This is the sequel to The King Must Die a book I’ve read twice now, and generally think is a brilliant retelling of the Theseus myth. This sequel follows Theseus in his ascension to the throne of Athens, two marriages, many adventures, and son, and ultimately to his death. And for reasons that hard to pinpoint, I found it boring and disappointing.
The stakes of the first novel feel very high throughout the whole of it starting with the impending death of sentence of being the sacrificial king, to being sent to Minos to face the bull and the labyrinth to sailing back and not being sure what will await them upon return.
Instead, in this book, I don’t feel that same pressure or tension. And this book doesn’t quite pull off the closing of the story like in Beowulf, or a better example, the sadness and defeat of age and loss of name in “Ulysses” by Alfred Tennyson. What we’re left with instead feels like a greatest hits rundown of the remaining Theseus myths stretched thin through not giving any particular event enough space to develop into dramatic enough tension. The first book is 350 pages of 20 years, with a hyper focus on the final year, and this book is much shorter and covering a longer stretch of time. The thinness of the narrative suffers as a consequence of this scope. Who knows what happened, but I think the need to complete a story pulls a lot of authors into wrongheaded sequels.