Epeolatry Book Review: Winter Harvest by Ioanna Papadopoulou
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Title: Winter Harvest
Author: Ioanna Papadopoulou
Publisher: Ghost Orchid Press
Genre: Greco-Roman Myth & Legend Fantasy eBooks, Mythology
Release date: 21st November, 2023
Synopsis: When her beloved daughter Kore vanishes, Demeter is distraught. Suspecting betrayal and mistrusting of her family, she searches across the world, unable to come to terms with such a loss. But Demeter is one of the original goddesses of Mount Olympus, and a force not to be underestimated. She is determined that she will find her daughter, even if it means destroying humanity in the process.
Winter Harvest is a brand-new, dark reimagining of the tale of Demeter and Persephone by Greek author Ioanna Papadopoulou. Steeped in lore and with a deep understanding of the many different facets of Demeter’s personality, this retelling will change your perspective on one of the most well-known stories of Greek mythology.
While the young goddess, Kore, is out picking flowers with her friends, she disappears. Demeter, her mother, searches frantically for her missing daughter. Eventually, she learns that Zeus gave Kore to Hades in marriage without even telling Demeter. Enraged, the Goddess of the Harvest plunges the world into the deepest winter. When the world is on the brink of extinction, Zeus finally relents and lets Kore (now Persephone) return to her mother. There is one caveat, Persephone must return to the underworld periodically to be with her husband because she ate some pomegranate seeds while she was in the underworld. This sparks the birth of the seasons–spring when Persephone returns, winter while she is gone.
The story of Hades and Persephone has been told and retold many times, but most stories I have seen focus on their romance with Demeter hovering in the background as a disapproving obstacle. In Winter Harvest, Papadopoulou brings the tale back to its roots by focusing on Demeter, like in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, our first written account of the myth.
But Papadopoulou’s Winter Harvest is more than a mere recreation of the hymn. Her mythological knowledge is vast and impressive. She begins with Demeter’s troubled birth and follows her existence as she struggles, first in the darkness of her father’s stomach, and then later under the thumb of Zeus. Her book is full of references that will delight any fan of Classical myth. Even though I studied and taught Classical mythology in the past, I had to look up some of the myths and characters the author weaves into this story.
The story was good, and her interpretation of the myths was both faithful to the source material and original, but what I enjoyed most were the depictions of the gods. I read a fair number of mythological retellings and it is difficult to get the gods right. Many times, the gods are either removed or reduced to simple cruelty. Papadopoulou’s Demeter is everything a Greek goddess should be – wrathful, powerful, beautiful, and complicated. Demeter is ruthless and arrogant, but also full of love for her daughter.
I also want to briefly touch on the depiction of Hera. Hera is a difficult goddess to feel sympathy for. Despite being the Goddess of Women and Marriage, she is often cruellest to the very women she is supposed to rule, particularly to her husband’s rape victims. Papadopoulou does not exonerate or excuse Hera’s behaviour, but she makes Hera a fully rounded character and even worthy of (some) compassion.
Like the goddess herself, Winter Harvest resonates with power, rage, passion, and love. I recommend it to any fan of mythology.
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Melody lives in Ontario, Canada and writes short, dark fiction. She has been published in several anthologies and online publications. In university, she studied Ancient Greek and Roman Studies and often infuses her work with elements of Greek mythology. She also loves reading, embroidery, and martial arts. You can follow her homepage at: https://www.blog.melodyemcintyre.com/