Eros, the god of love, is sent by his mother, the goddess Aphrodite, to cause mayhem with the mortal, but beautiful, Psyche. According to this telling, Eros accidentally comes in contact with one of his arrows causing him to fall in love with Psyche, and her, with him. In fear of (or in deference to) his mother’s jealousy, Eros devises a plan to marry Psyche without her realizing that her mate is a god. Due to his initial lack of trust and honesty with Psyche and aided by the jealousy of Psyche’s sisters, Eros plan goes awry. He retreats from Psyche, petulant as spoiled teenager but never loses his love or interest in her. He finally comes to her aid when Psyche tries to prove her love for him by bargaining with his mother and agreeing to attempt four thorny tasks.
Framed as an object lesson between a tutor and her young student, Foley’s rendering of this age-old tale of love and trust, rises off the page effectively complemented by the dynamic illustrations. While the teller of the tale and her audience are only visible at the beginning and end of the story, their voices are at times interspersed with those of the characters in the tale resulting in an oral flavor to the text. This is not a truncated telling but one that savours the language, images, and authentic behaviour of all the characters, gods and humans alike. The facial expressions are particularly effective in telling this story of passion and rage. Colors, for the most part, are fairly muted but occasionally the brilliant reds stand out, punctuating the characterization and action of the tale. A wide variety of panel shapes and sizes, as well as visual flashbacks and foreshadowing, aid in the forward motion of the tale. The use of different fonts would have been more effective if the secondary font was easier to read. I did get thrown out of the story several times by the use of contemporary phrases and exclamations, such as “Wow” by Psyche as she looks upon Persephone and her realm for the first time.
The use of the moralistic frame story, the depiction and actions of the main characters, and the frequent use of colloquial idiom all proclaim this a title for young adult readers.
Included in this volume is a two-page annotated bibliography of “Legends of Love” which includes “Romeo and Juliet,” “Anthony and Cleopatra,” Paris and Helen,” “Salim and Anarkali,” and “Layla and Majnu.” Peppered among the annotations are notes of interest regarding a factoid from each of the stories mentioned in the bibliography such as the fact that 25 of the planet Uranus’s 27 moons are named after characters from Shakespeare’s plays and one of these is named Juliet.