Elektra by Jennifer Saint | Book Review

Rating: 3 out of 5.

As I had greatly enjoyed Saint’s previous book, Ariadne, I was looking forward to reading her new novel, but I wasn’t as impressed by it, especially in terms of some of the characterization.

The premise and title are rather misleading because this book isn’t just about Elektra (as you would think). It focuses on three women, Clytemnestra, Cassandra, and Elektra. The first two are essentially the main characters for much of the novel, Elektra doesn’t become very relevant until the second half. I’m not even very sure if this was a pro or a con because even though it wasn’t what I had expected, I didn’t enjoy reading about Elektra and found the other two to be much more interesting.

Clytemnestra’s character is one that I’ve never been very interested in in the past, notably, I thought that the Daughters of Sparta made her seem entirely uninteresting, but she was somewhat better in this novel. Her pain at losing Iphigenia and subsequent scheming make her be someone with whom the reader can sympathize. I will admit she’s still not my favorite, mainly because I find some of the other characters far more fascinating, but she’s better than in other retellings.

“Every word I speak is unwelcome. My throat is raw from the words that are torn from me when I touch someone, when I look into their eyes and see the blinding white truth. My prophecies rip out my insides, but they still come, unbidden, even as I quake at the consequences. My listeners curse me, they chase me away, they say I am mad, and they laugh.”

Cassandra is by far my favorite character in the entire novel. I generally think she’s interesting, and while this may not be the best portrayal of her that I have ever read, Saint does a pretty good job with her. She highlights Cassandra’s feelings of being an outsider and being forgotten and ignored, which creates a compelling character. I liked how the reader watches the war unfold from her point of view because she has a truly unique perspective.

Out of all of them, I liked Elektra the least. She was entirely unsympathetic and stubborn to a frustrating degree. I don’t consider likability to be a requirement in a character for me to enjoy reading about them, but she honestly didn’t have much going for her. She spent most of the novel being bitter about her mother’s (Clytemnestra) choices, and for the most part, she did nothing about it. While this is understandable to a certain extent as for part of the book she was a small child, later on, when she was older it made her seem like a nuisance.

The relationship between Clytemnestra and Elektra is strained throughout virtually the entire novel, and I thought that the way it was developed was missing something. The fact that (for the first half) Elektra feels like a secondary character probably didn’t help this, so it felt somewhat rushed. I thought that it could have had more depth and been a more compelling storyline.

The structure of the novel alternates between the point of view of the three main characters, each told in the first person. There are quite a few jumps in time that aren’t often specified, which in some cases make the book a bit choppy. This was especially the case with Elektra because it followed her from her childhood, so in some instances, it was difficult to tell how many years had passed. Saint’s prose is decent, if not exceptional. I noticed that in some parts it seemed to be better, and in others mediocre. As a whole, it’s not one that stands out to me.

“I stayed silent. I realized that when I had seen all those suitors clamor in the hall for Helen, I had believed they were there because they loved her, but I had been wrong. They hated her. They hated her because she was so beautiful and because she made them want her so much. Nothing brought them more joy than the fall of a lovely woman. They picked over her reputation like vultures, scavenging for every scrap of flesh they could devour.”

This book does lack some originality in the style of its retelling. The plot stays very true to the original Greek myths and plays, and for that, I’m somewhat disappointed. There are a lot of retellings out there, so I like when they have a distinguishing factor or something that makes them stand out from the rest, especially in terms of characters. This is very true in the case of Helen in this story, she’s cold, proud, and vain, much as she has always been portrayed. It doesn’t bring anything new to the table and makes it a forgettable read.

I’ve perhaps been slightly harsher on this book than I should have, but given the number of Greek myth retellings that have been published during the past couple of years, there’s a lot to compare this book to, and when it is compared I’m not sure it holds up as well as others. It’s by no means a bad read and if you like Greek mythology then I would recommend reading it, but I wouldn’t expect to be blown away by it.


The House of Atreus is cursed. A bloodline tainted by a generational cycle of violence and vengeance. This is the story of three women, their fates inextricably tied to this curse, and the fickle nature of men and gods.

Clytemnestra – The sister of Helen, wife of Agamemnon – her hopes of averting the curse are dashed when her sister is taken to Troy by the feckless Paris. Her husband raises a great army against them, and determines to win, whatever the cost.

Cassandra – Princess of Troy, and cursed by Apollo to see the future but never to be believed when she speaks of it. She is powerless in her knowledge that the city will fall.

Elektra – The youngest daughter of Clytemnestra and Agamemnon, Elektra is horrified by the bloodletting of her kin. But, can she escape the curse, or is her own destiny also bound by violence?

Elektra by Jennifer Saint

Published by: Flatiron Books – Published in: 2022



  1. Lovely review! I’ve been going back and forth on picking the novel up. It’s interesting to hear that Elektra doesn’t have much of a role until partway in, that’s not something I expected. But I do love Cassandra so I’m glad she was your fave here and portrayed pretty well 💛

    Liked by 1 person

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