In this debut novel, a contemporary reimagining of the Daphne and Apollo myth, a classicist on the verge of earning her PhD at Oxford University discovers her male mentor is sabotaging her efforts to find a job in order to keep her by his side.
... ingenious in its sinister simplicity ... a superb literary suspense novel that calls to mind an earlier such debut, Donna Tartt’s The Secret History ... Like Tartt, Prins understands the fascination of the arcane. He coaxes us readers deep into weeds of Tessa’s research, rendering technical details about things like 'limping iambic' poetic meter, not only graspable, but engrossing. The other signature aspect of academic life—particularly in graduate school (Prins attended the Iowa Writers’ Workshop)—that he nails is its monomaniacal lack of moderation ... Prins’s evocative writing style makes The Latinist more than just a diverting contrivance ... The startling and grotesque metamorphosis that ends The Latinist might have earned the approval of Ovid himself. Like the classics that inspire it, The Latinist is an inventive wedding of the elegant and the barbaric.
When it comes to Tessa’s actual research, Prins digs in, delving into what can be abstruse and picky stuff, reliant on meter and structure ... It’s meaty material, but the author’s lively prose manages not only to clarify but also to convey its import to Tessa. It helps that, throughout, Prins uses humor, often at Tessa’s expense, to leaven the academic gravitas ... These intellectual pursuits play out against a vivid contemporary struggle between strong and distinctive personalities ... The inevitable crisis, when it comes, is worthy of its heroine, even if Prins has to push credibility to match Ovid. That leaves the final pages feeling a tad rushed, especially after the loving, painful detail ... In its symmetry, if not its poetry, the conclusion satisfies, however, marking this academic mystery as a contemporary classic.
... sparky but flawed ...Prins' erudition is on full display here ... he has crafted a clever faceoff between Tessa and Chris. But then he stretches further the chase into a finale that, unfortunately, falls flat. Inexplicably, the ending collapses into contempt for the characters ... Perhaps Prins' intention is to capture the murky area of consent and choice, but it comes off as farcical.