Sunday Star Wars: Kanan First Blood – Comic Book Review

Somehow I managed to miss out on talking about the final issue of the previous volume, The Last Padawan, reviewed last week here. All the more power to me, as it was very open-ended – I’m lucky to be able to read both volumes practically in bulk, I’d have chewed my leg off if I had to wait for months at an end for the resolution of the Rebels side-plot at play.

First Blood reads like two of my favourite types of Star Wars stories – a typical Clone Wars TV series adventure wrapped up in a shorter, Kanan-centric Rebels episode script. The Clone Wars portion of this one is a direct prequel to the events of The Last Padawan, and sees the young Caleb strike a connection with Jedi Master DEPA BILLABA after her recovery from severe injuries at the robotic hands of GENERAL GREVIOUS*.

If this Clone Wars-era story were animated, it would most likely be a two-parter, the first one taking place on the Jedi Temple at Coruscant, the second seeing Caleb and Billaba battle against Separatist forces in the Outer Rim. The culmination here is a battle between Billaba and Grevious happening at the same time as Caleb faces off a Kabe Warrior, one of a race of grey-skinned humanoids encountered over one of Asajj Ventress’ arcs in the Clone Wars series. The Kobe warriors are proficient in the martial arts, and this one makes for an acceptable secondary antagonist.

Looks a bit like a some kind of a fallen Jedi, I thought upon seeing him first.

I continued enjoying every panel that showed Master Billaba – she’s at once vulnerable and resolute, and her connection with Caleb was fun to explore. Caleb himself – the young padawan boy, as opposed to Kanan, wasn’t anywhere near as interesting as in The Last Padawan, but that’s understandable. He goes through such a fascinating transformation

As for the Rebels sections, I enjoyed those well enough – seeing Kanan come to terms with what he went through over that first volume made for several excellent character moments, and I never say no to time spent with that delightful group of rebellious kiddos that is the Rebels cast.

What more is there to say? If you enjoy Star Wars, if you like Rebels and Clone Wars, this is a fun story with characters you already love. If you don’t…this isn’t going to win you over in any way. My score is a hint lower than the previous volume’s, at 3.75/5 stars.

*I don’t know why I suddenly began to mimic the opening crawl of a Star Wars movie but by Jim I like it!

The Girl and the Stars by Mark Lawrence – Book Review

Release Date: 21 April 2020
Published by: ACE
Genre: Fucked if I know. Fantasy, sci-fi elements.
Pages: 369
Format: Hardback
Review Copy:  Courtesy of the author.

The Girl and the Stars is a spectacular opening act to what promises to be one of the finest trilogies of this new decade*.

So many of my fellow bloggers have spoken to the quality of Mark Lawrence’s writing, a fact I have only the barest hint of experience with, in the form of Prince of Thorns, Mark’s debut. I had high expectations but… It’s no stretch to say that they were overcome, with remarkable ease, by this latest release.

I hesitate to call The Girl and the Stars a fantasy novel – chock-full with sci-fi elements, it reminds me of the writing of Zelazny and Gene Wolfe more than anything else in how seamlessly it falls under the cap of speculative fiction; the world is, though its characters might not realize it, a post-apocalyptic one. That’s the speculative fiction trifecta right there! Don’t draw any conclusions yet, though – Lawrence might make use of many different genre conventions but in doing so, he makes of them a homogenous mass. Otherworldly is a term often used for fantasy novels, rarely so apt as it is for The Girl and the Stars.

It is a triumph of the imagination, and a wonder. The characters are relatable and deeply human, even those you’d least expect to be. Helming the series is lead character Yaz, a young woman of the Ichta tribe torn away from her family and the life on the ice she has always known:

She lived a life in the jaws of the wind, her eyes trained to find meaning within a hundred shades of white and grey. She lived as a singular mote of warmth upon a vast and lifeless wilderness.

