Saturday, May 9, 2020

#BookReview: Psyche Unbound by Zenobia Neil

Historical Retelling
Erotic Literature

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The celebrated beauty of Roman princess Psyche has enraged Venus, the Goddess of Love and Beauty. As punishment, Psyche is left naked on the beach to be sacrificed to a monster. When Cupid, the God of Love, swoops her up and flies her to the monster's palace, Psyche mistakenly wraps her legs around his waist, looks into his eyes, and falls in love.

Blindfolded and tied to a bed, Psyche awaits the monster, vowing to be brave as she faces death. Yet when the monster arrives, he marries her on the condition she never see his face. As she grows to love her shadow husband, she can't stop thinking about the God of Love. Consumed by curiosity, Psyche breaks her promise by lighting a lamp. Awaking in a rage, and furious with her betrayal, her husband banishes her from the palace.

Psyche begs Venus for another chance at love. Unmoved, Venus demands Psyche perform three impossible tasks. If Psyche succeeds, her husband will return. If she fails, she will be condemned to death.

Can Psyche satisfy Venus and win back her true love?

Before I get too far ahead of myself, I want to note I do not read a lot of erotic lit. I have flirted with the genre on and off over the years. Still, I identify almost exclusively as a reader of historical fiction, and that is how I approached Zenobia Neil’s Psyche Unbound.

Psyche Unbound is essentially a retelling of the Cupid and Psyche myth. God and mortal fall in love, their bond is tested, promises are broken, and a vengeful and jealous goddess offers a path to redemption. This path takes the form of a series of impossible tasks, each designed to drive Psyche to despair. Thematically, the myth explores love, trust, betrayal, and redemption, all of which are paralleled by Neil in Psyche Unbound. The author, however, puts a unique twist on the tale, adding a sensual component to the mix while aligning sexual confidence and experience to Psyche’s developmental arc.

Neil’s work is not for everyone, those who can not palate eroticism should look elsewhere for their next read, but I found this take on the classic intensely creative. Neil understands the danger of repetition and liked how she diversified the action of each encounter to keep her audience engaged. What stood out to me, however, were the tonal shifts of her sex scenes, especially as the novel progressed to Venus’ tasks. Neil's passion for antiquity transcends the text and while she puts her own unmistakable spin on it, I could not help but appreciate the care she took in tempering her voice to compliment the themes of the original story.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Obtained from: Personal Kindle Library
Read: February 12, 2020

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