Radiant Darkness

Radiant Darknessby Emily Whitman

“Persephone.  Daughter of Demeter, the harvest goddess.  Kidnapped and forced to –”

Wrong! In every book of myths, the same; in every book, wrong!

Just once I’d like to set the record straight.

Persephone is trapped in paradise, closed off from the world by her overprotective mother Demeter.  When a mysterious, dark, handsome man finds his way into her paradise, Persephone is both scared and intrigued.  The mystery man continues to visit her and Persephone continues to meet him, never telling her mother of his invasion of her glade.  He finally reveals himself; he is Hades and he wants Persephone to come live with him in the underworld.  She agrees, leaving without word to her mother or her friends, with no thought of the consequences of her actions.  Persephone begins to carve out a new and happy life for herself in the Underworld, but on Earth things are not as happy.  Demeter is convinced that Hades stole Persephone against her will and is causing death and destruction on Earth in order to force Zeus to make Hades return Persephone to her.  When Persephone finds out what is happening on Earth, will she finally have the guts to stand up to her mother and do what is right?

Reaction: Much like the author, I always wondered if Persephone was really stolen, if she really hated her time in the Underworld or if there was maybe a bit more to it.  The romantic, positive person in me always hoped that Persephone actually enjoyed her time in the Underworld.  I think Whitman did a great job re-imagining this myth.  While I enjoyed the scenes between Persephone and Hades, the main focus of the book is on Persephone’s coming-of-age (as cliche as that may be).  When the story begins, Persephone feels stifled by her mother and unable to express herself.  Her mother tries to keep Persephone from growing up and still insists on treating Persephone as a child.  Hades is Persephone’s way out.  As Persephone gains her freedom, assumes more and more responsibility in her role as queen, and makes a friend with a new resident of the Underworld, a young woman who left her young child behind on Earth, she begins to understand how her sudden departure may have affected her mother.  She always assumed she meant nothing to Demeter, who always critical of Persephone and never allowed Persephone to go with her while she performed her rituals, but Persephone looked through her mother’s eyes and saw that many of her mother’s actions were driven by love.  While there certainly is romance in this story, it is mostly about a shaky mother-daughter relationship and growing from a child to a young adult.