Yaz is forced into the subterranean darkness** of a hole in which the broken children of the tribes – those too different to survive the cold of the ice – are thrown. Lawrence does an excellent job creating a world in the throes of ice, a cruel surface that holds an ever-present danger…only to throw Yaz into a world beyond the one she could’ve imagined, and one she is unprepared for. How could anyone be prepared? The world below the ice is alien – warmer, holding buried secrets and ancient threats. But also the promise of a life different to the one Yaz has spent her whole life living.

I adore the abilities Yaz and those other survivors in the hole have, what Yaz thinks of as magic but is hinted to be something different at one time or another. Mark does a wonderful job introducing how each gift works, and then exploits all of them in unexpected ways at just the right moment. The results are nothing less than a series of thrills.

I admire the way the author shapes a culture like that of the Ichta early on: “Even in their tents they wore mittens anytime that fine tasks were not required. It was easy to forget that people even had fingers.” Look at the way he makes of these people something unique. Through describing so small a thing, he’s already differentiated the Ichta in a memorable way, and has introduced a motif that has an effect on Yaz throughout – skin contact. The prose is brilliant at this throughout – introducing small details and not just calling back to them but using them to the best effect imaginable, creating the illusion in the reader that every detail has some hidden meaning.

Lawrence does an excellent job in exploring several themes throughout the 370-page count of this novel. The questioning of the nature of compromise is present throughout – does survival in the harshness excuse the sacrifice of those who are born different or broken? That’s a question Yaz is drawn to time and again. She is also drawn towards the need to know herself, in a way that mirrors the obsession one of the most fascinating antagonists in the novel, Theus. Something else that haunts the pages is the mention of “fire and glory,” or “Greatness, torment and fire.” Look out for that one.

As for the ending…I have three words for it***: Such sweet torment. Questions linger, a score of them at least. It’s going to be a long wait until the next one – lucky for me, I have plenty of Mark Lawrence’s books to catch up on in the meanwhile. My score for this masterpiece is 6/5, 11/10! 

P.S. If you, like me, enjoy listening to music while reading books, a couple of soundtracks work wonders as background – Austin Wintory’s soundtracks for Banner Saga 2 & 3, and Piotr Musiał’s Frostpunk score.

*If Mr. Lawrence disappoints us down the line, I say we lynch him! Or, if that’s not your thing, write a strongly worded letter.

** This is incidentally the second excellent fantasy book telling the story of a young woman surviving underground through what seems at times sheer force of will I’ve read this year, the first being Rob J. Hayes’ Along the Razor’s Edge.

*** I have a lot more than three words, but the book hasn’t yet been released. I would, in fact, like to scream bloody murder – maybe in a couple of weeks? A deep dive? Do I hear an amen?!

Saturday Star Wars: Kanan The Last Padawan – Graphic Novel Review

I read this on the recommendation of a dear friend.

The first volume of Kanan, The Last Padawan is another excellent, heartbreaking story of the Jedi Purge and its consequences on those few padawans that made it through the cracks after Palpatine’s Order 66.

The first issue presents a very classic Clone Wars era story, with Kanan – his real name Caleb – fighting alongside Jedi master, Depa Billaba. I found the character of Billaba captured some of the finest in Jedi philosophy – her questioning the way the Jedi were forced into the command structure of the Republic’s army spoke to me of the underlying tension many of the wisest Jedi felt about their role in the Clone Wars. It reminds me of an older conflict in the universe, the Mandalorian Wars as spoken about in the video game Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II.

The character of Caleb Dune earned my sympathies time and again, in his fight to survive and leave his old self behind, forced to change for survival’s sake. It’s difficult to lose everything the way he does, to suddenly have every belief and creed you’ve held your entire life a threat to your life.

But onto lighter aspects of this first volume – the smuggler Janus Kasmir, the separatist general, I loved everything about both these supporting characters. Especially Kasmir, he had that “rogue with a heart of gold” nailed! *Spoilers* It was painful, though, seeing Caleb break with both of them, feeling he had to keep them safe by breaking the bond between him and them. */Spoilers* Such a funny thing, bonds – we define ourselves by them, but we often seek to break with them when we feel the need for change. Kanan wanted a break away from who he was – he saw that as his only way to survival; and so he did. It’s a small tragedy, but a tragedy nonetheless.

