I’ve been an admirer of Mr. Saberhagen’s for almost sixteen years, ever since I was first introduced to his Swords series. Fred’s skill at creating an entertaining and wonderful tale has only sharpened over the years. His stories have so much depth to them that they’re always a delight to read — they’re so vivid that they allow you to almost feel as if you are right there actually watching events unfold.
Ariadne’s Web is the Grecian myth of the Minotaur, which Fred Saberhagen has used his magic upon and breathed new life into. From the first sentence you are drawn into the wonderful world of gods and their powers, and the chaos which can easily erupt around them.
Minos, King of Corycus, is slain by his brother Perses with the aid of Shiva, the Destroyer. Before his death, Minos manages to summon a very ailing Dionysus for help, but in the end Dionysus is unable to aid the king in any way. One of the guards in the room during the murder, Alex the Half-Nameless, is in love with Ariadne, youngest daughter of the king, and finds himself forced to keep a silence that is liable to tear him apart.
Perses honours the god Shiva with many sacrifices, and takes nine maidens and nine men of affluent backgrounds for a special sacrificial honour. Among these is Theseus, a golden-haired prince who catches the heart of Ariadne. Not willing to let Theseus be sacrificed to the horrible Shiva, Ariadne appeals to the Minotaur for help, for if her younger brother cannot help her, who can?
The pair conceive a plan that allows Theseus to escape with Ariadne and a handful of others, including young Alex the Half-Nameless. Things manage to go awry, as they often will when the gods are involved, and the group is separated. Alex finds himself in the company of Silenus and Dionysus’ satyrs, sprites, and other beings. Apparently, the God of Nature and Revelry has died, leaving his “god-face” for Alex to put on.
This brings about an interesting question. If faced with the opportunity to actually find a god-face would you really want to put it on and become that god? If not for his love of Ariadne, the young soldier might have had a choice, but duty far outweighs fear. Thus is the previously inconsequential soldier transformed into a god, one who is new to his powers and must take the time to learn them.
Alex/Dionysus is befriended by the God Apollo, previously known as Jeremy Redthorn. The two find they have much in common, including a desire to keep as much of their human nature about them as possible, and they join together in the fight against the powerful Shiva.
Ariadne and Theseus endure much in their escape from Shiva and the Isle of Corycus, including being picked up by pirates. However, instead of these experiences pulling them closer together, they only serve to push them apart. Ariadne is put in grave danger, and Alex/Dionysus must master his newfound godhood in order to save her. This feat is far from simple for the young man.
Fred Saberhagen’s official website is here.