Read an Excerpt from Lifestyles of Gods and Monsters

Sixteen-year-old Ariadne’s whole life is curated and shared with the world. Her royal family’s entertainment empire is beloved by the tabloids, all over social media, and the hottest thing on television. The biggest moneymaker? The Labyrinth Contest, a TV extravaganza in which Ariadne leads fourteen teens into a maze to kill a monster. To win means endless glory; to lose means death. In ten seasons, no one has ever won.

When the gorgeous, mysterious Theseus arrives at the competition and asks Ariadne to help him to victory, she doesn’t expect to fall for him. He might be acting interested in her just to boost ratings. Their chemistry is undeniable, though, and she can help him survive. If he wins, the contest would end for good. But if she helps him, she doesn’t just endanger her family’s empire—the monster would have to die. And for Ariadne, his life might be the only one worth saving.

Ariadne’s every move is watched by the public and predestined by the gods, so how can she find a way to forge her own destiny and save the people she loves?

Emily Roberson’s debut Lifestyles of Gods and Monsters is a YA novel about celebrity culture, family dynamics, and finding love amidst it all. Available October 22nd from Farrar Straus & Giroux.

 

 

ONE

You will have seen them, I suppose. The grainy pictures, taken with a long telephoto lens. It has been fourteen years, but they still shock.

She has a face that everyone knows. Beautiful. Determinedly blond. Curated. The tabloid writers say, “Never a hair out of place.”

In the series of paparazzi shots, she strides across the pasture. No Photoshop. No airbrush. No filters. It is a long walk, and the photographers got her from every angle. As always, she is trim, tanned, and toned (another favorite tabloid description). If her sheet of golden hair and blue eyes are familiar, her expression is not. Usually her face in pictures is cool and composed. Icy. In these, she is ravenous.

She never could hide how she felt about that bull.

That face alone would have been enough to sell all the magazines in a newsstand. Enough to crash any server. Even without the wooden cow. But there is a wooden cow. A cowhide-covered box with legs and a head.

When the white bull walked out of the sea a few months earlier, people called it a gift from the gods. They said it was a sure sign that Daddy was a good king of Crete; that he still had the favor of the gods, even after my older brother’s murder. Our tragedy. That Daddy had been right to go to war with Athens. They called it beautiful. For myself, I don’t see what’s beautiful about a bull, white or brown. They look like livestock to me. Not my type.

It was beautiful to my mother.

There are lots of theories about my mother and the bull— some people say Daddy should have sacrificed it instead of keep.ing it. Daddy thinks that’s ridiculous. The gods would not have handed him such a valuable thing only to ask him to kill it. Other people say it was because my mother was too proud and the gods wanted to take her down a notch. However, she’s still proud, even after her abasement.

I think it’s because the gods are jerks.

Whatever the reason, my mother fell in love with a bull and when the bull didn’t return her affection, Daedalus, Daddy’s architect, built her the wooden cow and brought it out to the pasture for her.

The paparazzi pictures of what happened next were taken from so far away that if you didn’t know what you are looking
at, you wouldn’t know what you are looking at.

Unfortunately, I know.

Eventually, the bull returned to munching the grass, and my mother went back to the palace.

When she returned to the paddock later, Daddy’s people checked the trees for paparazzi, so there were no more pictures.

No one knows why she stopped going to see the bull. Maybe her infatuation ran its course, like an infection. Maybe the gods thought it had gone on long enough. Maybe she got tired of the whole thing. Eventually, life returned to normal. More or less. Mother went back to her royal duties and her social whirl, and if people moo when her name is mentioned, they do it very quietly behind closed doors. After a while, the world’s attention moved on to the next big scandal.

The bull was never the same afterward. It went crazy, charging around, breaking fences, tearing up pastures. Daddy got so irritated that he had Heracles capture it and take it to the main.land. Let it be Athens’s problem, Daddy said. Maybe it missed my mother. Who knows. Bulls can’t talk.

My mother can talk, but she never talks about the bull. Daddy blocks access to the sites where the pictures are posted, but it’s like the Hydra, always popping up somewhere else.

You’d think people would stop caring, but I guess it never gets old.

Excerpted from Lifestyles of Gods and Monsters, copyright © 2019 by Emily Roberson.

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