There’s an element that doesn’t quite make sense, now that I’ve thought on it – the two clones, former friends of Caleb and Billaba, doggedly chase the Jedi Padawan without any apparent oversight from Imperial authorities. I’ll chalk this up to the transition period between Republic and Empire but it’s still a crack in what is otherwise excellent storytelling.

I enjoyed Kanan – I loved the art by Pepe Larraz, and writer Greg Weisman does a very good job telling a fine Star Wars story, which offers plenty of context to one of Rebels‘ most likable cast members. My recommendation? If you’re looking for an action-packed story with plenty of fun elements, you can’t go wrong with this. My score for it is 4.25 stars. I will be reading Volume 02 soon!

Giant Days Vol. 02 by John Allison – Graphic Novel Review

If you missed out on my joyful review of the first volume of Giant Days, you can click here.

I barely began my reading of the second volume of the brilliant slice-of-life when already I found myself transformed by it! How, you ask – and I won’t just tell you, I’ll show you!

You see here how one Esther de Groot (my two-dimensional female self) denounces the monstrous injustices of modern, post-industrialist society, a system that seeps away anything and everything unique about human beings! RISE UP MY BROTHERS AND SISTERS, TO BLOODY REVOLUTION. It’s a funny pictury, is wot it is.

What happens in this second volume, then? The girls go to a Christmas prom before leaving for Christmas Break – for those of you unaware, before the corona, we had a little something called trah-veh-ling, I think, it’s been a long time – and off they go, enjoying their break; only, Susan gets in trouble with someone who has a grudge against her. Issue 06 is about the girls finding out just wot has happened to fierce, angry Susan, and, would you know it? Before too long, Esther has to use her drama field, the one we spoke about in the previous review.

Oh, and mustachio man threatens some guys with the most worker class threat I’ve ever read, and I love it.

Did I mention that he and Susan smoosh booties?

Meanwhile, the third one – wot’s her name again? She has a crisis of personality. Or is it a crisis of consistency?

Oh, I got it! It’s Petal.

…No, that doesn’t sound right. Anyway, I have to give it to Tulip here, she steals the show throughout the volume, especially when she transforms into a weird Texan who wants to smoke meats – don’t try that at home, kids, you can’t handle it – after watching plenty of Friday Night Lights. But Daisy’s greatest trait has to be her absolute commitment to whatever metaphor she makes use of:

All is well with Susan and Daisy, even as the two of them face myriad difficulties. At the core, they remain true to themselves.

Esther, however – she gets into a bit of a toxic relationship with a guy in his late 20’s, a TA in her English Lit class. I’ll not get into it, but by the end of it, our goth princess of doom’s got herself sorted, I’d say:

This manic grin’s wot I live for. It was entertaining to see lovey-dovey Esther, quite unhinged, though:

Well, then. This second volume’s got everything the first one had – the cheeky humour, the brilliant characters, the art that never fails to express said characters in ways thrilling and hilarious; in a word, the heart. This is another 5/5 read for me. Get it, read it, laugh your heart out. It’s therapy, and it works wonders.

And now, having pronounced this graphic novel fit to read, I go to my rest.

That’s right, it is!

Traitor’s Blade (The Greatcoats #01) by Sebastian de Castell – Book Review

This review originally appeared over at booknest.eu.

 It’s been months since I read Traitor’s Blade, and after deep consideration, I am ready to set out judgement from on high! Heed my words, all ye who have not read this one:

It’s quite good.

I have The Three Musketeers to blame for my love of swashbuckling tales of heroism, chivalry and political intrigue. Castell’s novel borrows heavily from Dumas’ classic, with its three muske—greatcoats, but it adds a little bit of magic, a dash of despair and misery, and plenty of hilarious, occasionally poignant dialogue. The result is a memorable opening chapter to an ambitious tale I look forward to exploring further.

