Shields has created a dawn-of-the-nuclear-age Cassandra in this galvanizing variation on the ancient Greek tale of a seer doomed always to be right, yet never to be believed. Shields summons the spirit of the besieged land in a heron, coyote, and rattlesnake who reveal, in surreal and terrifying visions, the horrors of the radiation contaminating the region and the hell to come in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Mildred proves to be a woman of unnerving strength as she also contends with Hanford’s brutal racism, as witness, and endures sexual violence. Shields verges on overkill but offers satirically comedic scenes and satisfyingly venomous takedowns of the patriarchy, welcome flashes of light in this otherwise harrowing dive into the darkest depths of hubris and apocalyptic destruction. A uniquely audacious approach to the nuclear nightmare.
... biting ... Readers will need a high tolerance for the dream scenes — there are quite a few — but they provide necessary, sickening contrast to the spit-and-polish patriotism via talking coyotes, deformed fetuses and other grotesqueries ... What’s a mid-1940s girl in pin curls to do? Shields is too cunning for heroic fantasies. From the get-go, Mildred craves men’s power ... Familiarity with the original Cassandra is not required to appreciate this novel, although those who do know the ancient myth will admire Shields’s skillful tweaks ... But nothing is more troubling or more brilliant than Mildred’s horrifying reaction to a trauma that implicates all of us so forcefully that it’s easy to believe Shields is the one blessed — or cursed — with visions of impending ruin.
The premise of Sharma Shields' second novel, The Cassandra, is excellent ... Unfortunately, Shields strays far too frequently into neatness and cuteness, and so The Cassandra leaves no questions in its wake ... as a novel, The Cassandra leaves much to be desired. Because Mildred never truly reckons with the philosophical and emotional problems that her premonitions create, the reader never has to. Because she never truly fights to be heard, the reader never has to listen. By the end of The Cassandra, Mildred is literally and figuratively mute, and we have no reason to be sorry.
Shields’s new novel, The Cassandra, starts dark and stays dark. The author’s merciless and savage wit delivers its share of comic moments, but the book is far more frequently enraging than funny ... In some ways, The Cassandra, with its multiple parallels to the original story, might be the truest twist on the Cassandra myth ever attempted—and certainly the most relevant to our times ... In Shields’ hands, this gift-made-curse sport of the gods becomes not personal but systemic. It feels less like myth or magic realism than reality itself.
Historical fiction often does a pretty poor job of representing diversity in a realistic way. I could easily see a book like this being written by any number of authors, none of whom would even come close to what Sharma Shields achieves with The Cassandra ... The Cassandra is a challenging novel. It’s a weird, discomfiting book of epic poetry and intimate prose that grows both more and less fictional with each passing page. Sharma Shields’ novel is a relentless rush, a distressing re-envisioning of one of the darkest points in world history where everyone comes out the other end worse than they were when they started. Yet it’s also utterly compelling and beautiful in unexpected ways.
Shields’ often lyrical account of Mildred’s travails provides not only a well-researched sense of place and time, but also a peek at the gung-ho attitudes which made the Manhattan project possible ... Rooted in the geography and culture of the communities Hanford displaced, Shields’ reworking of the classic myth—about a young woman whose warnings about a future she alone can see are ignored—is filled with grotesque and violent images and episodes of keening sorrow ... Shields delivers what her heroine cannot: a warning, impossible to ignore, about the costs of blind adherence to ideology.
Alluring, phantasmagoric ... Shields incorporates a strong feminist undercurrent, and the constant objectification of and casual workplace violence against the women of Hanford often makes for uncomfortable reading. Unfortunately, narrative suspense will be lessened for readers with basic knowledge of WWII history or the Cassandra myth. There is little redemption in Mildred’s story, a conclusion foreshadowed from the start. With a plucky, charismatic narrator and vivid scenes incorporating the history of a real WWII facility, Shield’s novel digs into the destructive arrogance of war.