In this historical fantasy, Christopher Columbus hunts for the mythical Atlantis.
The year is 1492, and Spain has just defeated the Moors at Granada. After an excursion to Istanbul, Columbus, the renowned rake and explorer, returns to Córdoba. There, he reunites with his royal patrons, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. During a clandestine meeting between Columbus and Isabella in her bed chamber, the captain of the Santa María acts on his knowledge that Plato knew the location of the fabled city of Atlantis. He tilts a copy of Plato’s Timaeus on a bookshelf and reveals a secret treasure room. Within is a bronze disc that may lead to the lost city and Poseidon’s Trident, which can turn anything into gold. Then Ferdinand and his toady, Amerigo Vespucci, discover the pair. The adultery exposed, Columbus races from the palace to the docks. He and his crew immediately set sail west, but not before a shadowy figure sneaks aboard the Santa María, and Vespucci determines to follow with the Niña and Pinta. When nearly a month passes with no leads on Atlantis—and after the revelation that a 12-year-old named Nyx has stowed away—the ship suddenly faces off against a giant, tentacled monstrosity. In his latest novel, Robinson (Robinson Crusoe 2246, 2016) imagines a playful left turn for the controversial figure who brought ruin to several Indigenous societies. This Columbus fights dirty like Indiana Jones and is a caddish goof (“I do like the smoldering types,” he replies to Isabella’s mention of Joan of Arc). On his greedy quest, the explorer encounters hideous, birdlike sirens but also the beautiful Princess Elara. Time-tested fantasy components like quick-healing potions, an ancient prophecy, and magic keys are sublime in juxtaposition with historical figures. Young Nyx blossoms under readers’ eyes, acting as a foil for the cynical Columbus and teaching that human bonds matter more than material gain. The author’s agile creativity will leave audiences itchy for a sequel.
A sunny, swashbuckling creaturefest ripe with pithy characterizations.