Falcio val Mond is the First Cantor of the Greatcoats, the leader of a band of warriors meant to impose the King’s justice and hold the people of his realm to higher standards of justice. Only, the King is dead, his head rotting on a spike somewhere, and the Greatcoats are disbanded and loathed by all. I would not blame you if you thought, “Hey! That Falcio fella sure ain’t very good at his job.” I beg your pardon, but he is – you don’t know the half of it, and I am not about to explain it, that’d spoil the surprise! Falcio also happens to be the focalizer of the entire novel, and as the book progresses, both his present and past show us that Falcio is not to be fucked with. Why, oh why, do folks continue to insist that they must fuck with Falcio?

The prose isn’t the kind that’ll make your head spin with the ingenuity of its turns of phrase and complex figurative language – what it is offers plenty of thrills due to memorable sword-buckling, rapier-wielding, arrow-flying action. The other element that makes Castell’s prose memorable is the dialogue, especially between lead characters Falcio, Brasti and Kest. It is crackling, and a constant source of amusement. 

I’m fond of the characters – even the King, whose softness ultimately led to his death, I found myself liking. A minor character, the torturer, deserves commendation – Castell did something interesting there, and though I’ll save you the details, this is a character worth looking out for.

A very solid work on the audiobook by Joe Jameson – at almost thirteen hours, you need a narrator who knows what he’s doing and Jameson is just such a one. He’s got range, manages to give virtually all the cast unique and memorable voices. His voice grips you and doesn’t let go. I honestly couldn’t get enough of him, I must’ve listened through the book in two or three days. Apparently Jameson also does the Broken Empire audiobooks – might be that I’ve found myself a new narrator to look out for!

Five stars for the narration, four stars for the novel itself – I think I’ll bump this down to four stars despite my original rating of it – time gives a bit of perspective on that account, at least. What I didn’t necessarily mind at the time of listening to this, I now see as a lost opportunity – the worldbuilding leaves something to desire, and when I think of sections of the book, I come up blank.

You’ll enjoy this if:

  • You love the Three Musketeers;
  • You’re looking for adventure novels which tap into that delightful “fun dialogue + great action” combo;
  • You’re prone to walking around with the heads of your mortal enemies in sacks without remembering how those heads came to be in said sacks;
  • And more! Prob’ly.

Giant Days Vol. 01 by John Allison – Graphic Novel Review

This is my new comic book addiction, I just know it.

In this slice-of-life, first-year university friends and roommates Susan Ptolemy, Esther de Groot and Daisy Wooton have plenty to teach us about friendship, relationships and comedic timing. Also, holding grudges against moustachioed men.

In this story of doom and wonderful drama, Esther de Groot teaches us how to be goth as fuck.

In this adorable comic book by acclaimed comics creator, reality is rendered in a chortle-inducing way, thanks to likable leads whose vastly different personalities give birth to no end of misadventures. I am 99% sure that Esther is my long-lost, two-dimensional twin sister, with all the doom and gloom I’ve ever had at my disposal, and then some.

Esther is so much fun.

Italian doctors sure haven’t.

SO.

MUCH.

FUN! …And did I mention that she can also infiltrate the middle classes when she’s not busy melodramatically dying of some virus?

Esther is brilliant. Every single panel with her is gold. Ohyesitis! But! And this is real important — Susan and the other one are just as cool!

Okay, almost. I like wotshername, flower girl–Daisy, that’s it!– I like her drug-seeking behaviour. Strong role-models are important in these difficult, divisive times!

I love Polish medicine, too, Daisy. But be careful, once you run out of them–oh, no. Oh, it’s too late, innit?

At least the penguin ain’t talking back, is it?

And Susan?

Susan’s got that sly wit I’m crazy about. She’s the one with her feet firmly parted on the ground, the realist who looks out for her baby girls like a mama pigeon – hah, topical! – and she does a wonderful job of it.

…Most of the time.

