-and-blood families who saw the fall of the Bronze Age's "Vatican City," Knossos Labyrinth, the ancient Mediterranean unfolds: in nature's wonders and catastrophes, in Crete's sensual life-praising mysteries and festivals, in bone-crushing conflicts, intrigues, and struggles to go on—in human courage, joys and desperate hopes. A century of archaeology, and the author's 15 years of hunting down every trace of possible truth, make Ariadne's Brother a journey of life: an adventure to make you think it matters how we understand the world that launched our own.
READ CHAPTERS 1 & 2 ON-LINE
Part I - In the Lair of the Minotaur
Part II - Daughters & Sons
3 A Bull in the House 4 Who Teaches Whom? 5 End Game
Part III - The Offering
6 End of the World 7 Continuance
679 pages ISBN # 960-219-062-0
Order the complete e-book:
$10 (.pdf format only)
Green Man Magazine, #11, Winter 1996
by Diane Darling, Editor
I savored this book for months. I kept it by my bed and rarely would I turn out the light without first entering into the lost world of great Crete.
The story is told entirely in the first person, by Deucalion, brother/consort of the last true Queen of Crete. His story spans the beginning of the end of his world, through the agony of the ending, and on to the beginnings of cultural domination of Greek ideas, under which we yet labor, thousands of years later.
John (“Jack”) Dempsey has written this well-researched (and in its academic niche, well-respected) fictionalization of the beginningless time when men and women were partners in the world, when the gods were alive in every spring and mountain and the Queen’s heart. Striking is the balance of gender values: men are ornamented, poets, defenders, traders and clergy; so are women, who are also legislators, mercenaries, craftswomen, priestesses. The betweenish—eunuchs and fey folk—are powerful due to their union of opposites, and valued for their courage. In time the reader loses track of who is what, and finds the distinction mostly irrelevant.
By contrast, the “hero” Theseus, who is effectively Ariadne’s hostage, displays the usual signs of a hard life made brutal through testosterone poisoning. The Queen’s plans for him are inscrutable to a man who is heir to and deeply indentified with the rising militant city-state of Athens. The subtle refinements and gender equity of Crete he views as weaknesses, and, alas, he is correct. When the end is upon them, the Cretans, abandoned by their gods, have only their honor to sustain them, where as the Greeks’ honor restrains them not at all.
This is a book for a serious reader and a lover of ancient history. Complex, disturbing, subtle, with the ring of truth.
Shirley McLaughlin, Australian historical novelist, author of the acclaimed Billy Batchelor and The Prize and the Price, read the book in 2009:
Ariadne’s Brother is an intricate, tightly woven, multicolored tapestry crafted by an artisan who has lived a thousand years and is still not tired. The light, the shade, the gentleness and the almost unfathomable depth via the rippling undercurrents beneath and between the lines — and yet, the extraordinary clarity and currency of a story that takes us into the often-dark and brutal days of an age long gone. I’d never have left the teacher’s podium if we had books like Ariadne’s Brother on the curriculum.
March 10, 2006, by Alektryon Alexandros at "The Hellenic World" website:
The author apparently spent 15 years researching and writing this novel, and it shows. It's not a light or easy read, but it's an intriguing and rewarding one if you can get into it. It's told from the viewpoint of Deucalion, the brother/consort of Ariadne, the last true queen of Crete, and covers the struggle of the Minoans to maintain their ways of life against Achaian/Mycenaean domination and natural disasters. It's a complex, intelligent and subtle read.
January 27, 2010: "Five Stars For A Sad But Beautiful Story," by Duane R. Wirdel:
I have bought and read every piece of fiction and every piece of non-fiction on Minoan Crete I could get my hands on since I was in high school. This book is one of the best. It is not an easy read because Dempsey uses a style similar to Jack Kerouac's in On the Road. This novel, however, is well worth working through. It reflects the latest scholarship on the end of the Minoans, at least through the mid-1990's, and does not romanticize them. They were a wonderful, artistic people who understood that their wealth had to be defended with military strength and yes, sometimes they practiced human sacrifice and cannibalism...ancient humanity's way of communion with the gods. "The body and blood of Christ?"
Ariadne is a beautiful, graceful character who is willing to sacrifice everything she loves to preserve her people—even her life. She and the Minoans in general are depicted as a bit naive in thinking that sharing their technology will stave off Achaian aggression, but that is an entirely plausible idea and could have been what happened. The novel is sexual, but tasteful and within the boundaries of what we know about Minoan sexual practices. Ariadne is sexual and yet innocent, strong yet naive. I thoroughly recommend this book, and am personally going to try to find the author. It's an expensive purchase, but worth every penny.
June 16, 2010: "Love, War, Heroics, Good and Evil—A Good Read!" by Pennington Geis:
Like Ursula K. LeGuin, Dempsey takes us to worlds we never imagined, with characters we care about, and stories that resonate with today's issues. I read this when it was new, and find that years later, I keep thinking back to it. The book asks us to grapple with trying to understand the motives and methods of a culture so foreign that it is beyond us to even imagine the right questions. And to face up to the culture-crushing consequence. All in a good read! Love, war, heroine and hero, the building and crushing of empires, good and evil.
Using a new/old version of the Ariadne-Theseus myth was a brilliant strategy, bringing the power of myth and legend to the telling of new theories arising out of new archaeology and research. Choosing that moment to explore whether peace, kindness, generosity, and respect for all can resist force, greed, self-righteousness and authoritarian power was equally brilliant. And having Deucalion (Ariadne's mythical younger brother) narrate it all was a wonderful way to explore the ambivalence that even a sympathetic man might feel about a culture dominated by women. I can hardly wait to see how Deucalion casts the stones of the past behind him and gives the Cretans new life in promised lands. Relevant and timely—Bravo! Encore, encore!
Click Here to dialogue
with others about
|Back to Homepage|