Sphere has won a multi-publisher auction for debut author Laura Shepperson's feminist re-imagining of the trial of Phaedra.
Commissioning editor Rosanna Forte acquired UK and Commonwealth rights for The Heroines from Nelle Andrew at THE Rachel Mills Literary Agency in a "significant" two-book acquisition for the imprint. International deals are expected to close shortly. Sphere will publish The Heroines in hardback in early 2023.
The title comes from Ovid’s collection of poetry which details the original Phaedra story. Shepperson's reimagining "plunges the reader into the world of classical Athens, where the most shocking trial of the century is about to shake the city to its core", said the publisher. "Phaedra, King Theseus’ young Cretan bride, has accused her stepson Hippolytus of rape. Phaedra is an outsider, and a woman tainted by family scandal. Hippolytus is a man of honour and a model of virtue, sworn to the virgin goddess Artemis. Now the men of Athens are gathering to decide their fates. Who is the victim? And who will be punished? But meanwhile the women of the city, who have no vote, are gathering in the shadows. They have their own stories to tell. Stories that have gone untold. Until now..."
Forte said: “Laura Shepperson’s remarkable debut brings something completely new to the genre of classical retellings. Through her research and descriptive prowess, she conjures the world of classical Athens in vibrant detail, and yet the story itself feels so contemporary you could almost believe it is happening today. It reads as evocatively as the finest examples of the genre but also has the pace and tension of the best courtroom dramas. I couldn’t be prouder to be bringing her to the Sphere list.”
Shepperson added: “I’ve long been fascinated by the tale of Phaedra, one of the ‘bad women’ of Greek myth. I’m excited that Sphere is giving me the opportunity to retell her story and, perhaps, see justice done at last."