The neo-noir Greek mythological retelling of my dreams!

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As a History major specializing in the Ancient Mediterranean, I’m always on the hunt for a good Greek mythology retelling and let me tell you: Threads That Bind and Kika Hatzopoulou absolutely delivered! If this cover alone doesn’t convince you to read this book, allow me to gush for a bit...

This is exactly the kind of unique YA fantasy/mythological retelling I needed in my life. The world is incredibly innovative—a neo-noir, post-apocalyptic city—and the magic system brilliantly subverts common tropes while remaining truly faithful to Greek mythology (the historically-accurate one and not the pop-culture, Westernized mythology). Instead of focusing on the Olympians like most Greek mythology retellings, it focuses on the gods of natural and supernatural forces who, arguably, play as important of a role in the mythological canon as the Olympians. The world is also effortlessly diverse and multicultural, befitting the urban/post-apocalyptic refuge city setting. While I tend to be a bit harsh on single-city settings that advertise themselves as “complex” and “corrupt,” I’m proud to say that Kika truly delivers on this. Alante is gritty and rife with danger, and the juxtaposition of the Silts (the slums) and the Hill (the elite district) felt authentic and bore clear inspiration from Athens. While I wish the complex world outside Alante was explained more clearly (there are a lot of place names and proper nouns to keep track of), I don’t think this harmed the plot in any way.

Io was a fantastic character to follow—she’s driven, fiercely loyal, protective, and wonderfully vulnerable. I need to take a moment to appreciate just how vulnerable she is and how impressively Kika depicts her insecurities through the third-person narration. While I always appreciate a strong, badass character, Io is a much-needed breath of fresh air. She can certainly hold her own in a fight and has arguably the most powerful moira-born ability (cutting threads of emotions), but she also felt like a teenager. She’s afraid of hurting people and relentlessly overthinks everything; while this may annoy some readers, I felt this was true YA and made her a fully-fleshed out character. She makes mistakes more often than not, but she both learns and grows from them without sacrificing her morals. In line with the neo-noir genre and criminal underworld setting, she’s not ignorant or blind to the harsh reality of living in the slums as a magical other-born, but her emotional journey and loss of (emotional) innocence resonated deeply with me.

There is a huge cast of side characters, and while some felt a bit underdeveloped due to the sheer volume, they all shined in their own ways. None felt like plot devices, and their motivations, desires, and fears were all explained and shown rather than told to the reader. The complicated sister dynamics were fascinating, and I thought their relationship was only elevated and complicated by their godly lineage; this was, to me, a hallmark of a good magic system. The love interest Edei and his mob boss Bianca in particular shined for me. Edei is the sweetest boy ever and I just want to hug him and protect him from the world, but he’s also hardened from life as a foreigner and criminal. Like Io, he is kind and perhaps cares a bit too deeply for everyone, but it never felt trivialized or childish. His empathy was so awesome to see portrayed in a male love interest, and the gentle way he navigates his emotions endeared him even more to me. I will admit that Io’s infatuation with him felt heavy-handed and/or over-described at times, but I think it was an authentic way to portray teenage crushing. Bianca, on the other hand, was an excellent foil to Io and Edei—as the mob queen of the Silts, she’s cunning and vicious, but also has a deep loyalty to her gang members. She stole the scene every time she was on the page and I’m so excited to learn more about her in the sequel!

Speaking of the sequel, I had no idea that this book was part of a series so that changed the way I viewed the pacing. I thought Threads was a stand-alone so I had problems with how slow the plot and main mystery moved, but seeing that it’s only book 1, it’s more understandable. The core mystery was intriguing and very complex, but it felt a bit too drawn out at times. I would have appreciated a bit more payoff or foreshadowing since the actual culprit didn’t get nearly enough time on page for me to even consider them as a suspect. But besides that small complaint, I found that Threads was meticulously plotted as the mystery slowly unfurled. The final revelation was fantastic and had me speeding to the climax. I can’t wait to see where the story goes next, especially with all the revelations about the creator(s) of the wraiths and the shifting character dynamics.

In the end, Threads That Bind is a stunning debut and true breath of fresh air in the YA fantasy genre. Kika Hatzopoulou is an author to watch.

Thank you to NetGalley and Razorbill (Penguin Young Readers Group) for the e-ARC! All thoughts and opinions are my own.

4.5/5 stars