Book Review: Psyche and Eros by Luna McNamara
Updated: Jul 1
Psyche and Eros is the latest novel-length re-telling of a classic story from Greek mythology. Part myth and part fairy tale, the book begins by defining the different types of love (philia, agape, and eros) before launching into a sweeping romance told in turns by the title characters. Eros's story begins as the universe is unfolding “before there were stories to be told”. McNamara presents Eros as a primordial god of love who sets life into motion by shooting an arrow that brings the earth and sky together. His twin sister Eris, the goddess of discord, is the antidote to his power. As time unfolds, generations of the gods fight for power, and finally Zeus, eager to cement his place on Mt. Olympus, pulls his own goddess of love from the sea. Aphrodite adopts Eros as her son in a power move against the older god.
It will be thousands of years before Eros is introduced to Psyche, the mortal girl who has been prophesied to become a hero. Psyche grows into a beautiful young woman and earns the ire of Aphrodite with her lack of interest in romance, and Eros is compelled to shoot Psyche with a cursed arrow. When Eros mistakenly cuts himself with the arrow, he falls hopelessly in love with Psyche, but, because of the curse, she is not allowed to see his true form or they will be split apart, forever craving what they cannot have.
The love between Eros and Psyche is set against a backdrop of Greek history and mythology which highlights the beauty and dangers of human love and desire. McNamara plays with source material, casting Penelope as Helen’s sister and turning Clytemnestra’s daughter Iphigenia into Psyche’s beloved cousin. The romance between Psyche and Eros unfolds slowly, as Eros must present himself in various animal forms to maintain their connection. When Psyche lights a candle to gaze on her sleeping husband’s true form, they are ripped apart, and Psyche must endure Aphrodite’s tortures if she hopes to regain her true love.
“Beauty and the Beast” is my favorite fairy tale, so I was thrilled to learn that there was a novel telling the story of Eros and Psyche, often cited as an early variant of the “Search for the Lost Husband” tale type. This book did not disappoint! Although it lacks the full reach of Madeline Miller’s Circe, the book presents a passionate romance while exploring ideas of free choice, heroic action, human folly, and the curious life of the gods. The narrative voice is both humorous and touching, and readers will find themselves fully invested in the beautiful love story of Eros and Psyche. This book is a must-read for fans of fairy tale, romance, and mythology!
You can order the book here.
Thank you to NetGalley for a free copy of the book in exchange for a fair review.
Kelly Jarvis is the Special Projects Writer and Contributing Editor for The Fairy Tale Magazine. Her work has appeared in Eternal Haunted Summer, Blue Heron Review, Forget-Me-Not Press, Mermaids Monthly, The Chamber Magazine, and Mothers of Enchantment: New Tales of Fairy Godmothers. She teaches at Central Connecticut State University.