Tracy Barrett’s “Dark of the Moon” Takes a Fresh Look at the Myth of the Minotaur
When ancient Greek travelers returned home from visiting the powerful island of Crete, whose citizens worshiped a god in the form of a bull and whose priest wore a bull costume during rituals, they garbled the facts and came up with the marvelous story of the Minotaur, a half-man, half-bull who devoured human children.
Their inaccurate but exciting retelling of Minoan beliefs gave the world one of its most popular myths. Now, Tracy Barrett, a specialist in historical fiction set in the ancient Mediterranean, reimagines the shadowy world that gave birth to the legend in her new novel, Dark of the Moon (Harcourt Children’s Books).
Barrett imagines the world of the Minoan civilization, where the moon goddess rules and where a deformed and nearly mindless man, confined under the palace for his own and others’ safety, is feared as a monster. Feared by everyone, that is, except his beloved sister Ariadne, and eventually, Prince Theseus of Athens, who has been sent to kill him.
Told in alternating points of view by Ariadne, a lonely teenager who is also priestess of the moon, and Theseus, who has rediscovered his father only to be sent by him to almost certain death, Dark of the Moon explores the issues of love, faith, and betrayal, retelling the myth of the Minotaur as never before.
The two narrators face issues that today’s teenagers can recognize. Ariadne must decide what her obligations are toward her heritage and her religion. Theseus must discover how much he owes his absent father, his neglectful mother, and his kind stepfather.
Like Barrett’s King of Ithaka, a retelling of Homer’s “Odyssey” from the point of view of Odysseus’s son Telemachos (Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, 2010; starred review, School Library Journal), Dark of the Moon examines the nature of love, family, belief, and responsibility in a way that resonates with young readers today. Both books are rich in accurate historical detail and intriguing characters, and both explore the issue of how tales are created.
Dark of the Moon has received a starred review from Kirkus Reviews, which calls it a “world and story both excitingly alien and pleasingly familiar.” School Library Journal says, “This retelling of the myth of the Minotaur is deft, dark, and enthralling,” and Publishers Weekly asserts, “Barrett offers clever commentary on the spread of gossip and an intriguing matriarchal version of the story. Fans of Greek mythology should appreciate this edgier twist on one of its most familiar tales.”
Tracy Barrett first visited the island of Crete on a study tour as a student at the Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies. She is the author of numerous novels for young readers, including the popular Sherlock Files series. Her nonfiction includes The Ancient Greek World (The World in Ancient Times, Oxford University Press). Tracy was the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators’ Regional Advisor for the Midsouth from 1999 to 2009 and is now SCBWI’s Regional Advisor Coordinator. She was awarded the SCBWI Work-in-Progress Grant in 2005 and a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1994. She is an alumna of the Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies in Rome and holds a B.A. with Honors in Classics from Brown University, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Medieval Italian Literature from the University of California at Berkeley. She lives in Nashville, TN, where she teaches at Vanderbilt University.