A world of freedom, where our destiny is our own, and not determined for us – Emily Hauser.
Ancient Greece, gods, goddesses, warriors and legends are all pieces of history that I have adored in one way or another. From the old movies that Mum would watch on a Saturday afternoon, to the newer Hollywood blockbusters, the original stories of Homer’s Odyssey and Carol Ann Duffy’s rewriting of women from Greek classics. Basically, I’m a history nerd, as well as a book worm. When I saw Hannah’s tweet from Penguin Random House, I had to get my hands on Emily Hauser’s For The Winner.
For The Winner is a tale of the young woman, Atalanta, who was left to die as a baby on top of Mount Pelion under a thunderous sky. She was taken in by a farmer and his wife who raised her as their own in a little town called Kaladrosos. Here, she taught herself how to hunt, how to make her arrows fly from her bow with ease, how to run faster than any man, woman, or child in the world. She was a warrior from birth; headstrong, kind and courageous – all the qualities of a true king if she were a man.
On her eighteenth birthday, Atalanta finds out that she is an orphan; she sets off on the adventure she had always dreamed of – fighting alongside the famous warriors of Greece, shooting her arrows, allowing herself to have the freedom of a man. However, she must dress and act like a man in order to survive, and to prove herself to her real father.
From the first word, For The Winner is deeply descriptive. You completely enter the world as if the words are flung up around you, immersing you into a time travel machine and whisking you back to Ancient Greece, specifically 1260 BC. You can feel the soft feathers of the arrow against your cheek; smell the thunder as Poseidon’s clouds roll into view; taste the salt from the spraying sea as you heave the oars to and fro. Hauser’s words truly capture you, and the feeling of adventurous exhilaration is prominent throughout the novel.
I feel like this is an incredible time for this book to be released with the adoration of Wonder Woman at the moment. Atalanta is a wonder woman in her own right. She can fight alongside any man – lord or warrior – treat her peers – slave or not – with the utmost respect and protect those who cannot defend themselves in the way they wish to. She is mortal, with no godlike powers although the gods and goddesses themselves believe it to be true. She goes beyond the boundaries, breaking them in defiance because she believes it is her fate to take the Golden Fleece from under the nose of Jason and his Argonauts. This story, however, goes beyond fate and becomes a story about choice.
I particularly loved the snippets of Mount Olympus. Seeing and hearing the ancient gods and goddesses fight and quarrel made me see a different side to the Ancient Greece we see in Disney films and learn in school. Here, it was almost like the gods and goddesses have simple human qualities: jealousy, envy, anger, suspicion and rivalry which was of course taken to a height worthy of only the gods. They were worse than some of the mortals that they despised so much, trying to throw them off the course of their fate, or indeed, trying to break them down to turn their backs on choice.
The friendship and loyalty between comrades has to be noted in this review because some of the moments shared between Atalanta and Myrtessa, or later Atalanta and a certain male (I don’t want to give it away!) are beautiful, and the kind that you hope to repeat in your daily life. Of course, in daily life, we are lucky to not be faced with an arrow in our hearts or left to be savaged in faraway lands, but it is the intimate human moments between loved ones that makes the book so special and so relatable. It doesn’t matter what time or where For The Winner is set, we can all relate to it in some way or another.
It is a coming of age story like no other. Atalanta always knew the strength she had within her; she always stayed true to herself. It is the reality of the men surrounding her coming to terms with the fact that a woman can be just as strong, just as brave and just as worthy as any man, sometimes even more so. Men and women are equals, to be treated as one kind of race: the human race.
A truly wonderful book that will make you smile and cry, and learn a little bit about Greek mythology, legends and history too!
I now need to get my hands of For The Most Beautiful and wait for more of Emily Hauser’s books about the ancient worlds to be released.
Have you read For The Winner yet? It is out now!
Love, Faye xo
This book was kindly gifted to me. All views are honest.