This historical novel continues the tale of Iannella’s Journey to Delphi (2012) and Destiny at Delphi (2013), which traced Damian’s path from age 12, when his village was razed in the First Sacred Wars in early-sixth-century B.C. Greece to his betrayal into slavery and his journey to Delphi, where he became an important adviser to the tyrant Kleisthenes. In this final volume, Damian at first seems to be cheating the destiny told to him by the Oracle at Delphi. He’s now happily married to Ariena—they’re expecting their first child—and he’s co-coordinator of the new Pythian Games and trainer to godlike athlete Phorcys. Furthermore, his great enemy, Scyron, is reported to be dead. When tragedy strikes, however, Damian must search his soul to find the true meaning of his destiny and the Orphic dictum to “know thyself.” Iannella again gives readers many intriguing, telling details about life, culture and attitudes in ancient Greece, including a reminder that marble statues were carefully painted with lifelike colors and a lesson in cemetery etiquette: “I poured some olive oil as a libation through a tube on one side of his grave and said prayers to Persephone and Orpheus.” By balancing mainstream Greek thought against the Orphics’ gentle precepts, Iannella illuminates Damian’s philosophical journey. It might be true, as Kleisthenes remarks, that “[t]his life is meant to be hard, if not cruel….All Greeks, deep down, understand this thought; they try to forget it.” But the novel also shows that a gentler perspective is possible, and Damian’s travails lead him to conclude that “[t]here must be darkness if the light is to be fully appreciated.” That said, the prose style can become flat, remote and prosaic at times, summarizing dialogue instead of showing it—even at especially dramatic moments: “I told them how he was the most pure and noble man I knew and that I was blessed to have him as my friend.”
An often satisfying conclusion to Damian’s story, with much to engage lovers of ancient history.