Before Andevai, the waking of dreaming dragons, the war for Europa, and the cruel treachery of the Wild Hunt, cousins Catherine and Beatrice Hassi Barahal were novice students at the Academy. Here, Cat and Bee learned of mathematics and politics, history and storytelling. But not all stories are told or remembered in the same way–particularly where the tale of Dido and Aeneas, and the fate of Carthage and Rome are concerned.
To the victors go the spoils–only this time, it is the gilded-tongued Bee and the quick-footed Cat who will collect the winnings.
Set before the start of Cold Magic, The Beatriceid is a brand new, standalone short story written in Iambic Pentameter that reimagines The Aeneid in a feminist, Phoenician light.
It’s no secret that I’m a Kate Elliott fangirl. I loved her Crown of Stars series, and last year I raved about both her short story and non-fiction collection The Very Best of Kate Elliott and her YA novel Court of Fives. And I absolutely loved Black Wolves, though I still need to review it—I just need to get past the JUST READ IT impulse and be able to talk about coherently before I do. Anyway, when I saw the announcement for The Beatriceid, I had an immediate case of want; the cover by Julie Dillon was amazing and the concept of a retelling of the Aeneid in iambic pentameter made me curious. I’m not necessarily a poetry person, but I loved reading the Classics in high school, though admittedly I took Greek not Latin, so I’m more familiar with the Iliad and the Odyssey.
In case you were wondering, you don’t have to have read the Spiritwalker books to enjoy this fantasy epic. I haven’t read the books yet, only the short story in The Very Best of Kate Elliott called To Be A Man. And I really enjoyed that one, both for its comedy of manners tone and the main character in that story. But despite not having read the trilogy, the Beatriceid made perfect sense, as it is more an exploration of characters than a plot-driven piece. Yes, it certainly contains a story with a beginning, middle and an end, but the retelling of the Aeneid, while fabulous and entertaining, wasn’t the most important element in the poem. Instead, it is the battle within the classroom — fought on several fronts, between the sexes and between the in-crowd and those outside it — and the flashes of characterisation we get for Cat and Bee that are the real meat and potatoes of the text.
I loved The Beatriceid. I’ve read it numerous times since it came in the mail and I find new things in it every time. It’s also made me want to read the Spiritwalker trilogy ASAP, which considering that I have the first two books on my TBR-pile shouldn’t be too much of a quest. Now to just find a gazillion more hours in the day! If you want to explore fantasy in a somewhat different format — I mean, how many epics in iambic pentameter have you read lately? — then I highly recommend picking up a copy of Kate Elliott’s The Beatriceid.