Brooding and atmospheric

filled star filled star filled star filled star star unfilled
annieb Avatar


The Maidens is a well written academic mystery set at Cambridge by Alex Michaelides. Released 15th June 2021 by Celadon, it's 337 pages and is available in all formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links and references throughout. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately.

I was most impressed by the actual prose in this work. The story flows and engages. The characters aren't always three dimensional and there are some troubling actions, especially from protagonist Mariana which which were so jarring and unethical as to yank me completely out of the story. There were also a few scenes which seemed disjointed and odd and felt as though they'd been inserted for red-herring value and didn't advance the narrative at all.

Despite that, I loved the brooding academic vibe and the story-line steeped in (often literal) theatrical Greek tragedy. The whole had a gravitas which I found compelling and which kept me invested in finding out how it ends. It's not derivative at all, but in some good ways, this standalone reminds me of the Kate Fansler books by Amanda Cross (though they're set in the USA). Just about every other reviewer has commented on the twisty ending. I can't say I foresaw the entire denouement and resolution, but neither was it a complete shock.

The language is mature, not egregiously so, but it's peppered with moderate amounts of profanity. The book's populated by young adults in a university setting, so it's honestly mild by comparison to my experience of university students in real life, but it is there. There are also some explicit sexual elements, so readers might want to be aware and read accordingly. (It's not pornographic, and it's used in context).

Overall, it's a beautifully lyrically written story with loads of atmosphere and the prose is sublime. Michaelides writes very very well.

Four stars.