It’s remarkably difficult not to fall in love with these three friends – and I, for one, have fallen head over heels for them and their whacky adventures. I’ll be digging into the next several volumes of Gone Days, and with everything else John Allison has done.

Also, the art is ace. Every panel is gorgeous.

I might be using Giant Days to work through some coronavirus-related ennui. Thanks for bearing with me.

Star Wars Sunday: Wot I’ve Got to Catch Up On! Comics and Books!

No matter how widely you read, there’s always new Star Wars titles to check out. I have no ambition of reading all of them; I don’t even have the desire to do so. Not all Star Wars releases are good – something the latest movie has reminded us all too well. But I refuse to dwell on the bad *glares in Mickey Mouse*; instead, I will look to works in the universe which might be worth looking at over the next few weeks!

Star Wars Kanan

I haven’t seen all of Rebels! If that’s not a reason for a black mark in my nerd resume, I don’t know what is. Maybe what I need is a shove…maybe what I need is to read more about one of the show’s main characters – Kanan.

Or maybe I’m going to read this because someone requested that I do, a unique new connection I’ve made, a young personage of unquestionable taste and one with whom I cannot wait to discuss every last page of this.

Dark Disciple by Christie Golden

Asajj Ventress is one of the most memorable characters of the Clone Wars era. Her evolution from Dooku’s apprentice and assassin to a suave bounty hunter should’ve seen its conclusion over an eight-episode arc in the last season arc of the

I was hoping that maybe Disney would animate part of this novel now that they brought back the Clone Wars for one last season but when I found out they would only be doing a 12 (13?) episode run, that hope was quickly dashed. Now that I’m finally catching up to the sixth season of the Clone Wars, the time is right to look to this novel, adapted into a proper story by franchise veteran writer Christie Golden.

Mace Windu: Jedi of the Republic

I’m not sure this title should be on the list.

The reason is, the art of this particular run is beyond bad. Look at Windu’s face in the third panel, in the last panel:

The droid’s fine, I guess…

I’m sorry, but this isn’t stylized, it’s just bad.

That said, I’ve heard the writing isn’t half bad, and I genuinely, unironically think old Mace is a badass – so I might bite the bullet and read through this. Plus, the cover art isn’t half bad:

A few Doctor Aphra Volumes

I love Aphra – even though she doesn’t carry a story as well on her own two feet as when she plays a second fiddle to Vader, this amoral archeologist is one of my favourite post-Disney additions to the universe, and her misadventures are a ceaseless source of entertainment. Last I read about Aphra, she had ended up in a well-guarded Imperial prison; I have to wonder, however will she get out?

This would be a great time to catch up with Aphra, as a brand new ongoing series is set to release anyday now! Or has it released already?

The New Darth Vader Run

Kieron Gillen’s Vader run is my favourite Star Wars comic book ever, closely followed by Soule’s take on the character post-Episode 3. Both were 25-issue runs, both had amazing art and fantastic character moments, and I can’t recommend them enough.

This new run has an intriguing concept – something-something, Vader is working with someone who looks like Padme Amidala – what, why, how?! No clue. I would like to find out, though. Yes, I very much would.

That said, I’m not sold on the interior art – compared with the two previous runs, this one leaves a little something to be desired. I’ve only seen a few pages, but this one will take me some persuadin’.

Which of these are any good? Which suck? Find out over the coming weeks and months, right here, on my Sunday (or Saturday!) Star Wars column!

Vengeance, Bloody Vengeance: Medea by Euripedes (Reading With the Greeks # 01)

I’m making a point of examining the great surviving tragedies of Ancient Greece. The time was right, I knew, when a Signet Classics edition of Euripides: Ten Plays looked at me invitingly from a shelf in the Sofia Airport bookstore this January. It’s a wonderful pocket edition, and it set me back by three euro. My piece of advice? Never miss out on a brand new book full of Ancient Greek goodness for this low a price.

