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Clytemnestra by Costanza Casati
Fantasy

Clytemnestra

Debut

We love supporting debut authors. Congrats, Costanza Casati, on your first book!

by Costanza Casati

Excellent choice

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Quick take

This warrior queen won’t tolerate disrespect from her king or anyone else in this biting saga of female vengeance.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_400

    400+ pages

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_GraphicViolence

    Graphic violence

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_BasedOnAClassic

    Based on a classic

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Siblings

    Siblings

Synopsis

For fans of Madeline Miller’s Circe, a stunning debut following Clytemnestra, the most notorious villainess of the ancient world and the events that forged her into the legendary queen.

As for queens, they are either hated or forgotten. She already knows which option suits her best . . .

You were born to a king, but you marry a tyrant. You stand by helplessly as he sacrifices your child to placate the gods. You watch him wage war on a foreign shore, and you comfort yourself with violent thoughts of your own. Because this was not the first offence against you. This was not the life you ever deserved. And this will not be your undoing. Slowly, you plot.

But when your husband returns in triumph, you become a woman with a choice.

Acceptance or vengeance, infamy follows both. So, you bide your time and force the gods’ hands in the game of retribution. For you understood something long ago that the others never did.

If power isn’t given to you, you have to take it for yourself.

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Content warning

This book contains scenes depicting sexual assault and mentions of suicide.

Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of Clytemnestra.
Clytemnestra

1

Prey

Clytemnestra looks down at the steep ravine but can see no trace of dead bodies. She searches for cracked skulls, broken bones, corpses eaten by wild dogs and pecked by vultures, but nothing. There are only a few brave flowers, growing between the cracks, their petals white against the darkness of the ravine. She wonders how they manage to grow in such a place of death.

There were no flowers down there when she was little. She remembers crouching in the forest as a child, watching the elders drag criminals and weak babies up the trail and throw them into the gorge Spartans call Ceadas. Down the cliff, the rocks are as sharp as freshly cast bronze and as slippery as raw fish. Clytemnestra used to hide and pray for all those men whose deaths would be long and painful. She couldn’t pray for the babies: the thought made her restless. If she walked closer to the edge of the ravine, she could feel a soft breeze caressing her skin. Her mother had told her that the dead infants lying at the bottom of the Ceadas spoke through the wind. Those voices whispered, yet Clytemnestra couldn’t grasp their words. So she let her mind wander as she looked at the sun peeping through the leafy branches.

An eerie silence looms over the forest. Clytemnestra knows she is being followed. She descends quickly from the high ground, leaving the ravine behind, trying not to trip on the slippery stones that form the hunting trail. The wind is colder, the sky darker. When she left the palace hours ago, the sun was rising, warm on her skin, and the grass was wet against her soles. Her mother was already sitting in the throne room, her face glowing in the orange light, and Clytemnestra slipped past the doors before she could be seen.

There is a sudden movement behind the trees, and the sound of crunching leaves. Clytemnestra slips and cuts her palm against the sharp edge of a rock. When she looks up, ready to defend herself, two big, dark eyes are staring back at her. Just a deer. She clenches her fist, then wipes her hand on her tunic before the blood can leave tracks for her hunter.

She can hear wolves howl somewhere far above her but forces herself to keep going. Spartan boys of her age fight wolves and panthers in pairs as part of their training. Clytemnestra once shaved her head, like a boy, and went to the gymnasium with them hoping to prepare for a hunt. When her mother found out, she didn’t feed her for two days. “Part of the training is to starve Spartan boys until they are forced to steal,” she said. Clytemnestra endured the punishment—she knew she deserved it.

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Why I love it

My favorite retellings are a bit like treasure-hunting in your childhood home—the familiar bones of the story are there but the shape has shifted to reveal a hidden jewel beneath. I keep turning pages long after I should go to bed, waiting for the moment where the story I think I know flips on its head. In Clytemnestra, Costanza Casati has done just this, delivering a sense of justice for the complex characters inhabiting her pages.

Clytemnestra is a warrior princess of Sparta. Although the men in her life treat her as property, she also sees firsthand the power of women and learns her own strength. So when her father schemes with King Agamemnon and his brother to kill Clytemnestra’s first husband and infant son, and forces Clytemnestra to marry Agamemnon, she never accepts it. And she never forgets. As Agamemnon’s brutality grows, ripping apart the lives of all the women she holds dear, Clytemnestra makes a choice.

It is the exquisite details that transform Clytemnestra from a deceitful, jealous queen into a strong, flawed woman who you can’t stop rooting for. If you enjoy Greek myths and retellings, Clytemnestra and her famous act of revenge are probably familiar to you—one scheming link in the tragedy that defines the House of Atreus. But here, she is so much more than that one act. Casati masterfully brings us into the heart of this hated queen, so we might see what burns inside her, and recognize her fiery spirit within ourselves.

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Member ratings (2,522)

  • Lisa S.

    Greenville, SC

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ I love this trend focusing on the female characters from mythology. Clytemnestra was a woman repeatedly betrayed by those close to her and her actions are a product of that suffering.

  • Samantha H.

    Marshfield, MO

    Beautifully written, the story of the vengeful queen Clytemnestra. Can you wear anger like another skin and still feel love? Can you still keep going after everything has been taken? ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Tiffany T.

    Austin, TX

    Such a beautiful retelling of Clytemnestra’s story. I loved that her motives were always clear but that she grew & remained complex. The plot & pacing was consistently good. A fantastic feminist take!

  • Abigail G.

    Westwood, MA

    Didn’t know this particular myth when I started to read, but I knew it had me captivated when I found myself googling all of the original myths around her and the adjacent characters, like Odysseus

  • Kelsey M.

    Beach Haven, NJ

    I’ve read so many versions of this myth and I do love the portrayal of the heroine here best! I loved her loyalty to Helen and her family, but also how fierce she is. I rooted for her and loved her!

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