A rollicking new chapter in an ambitious, multivolume extrapolation on Greek myth.
For those who slept through Classics 101: The Iliad tells the story of the Trojan War, an epic conflict between the Greeks and the Trojans during which the Greeks besieged Troy in an effort to save Helen, a beautiful woman who had been captured and held by the Trojan Paris. In the third installment of this particular story, the hero Petraeus attempts to complete his unlikely transformation from slave to king in a seven-book series existing in the same universe as Homer’s classic. Johnson’s novel takes place in between the kidnapping of Helen and the beginning of the war; in it, the Greek king Agamemnon asks the up-and-coming hero Petraeus to pursue Paris and Helen and retrieve the Greek beauty. However, if the novel owes much of its substance to the Iliad, it takes its form from Homer’s other great epic, the Odyssey. Like this second pillar of ancient Greek literature, this novel tells the story of an epic sea voyage that sends its hero careening around the Mediterranean on his winding way to track down the lost pair. During his entertaining, circuitous journey, Petraeus solves a murder, cavorts with Amazons, receives gifts from the Egyptian pharaoh Ramasses, and survives a brush with death at the hands of the evil Ba’al. Most of Johnson’s fresh tale is of his own making, but it takes enough cues from standard Greek lore that mythology buffs will have fun tracking down his more oblique references. Furthermore, though his story is epic in scope, Johnson’s attention to detail imbues his novel a pleasant sense of balance. His brief but thorough meditations on the art of shipbuilding or the intricacies of ancient commerce are as fulfilling as his rip-roaring stories of naval battles, bounty hunters and skin-of-the-teeth escapes.
A bracing homage to Homer and the Greeks.