For the Immortal by Emily Hauser

This is the third book in Emily Hauser’s Golden Apple trilogy, which gives a voice to some of the women from Greek mythology. The three books are connected but also work as standalone stories so it is not essential to read them in order. Having enjoyed the first two novels, For the Most Beautiful (the story of Briseis and Krisayis during the Trojan War) and For the Winner (about Atalanta, who joined Jason and the Argonauts on their quest for the Golden Fleece), I was pleased to be offered the chance to take part in the blog tour for the third and final novel, For the Immortal.

At the beginning of the novel, we learn that Alexander, the heir of the King of Tiryns, is dying. His sister, Admete, has some knowledge of healing, but her skills alone are not enough to save Alexander; the only possible cure will be found far away in the Garden of the Hesperides. And so Admete persuades her father to let her accompany her friend Alcides on his upcoming journey to the land of the Amazons, where he has been given the task of obtaining the belt of the Amazon queen, Hippolyta – one of twelve labours he must complete if he is to achieve his goal of becoming immortal. Admete hopes that the Amazons will be able to help her find the cure – the golden apple – that she seeks, but she also has another reason of her own for wanting to meet this legendary tribe of female warriors.

For the Immortal is written from the perspectives of both Admete and Hippolyta, alternating between the two. They initially seem like unrelated stories, but after a while they begin to come together very effectively. The two women are very different people, with different backgrounds and ways of life, but they encounter similar obstacles and attitudes as they each try to succeed in a world very much dominated by men. At first I was slightly disappointed by the negative portrayal of the male characters who are central to the novel, but looking back I think it made sense in the context of the story.

As with the first two books in the trilogy, we also spend some time with the gods as they look down on the mortal world, observing, interfering or trying to help, depending on the outcome they are hoping for. I loved this aspect of the book; the conversations between the gods gave me a lot to think about regarding the differences between fate and personal choice, and what it truly means to be immortal.

The novel combines elements of several myths: the Labours of Hercules (you will have guessed that Alcides is another name for Hercules); the story of Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons; and the adventures of Theseus, who joins Hercules on his voyage. I was fascinated by Emily Hauser’s notes at the end of the book where she explains the choices she made in deciding which myths and characters to include and how to interpret them – I was particularly interested in what she had to say about Hippolyta and her two sisters. Although I only have quite a basic knowledge of Greek mythology, I’m finding that one of the most intriguing things about it is that there are so many different versions of the myths that no two authors or historians will interpret them in exactly the same way.

I really enjoyed this book; it brings the trilogy to a satisfying close and, although I’ve said that you can certainly read it without having read the first two books, I do recommend reading all three. I think my favourite was the middle one, For the Winner, but I liked them all.

You can find out more about this book by visiting the other stops on the blog tour. Here is the schedule:

Thanks to Transworld for providing a copy of this book for review via NetGalley and for arranging the tour.

This is also book 1/20 from my 20 Books of Summer list.

15 thoughts on “For the Immortal by Emily Hauser

  1. Judy Krueger says:

    This sounds like another great novel about the Greeks and their gods. Currently I am trying to decide whether to read more books based on the Greek myths (I recently finished and love Circe) or to go into Irish fiction for a while.

  2. Lark says:

    All three books in this series sound good, but it’s the Atalanta story that intrigues me the most. For some reason her story was one of my favorites growing up. 🙂

    • Helen says:

      I never used to be very interested in Greek myth either, but I’ve read a few books recently that I’ve enjoyed, including both of Madeline Miller’s.

    • Helen says:

      Hercules (or Alcides as he is called in this book) doesn’t come across too badly, at least in comparison with some of the other characters, such as Theseus. We only get to know him from the perspective of Admete, though, and she sees mainly his negative side. I’m sure there are other books that give a more balanced portrayal of Hercules.

      • Jim Harrison says:

        Ok thanks for the reply. It seems in Emily Hauser crusade to bring the under used female characters of mythology to the forefront she ends up villainizing all the male hero. Like I heard she did with Jason. One more question if you don’t mind. In ” For The Winner ” who wins the foot race? I asked so many people and haven’t gotten an answer yet. Whoever wins is going to determine whether or not I’ll buy the book. Thank you for your time.

        • Helen says:

          The foot race in For The Winner is won by Hippomenes, after Atalanta is distracted by the golden apples – which is the same as the standard version of the myth. Hauser’s portrayal of Hippomenes is a lot more positive than some of her other male characters.

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