Asterius & Thesius Walk Into the Light by Aaron Fown

Medium: ebook

SPFBO Status: Cut

Overview (No Spoilers):

As payback for actions that resulted in the death of a prince of Minos, Athens is forced to send seven boys and seven girls to Crete to face the horrors within their labyrinth. When these Athenians don’t meet the King’s arbitrary requirements, another group is sent off to appease Minos’s bloodlust. When this second group still falls short, the cycle continues. During one of the selection processes, the beloved prince of Athens draws the short straw. Rather than spark a rebellion by claiming his title makes him ineligible, Thesius is trained to fight and tasked with ending this madness instead. Aided by the gods, Thesius plans to slay the monsters lurking in Minos’s temple of darkness. Trust me when I say that what he finds there is beyond anything he could have imagined…

Released in April 2021, Asterius & Thesius Walk Into the Light is the first entry in the Asterius & Thesius trilogy by Aaron Fown. I found it to be a unique reimagining of the story of Theseus and the Minotaur. As Fown’s title implies, Asterius and Thesius are the main characters here, with Asterius reporting from the Minoan side of the conflict. The perspective alternates between them each chapter, with color-coded text (red and blue) included to help distinguish which character is currently being featured. While it’s easy to identify whose point of view is being described, there were instances where more effort was needed to piece together exactly who said what because the text rarely includes dialogue tags. That said, I particularly enjoyed the moments where the main characters seem to speak directly with the reader, adding humor or further context to previous moments.

Of the unlucky Athenians sent to be sacrificed to the beast in Crete, Miletta is my favorite, as she delivers the right amounts of levity and courage in stressful situations. She’s also involved in one of the many LGBTQ+ storylines hinted at and showcased throughout. As for other characters, the reader is treated to appearances made by centaurs, minotaurs, and Greek gods and goddesses along the way. Something that works well in this book is the interesting pairing of mythical beings alongside mysterious and futuristic machinery. However, it seemed like some things happen either too quickly or out of order, keeping tension from having enough time to build up before a solution presents itself. Overall, Fown’s novel is overflowing both with love and moments you will not see coming.

Additional Insight (Spoilers Abound!):

  • Is Thesius a demigod? Is his gift that he’s able to charm anyone he meets? Will he get to spend more time with his godly relatives in the future?
  • Did everyone in the hall voluntarily drink poison because they thought Bael would bring them back? Or did Minos add it to the wine because he wanted Bael to have souls to consume?
  • Why does the monster in the Labyrinth wait until Thesius and Asterius try to burn the place down before showing itself? Why not attack when the Athenians sneak into the palace?
  • Where does Ariadne go after opening the door? Does she survive? Had her mother explained that Asterius isn’t actually the god of death and harvest? Had Ariadne known that Asterius is a minotaur?
  • Where is Asterius’s brother that supposedly lives in the tower with Minos?
  • Where did the mechanical crabs, the armor, the god machine shield, the wand, the Sun Eye, and other tools come from? Other planets through Heaven’s Gate? Is that how the Minoans understand radiation and the solar system? How was Bael supposed to reopen it?
  • If Asterius and Thesius are dumping boxes of horrors into the sea, can Poseidon use them for something?
  • I want to hear more about what the centaurs have lived through.
  • Like in Greek mythology, is Minos the son of Zeus in this story?
  • Thesius trains in Thessaly with Chiron for years after being selected before actually sailing to Crete. Why is there so much time between selecting the 7 boys and 7 girls to send to Crete and reaching Crete? Chapter 1 mentions that this cycle happens every six years, so are they picked early to give the participants a chance to prepare and the families a chance to say goodbye?
  • I struggled with the many ‘anyone could have said this’ moments. Maybe they are meant to highlight the consensus of the group or the chaos of each situation, but it started to feel repetitive.
  • Similarly, I was taken out of the story each time Thesius said something to the effect of ‘I’ve never heard this word before, but I understand it based on the context.’ While it was interesting to emphasize the differences in their languages (like how many colors Cretans could name versus the amount in the Athenian vocabulary), it became more of a distraction from the topic at hand. That said, I did enjoy this bit: “Oh yes, I’ll get on writing a giant list of nearly identical words for you. I’ll call it a Thesaurus, in your honor.

Vocabulary Builder:

  • Apotheosis – the perfect form or example of something; quintessence
  • Bitumen – an asphalt of Asia Minor used in ancient times as a cement and mortar
  • Charnel House – a building or chamber in which bodies or bones are deposited
  • Gracile – slender, slight
  • Larder – a place where food is stored; pantry
  • Thurible – censer; a vessel for burning incense

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