I have read a few fairy tale retellings but never a mythological retelling unless you include ‘Grendel’ by John Gardner. This is the story of Daedalus and Icarus – but not the one you know. Daedalus worked hard to spread his mischievous story to trick King Minos. Intrigued? I was. If you enjoy mythology, literary fiction, and even fairy tale retellings you will enjoy this.
It is the story of Daedalus an inventor and builder for kings. The story begins in Athens but due to the unfortunate death of one of his workers, and Daedalus not managing the situation, he has to leave his home. No one will hire him, he gets beaten in the street, and even his relationship to King Aegus can’t help him. As a result, he sets off for Krete. Earthquakes ravaged Knossos. The once great city that boasted the finest architecture is still falling apart. King Minos needs Daedalus, but the path to Krete is dangerous and Daedalus must enlist the help of a young street urchin, Icarus, to help him reach it. Without him he is afraid of being targeted and robbed. Things don’t go to plan, of course, but it sets up the relationship between Daedalus and Icarus for which most of the book is dedicated to . Navigating life is different for Icarus and Daedalus but both are learning what it means to be a man of worth. They are at different stages in life but both must maneuver the politics of being Athenian in Knossos. After King Minos’s son died in the Athenian Olympics a costly and punitive peace between the two Islands required Athens to provide Athenian youths as tribute to Minos every nine years to avoid war. As the day approaches when the Athenian slaves will arrive hostilities arise for Daedalus and Icarus. The welcome they initially were given soon appears to be entrapment. As Minos says, “They can no more leave the island than they can fly.”
The pacing of the story is a bit slow to start but once it gets its rhythm it’s something you want to savor. For me there are two kinds of books – ones I devour and ones I like to take my time with. ‘Icarus and the Wing Builder’ is a book I enjoyed slowly. It’s a short book of about 288 pages but I didn’t want to rush it. Case’s writing is beautiful and the style fits the mythology and magic he’s created. Chapters are short. It allows you to digest small portions at a time, and I appreciated that. It is set up for a sequel. I’m unsure how I feel about that. For me the story seemed to end appropriately. I don’t have much interest in the continuation. I would, however, love to see what Case could do with other myths in a similar manner.
My biggest complaint with this book is shallow. It is the cover. Let’s be honest, a lot of us do judge a book by its cover. I am one of those people and this isn’t one I would have picked up off the shelf. The painting doesn’t draw me in. With all the statues of Icarus and Daedalus out there I would have gone with a photograph of one of those, the many urns, or frescoes. It would match the high quality of literature in the book better. I think it would do a lot to draw people to this book rather than allowing it to be a hidden gem. – What I’m telling you is if you are like me, and the cover isn’t wowing you, ignore it and read the book.
I received this book from the author in return for an honest review.
*I’ve had a few people ask where they could find this. I did not pick this up from the library but you can get it through Amazon for $3.99 as an e-book and a bit more in paperback.*