I think maybe Greek mythology retellings just aren’t for me. I don’t think it’ll surprise anyone that the main point of all [insert culture here] retellings is to rebalance the agency, and give some / a lot of it to the characters that have traditionally been second tier, aka the women. Spinning Silver is one of my favorite books of all time! And it probably benefits from being only tangentially related to an existing story, such that there’s a wide expanse of story space for Novik to play in. As such, perhaps the issue is that within the defined framework of Grecian myths there doesn’t exist enough wiggle room for rebalance.
That’s, after all, most of what Ariadne learns, and re-learns, and re-learns over the course of this book. Odysseus is a unfaithful cad and gets an entire kiss-and-tell epic devoted to him, while Penelope is stuck weaving a bedspread for all of eternity. Prior to Emily Wilson’s The Odyssey, you’ve got whorish nubile young women traipsing around Ithaca; afterwards, it’s just so obvious that they’re enslaved villagers/spoils of war. Even Circe in Circe is stuck on an island herding pigs forever.
I think this book might actually be a really effective Greek tragedy for modern times–that despite all of the anachronistic fervor that Ariadne and her sister Phaedra bring to their lives, they’re cursed to end up in terrible marriages, now with the added benefit of being able to name modern day miseries like postpartum depression. I used to love reading D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths as a kid, but despite the fact that doing so isn’t actively harming anyone alive today they definitely read like an endless series of tortures.