As a game designer and enthusiast myself, it’s perhaps a natural evolution of my career in book criticism to consider and cover all the many things a bookstore can provide, games included. So when I was offered the chance to review The Real Women Of Greek Myths: A 1,000 Piece Jigsaw Puzzle Based on Feminist Tales, I absolutely leapt at the opportunity.
With countless others around the globe, my interest in jigsaw puzzles was reignited by the pandemic that kept so many of us indoors for the better part of two years. My best friend even got me a mat kit with little snap-together trays one Christmas, not only to sort out pieces while working on the puzzle, but also to keep the whole caboodle clear from my little children’s naughty fingers. My puzzling tastes are fairly orthodox: I prefer strong, clear images with lots of color, and appreciate both a bit of narrative and a keen wit. I do like the occasional mystery puzzle where I go in image-blind in order to find the solution to the accompanying short story, but most of all I’m a huge fan of the Magic Puzzle Co’s innovative work and gold standard craftsmanship.
So how does this jigsaw puzzle hold up in comparison? By now, regular readers will know that I’ve been obsessed with Greek mythology since I was a child. Despite this, I’d never done a Greek mythology-themed jigsaw puzzle before TRWoGM. This was a surprisingly great way to combine the two interests, as constructing the images of the women — who are delightfully shown in a full range of skin colors and body types — really helps reinforce each of their stories. I don’t think I’ve ever thought “poor Europa!” as many times as when I was putting the pieces of her together, as she crouches in the forefront of the picture, holding a toy-sized bull.
Of course, if you’re not already familiar with her story, or with the stories of the many other women featured here, there’s a lovely poster-sized insert that has the full image on one side and a brief description of each woman (or group of women as the case may be) on the other. The choices were carefully curated by classicist and stand-up comedian Natalie Haynes, whose love of the subject shines through. The illustrator, Natalie Foss, does a great job of depicting each subject, even if I did think that at least one of the Furies was a little more modern-looking than expected.
The color palette overall is very strong, featuring blues, oranges and browns, with the occasional splash of purple and yellow. I greatly appreciated the pattern work when it came time to figuring out the trickier bits: perhaps my favorite was the subtle snake motif in Medusa’s hair. The pieces themselves don’t lock as securely as I prefer. There was a definitely a little more “does this piece actually go here?” pondering than I like, but overall the craftsmanship of the puzzle itself is solid, with vibrant colors and helpful little fillips that prevent the game from veering over from challenging into the frustrating. I especially appreciated the resealable plastic bag that the pieces themselves came in. Reusable plastic is a boon to all gamers.
Overall, this was a terrific way to learn more about the female figures of Greek mythology from a thoughtfully feminist viewpoint. I’m a huge fan of gamification, and Mss Haynes and Foss have done an excellent job of translating their vision of the classics into an absorbing pastime with a wider reach than books alone would manage. That said, I’m really looking forward to reading more of Ms Haynes’ work, hopefully sooner than later!
More pictures of the box contents and my own progress putting the puzzle together are on my Instagram.
The Real Women Of Greek Myths by Natalie Haynes & Natalie Foss was published today September 20 2022 by Laurence King and is available from all good booksellers, including