In Psyche and Eros by Lucy McNamara, when she is young, Psyche is given a prophecy that says she is destined to defeat a great monster. So her father has her train to shoot a bow, to fight, and generally be a hero. But when her beauty is compared to Aphrodite, the goddess grows angry, and sends her adopted son Eros to put a curse on Psyche. Eros, who is a bit jaded by seeing how cruel humanity can be (even with his gifts of desire), agrees—but the curse goes wrong, and Eros finds himself as the one cursed to fall for the first person he sees. Which is, of course, Psyche. Now that they’ve been thrown together, the two must see what might become of them, particularly as drama begins to unfold in Troy…
I feel like it’s been a while since I read a mythology retelling, and this was a pretty good one! I only vaguely remembered this particular story, which actually worked out pretty well, as there was some familiarity but it also kept me guessing.
Overall, I liked this, but I must admit it took me a while to get invested in the relationship between Eros and Psyche. Because Eros’ feelings for her are created by magic, and not by him actually knowing anything about her, I didn’t really care at first. Nothing was real between them, so why should it matter to me? Plus, because she is brought to his home against her will (I would say that’s spoilers, but it happens pretty early, and also this myth is a gazillion years old), she doesn’t have much choice in the matter either. I mean, neither one chose each other, so initially I didn’t like them as a couple at all.
However, I did warm up to them. Eros himself doesn’t bring her to his home (it’s a friend of his playing unsolicited wingman), and doesn’t shoot her with one of his normal arrows. He could have done either of those, but instead focuses on the fact that Aphrodite has it out for her and so she needs to stay in a safe place. Furthermore, he and Psyche actually take the time to get to know each other and bond without any significant expectations of having a relationship. So the affection that finally does grow between them feels genuine, and after that I was more on board.
All that aside, I like the characters. The protagonists are full of depth and complexity, and their chemistry is great. Zephyrus is intriguing and fun, a bit of a trickster. I also liked seeing other mythological figures featured, like Atalanta and Achilles, as well as several of the Greek gods and goddesses. There were some fun interpretations of several of their myths.
(Here’s a very minor quibble I had, though: At one point, I swear Psyche referenced her adrenal glands, and I’m baffled, because how does she know that term? I’m pretty sure that term was coined centuries if not millennia later. So it was kind of hilarious to hear them mentioned in this.)
Anyway, I quite liked this story once the two main characters started to get to know each other, and the things they have to go through are engaging. I wish that (okay, I’ll try to dodge spoilers here), toward the end, Eros had given Psyche a choice about a certain action, but I understand why he couldn’t. Still, since this is a retelling, it would have been easy to tweak the circumstances so that she had some authority in this situation. Sorry if this is very vague; I want to vent a little but also don’t want to give away any specifics.
Because, in the end, Psyche and Eros is quite a good novel! The romance doesn’t start in a good place but is allowed to grow and develop, and becomes something actually very lovely. The other characters are great, and the story is well written. The settings are vivid, and the action intense. Also, the two narrators of the audiobook do a fantastic job! It was an entertaining book that fans of Greek mythology will really enjoy!
Content warning: There is a section early on in the story where a character kind of seeks out death. I wouldn’t fully call them suicide attempts, as this is an immortal character who knows that they cannot die. It’s more an exploration of the concept of death, and how the character relates to it, rather than a desire to not be alive. But still, if you’re someone who is sensitive to topics related to dying or suicide attempts, this might be upsetting.
Psyche and Eros will be published on June 13th, 2023!