I confess I haven't finished the audiobook yet for Stone Blind, written and narrated by Natalie Haynes, but it's based on Greek myths so I'm sure everyone is happy in the end and no one dies.
Okay so. I was not expecting much from this, for the very simple reason that Madeleine Miller's Greek retellings knocked my socks off, and Claire North has a retelling out recently that I expect will additionally knock my socks off, and there's only so much room for talent to go around.
Oh I was wrong.
Haynes is funny, let's get that out of the way first. The section she wrote from the perspective of a crow had me clawing at my throat for more air, I was gasping so hard. Or here's this bit from the perspective of an unnamed Nereid:
"Mortals have a word for this kind of arrogance, the kind that makes a person think she can compare herself favorably to a goddess. The word is hubris. And while I am all in favor of using precision to describe something, might I suggest that you would be better off not doing something so dangerous so often that you need a specific word for it. Perhaps develop your self-control rather than your vocabulary."
Contrast that to the section where the gods of Olympus were marching to war with the giants. It's told from the point of view of Athene and I swear I felt an emotion I can only describe as battle lust. I wanted to march with some comrades in arms and hit something. For the record my typical emotional response to anything is crying a lot.
I was never much into the gods when we studied classical antiquity in high school English. I found them capricious and arbitrary. Haynes maintains these flaws while making them believable.
As for her prose: follow me for any time and you will find I am insufferable about word-smithing. I have such unforgiving standards. And here I was listening to the prose and wondering if maybe I could write like that, if I worked hard at it.
As for the narration: it is perfect. Haynes is not a voice actor and doesn't bother attempting different voices for different characters but it doesn't matter. She's so expressive with each one. And she has the type of English accent that is kryptonite for American listeners. Occasionally Medusa comes out as Medus-er.
p.s. It's also a fine time to listen to Tom Waits singing "Stone Blind Love."
When Covid first hit, I started doing book talks on social media as a way to keep in touch with people. I never got out of the habit. I don't discuss books by my clients, and if I don't like a book, I won't discuss it at all. While I will sometimes focus on craft or offer gentle critical perspectives, as a matter of professional courtesy, I don't trash writers. Unless they're dead. Then the gloves come off.