In Medea, the tragic could not be of a more personal nature. This is a tale of a woman scorned, a wife betrayed by the father of her children, for whom she’s spilled the blood of countrymen and kin alike. Medea, child of king Aeëtes of Colchis and granddaughter of Circe, grew up in the territory of present-day Georgia. The easternmost shores of the Black Sea were, to the Hellenistic people, a “wild place” (Paul Roche, Introduction to Medea). Though she bears the blood of the sun god Helios, she is foreign to the inner world of Ancient Greece.

Having taken with Jason and his Argonauts, and aided the hero in his quest, Medea comes to the Hellenistic world proper a barbarian princess. Having butchered her brother and thrown the scraps of his corpse overboard to dissuade Aeëtes from pursuing the Argonauts, she has paid the blood price of loving the hero, Jason:

How dare they do to me what they have done!
O my father, my country, the land I abandoned,
Flagrantly killing my brother!

p.342, Euripides, Ten Plays, Signet Classics

Her rewards seem every inch worth this first blood sacrifice – she is married to the hero, and bears him children, two boys, no doubt a source of pride for any father. At the prologue of the play, the Nurse says about Medea’s role as a wife:

exile though she came
and been in everything Jason’s perfect foil–
in marriage that saving thing:
a woman who does not go against her man.

p. 337

What, to a hero’s ambition and thirst for riches, is a wife who can only offer “in everything [a] perfect foil*”? Jason’s eventual betrayal is designed to further his position – through marriage to princess Glauce of Corinth, he becomes the de facto inheritor of the great Greek kingdom. The beautiful young bride does not hurt, either: “This father does not love his sons. He loves his new wedding bed.”(340)

This is where Euripides’ tragedy picks up at, with Medea furious at the betrayal: “Don’t approach. Beware. Watch out || For her savage mood, destructive spleen; || Yes, and her implaccable will.”(340). The depth of this betrayal has driven her mad, or perhaps the need for recompense has. Looking at her children, hers are the “eyes of a mad bull.” (340)

Soon after the ruler of Corinth, King Creon himself, comes to her doorstep to order her and her sons banished from the kingdom on pain of death. His reason is “Fear…|| I’m afraid you’ll deal my child some lethal blow || … You are a woman of some knowledge || Versed in many unsavory arts.” (346) Medea time and again attempts to earn herself some small respite and eventually wearing him down and earning herself until the following dawn. It is a decision that will cost Creon, as he suspects when he at last takes pity on her:

My soul is not tyrannical enough.
My heart has often let me down . . .
So now, Medea
Though I know I take a false step:
have it your own way.

349

Creon’s hope that a day won’t be enough for the savage sorceress to perpetrate her ill intent against his daughter is foolhardy. Medea says as much once he leaves, in a speech I can only describe as bordering on the gleefuly wicked:

Friends,
I can think of several ways to bring their death about.
Which one shall I choose?
Shall I set their house of honeymoon alight,
or creep into the nuptial bower
and plunge a sharp knife through their innards?

No, there is a surer way,
one more direct;
for which I have a natural bent:
death by poison.
Yes, that is it.

350

Perhaps this is one of those main sources from whom the notion of poison as a woman’s weapon comes from? Certainly, it would make sense, particularly with what Medea tells herself at the end of this lengthy monologue: “Besides, you are a woman: || feeble when it comes to the sublime || marvelously inventive over crime.” (351) It’s a fascinating monologue this early on, one that shows at once the hurt of betrayal, the impish delight at the prospect of vengeance and the marginalised identity of Medea as a woman. I’m partial to these four lines in particular:

See how you are being treated
laughed at by the seed of Sisyphus and Jason:
you, the daughter of a king
and scion of the Sun.

How fucking good is that?! See the wounded pride, see how it urges her on, forces her hand to action like a thorn embedded deep in the heart of a wound. When Jason comes to try and persuade Medea to leave without creating any trouble, it’s like pouring gasoline on that self-same wound.

The scene, in the second episode of the play, is the first thing that’ll come to me whenever I think of gaslighting from now on. Jason explains:

Yet in spite of everything,
and patient to the last with someone I am fond of,
I come, Medea, to do what I can to help.

