Although it is something of a relief that Gilchrist (Starcarbon, etc.) has struck out in a new direction after writing so much about the Hand family, this bland tale of a goody-good slave girl set in Greece in 431 b.c. lacks even a touch of irony.
Auria is happily apprenticed to a kindly healer named Philokrates who has taught her to read and write, and both reside in the villa of her master, Meldrus, until, all in one day, Philokrates dies, Meldrus' wife gives birth to a fifth daughter, and Auria witnesses another slave leaving the baby outdoors to die. Horrified, she runs away with a goat and a dog and saves the child. The four of them discover a wooded sanctuary that has obviously been inhabited and then abandoned and set themselves up there. Eventually, Auria meets Meion, a former mining slave who lives in a camp with other runaway slaves. They fall in love and marry, although the reception is somewhat subdued after the ailing leader Leucippius cannot hold his arm up long enough to toast them and Auria must immediately begin healing him. When Meion hears that his mother has been captured by the Peloponnesians, he takes off to find her. To keep her busy in his absence, Auria is assigned to create a school for the camp's young children. Gilchrist explains that she dreamed up Auria as a child when her mother read her Greek myths, and this novel has the tone of a young-adult biography, sort of a Little House on the Prairie in tunics. The dialogue is so somber that it becomes dreary ("Swear by Apollo that you will not die in battle or leave me ever''). As a saintly bore, Auria is never a credible character.
A pro ventures out on a limb, and it cracks.