Born a mortal, Medusa’s mortality is something her sisters, the Gorgons’ have been particularly conscious of, worried that she could hurt herself or experience the horrors of human life.
Their concerns come to pass when Medusa is assaulted by Poseidon and punished for it by Athene. But her tragedy doesn’t end there, as Perseus embarks on a challenge to decapitate her.
Read if you like: Greek mythology, mythological retellings, origin stories of villainsed figures, books about women suffering injustice, impactful storytelling
Natalie Haynes’ retelling of the Medusa myth is everything I’d hoped for it to be. It is the innocence of a toddler and the fury of a woman who has faced a grave injustice.
The author has created narrative voices so powerful that you cannot escape its grasp. I read this book with such rapt attention, unlike any I’ve read recently.
Having also heard the audiobook while reading, I must commend the audiobook narrator for bringing Haynes’ words to life. It is astonishing to me that echoes of it still ring in my head.
The writing is filled with sarcasm and a bluntness that suits the tone of the novel. I loved it!
You’ll find that the chapters alternate between multiple storylines and perspectives – showing us what other gods (Zeus-side) are up to, Stheno and Euryale’s (Medusa’s sisters’) thoughts, and Medusa’s storyline.
I understand that many readers may pick this up thinking Medusa is front and centre in the book, but that’s not the case. She only makes an appearance in less than a fraction of the novel. Even then, you get the sense that her character has a quiet presence.
It was important for the author to have painted a complete picture for us to understand the extent to which Medusa has been wronged on multiple counts.
It’s in seeing how little power the Gorgons had to sway things in their favour, how selfish and entitled Perseus was, and how all the gods turned a blind eye to Medusa’s wounds that you realise just how cruel the world was (is?).
That said, I would have loved to read a few more chapters from her POV.
And maybe if this book hadn’t been marketed with a lot of emphasis on Medusa, it may have been received better in the reader community.
Gradually, Perseus’s storyline also takes up significant room in this novel. His character is shown as a daft brat who can’t achieve anything without help from the gods.
Even Athene and Hermes, who are forced to help him on his journey, have neither a great opinion of him.
I reckon that is done intentionally to subvert his image as “the hero who bested the monsters”. Because although he strove to protect his mother, he was privileged.
“I called them dangerous creatures, which they are. You’re the one who thinks anything that doesn’t look like you must be a monster.”
Irrespective of the pacing of the story, which in my opinion skips along exuberantly, Stone Blind is crafted in such a way that you’ll be fully immersed.
The ending wrecked me. To think that after everything, Medusa’s curse (of turning any living being to stone with her gaze) lead to such a consequence.
I am a forever fan of Natalie Haynes, and so glad that this was one of my 2023 reads! *adds all her books to TBR*
If you haven’t yet read Stone Blind, it is one of those books that you can abandon everything you’re doing to read, and you’ll be glad for it.