353

This is unusual cruelty, masked as benevolence. Before these words, Jason blames Medea for her words, tries to shame her, even – but she will neither be shamed or cowed by this oath-breaker:

Monster —
an epiteth too good for you.

This is not courage.
This is not being brave:
to look a victim in the eye whom you’ve betrayed
–somebody you loved–
this is a disease and the foulest that a man can have.

353

But hypocrisy is not so easily cured. Jason, who at one point claims that Medea’s sacrifices are far less compared to what their marriage has given her, eventually takes his leave, having done nothing so much as rekindling Medea’s fury to new heights.

She concocts her plan – the exact way in which she will take the life of Jason’s new bride. But this is too small a price to pay – and here, finally, is revealed the full depth of Medea’s severity:

But now, my whole tone changes:
a sob of pain for the next thing I must do.
I kill my sons–my own–
no one shall snatch them from me.
And when I have desolated Jason’s house beyond recall,
I shall escape from here,
fly from the murder of my little ones,
my mission done.

365

It is an unnatural act, a mother killing her children – yet Medea, in her savagery and her connection to the sun god Helios**, is bound to laws different and more ancient than those of the Ancient Greeks. Natural laws, what professor Daniel N. Pederson calls in his Great Ideas of Philosophy the law of revenge, “when the chthonic gods of the earth held sway…and the pleadings of the heart trump the demands of rationality.” Passion in this extremity is madness to the Ancient Greeks, and to us. To Medea, it is a power she cannot contest. It’s in her blood; the same force that bid her hack her brother to pieces for her lover now sees her commit an even more horrendous act to punish Jason – and, in a twisted way, reclaim her children. I repeat, again: “I kill my sons–my own– || no one shall snatch them from me.”

Medea, then, is aware of the personal cost of vengeance, and willing to pay it. Here is a woman capable of ruthlessness and savagery unimaginable to the Greeks, first stealing the lives of Jason’s new bride Glauce, and of her father Creon (the same Creon of Antigone fame), through deception worthy of the granddaughter of the sea witch Circe. Then, when the time comes to act, Medea has a moment of pure reflection:

The evil that I do, I understand full well.
But a passion drives me greater than my will.
Passion is the curse of man: it wreaks the greatest ill.

One of the greatest tragedies of this play is that this realization changes nothing. Medea goes through with it, her vengeance complete. She stays in Corinth just long enough to see Jason come to grips with her vengeance before flying off on the chariot of Helios, pulled by a pair of dragons, denying the father of their dead children even the last goodbye that comes with burying them. The play closes with the Chorus of Athenian women questioning the will of Zeus, wondering why the Olympians have willed this terrible thing to happen, as a disconsolate Jason walks away.

Medea is one of the tragedies of Ancient Greece in which a woman is imbued with the autonomous power to take her destiny in her own hands and deliver blow after blow to the one that has so abused her. It’s more than just a tale of vengeance in the face of infidelity. Medea doesn’t speak for herself alone – her voice is often the voice of the silent masses of women wronged and oppressed by men:

Of all creatures that can feel and think,
we women are the worst treated things alive.
To begin with,
we bid the highest price in dowries
just to buy some man
to be dictator of our bodies.
How that compounds the wrong!

p. 344-345

Hers is an extreme response brought about by the mute suffering of the many before her, a shout of warning and protest in the face of a time in which women are forced into what Pederson calls “a position of reclusive subservience.” It reflects the understanding of the Greek tragedians about the destructive powers of eros, erotic love; but it offers us also a different reading, one which seems not as alien as it first might.

Thanks for reading my essay! You should, without a doubt, read Medea. Me, I think I’ll tackle The Bacchae next!

*I wonder if the notion of the wife as her husband’s perfect foil is drawn out from the Ancient Greek and/or Platonic notion of man and woman as constitution one whole?
**Though I say “god,” Helios is of the older generation of pre-Olympian gods, the titans.