The sequel to Over the Wine-Dark Sea (2001) follows the fearless cousins Menedemos and Sostratos from their native Rhodes to Athens and back during one of Greece’s worst civil wars.
For those just tuning in, Menedemos and Sostratos are a somewhat Patty Duke–ish pair of cousins living shortly after the death of Alexander the Great: Menedemos is a sailor (ambitious, handsome, bold, impatient), while Sostratos is a scholar (cunning, cool-headed, ascetic, calculating). They make a good pair, each complementing the other’s weaknesses and strengths, and they’re both bankrolled by their wealthy fathers (the merchant brothers Philodemos and Lysistratos), who see the need to look beyond the shores of Rhodes to keep the family fortunes in good shape. The last time out, Menedemos and Sostratos ventured to a then-obscure Rome and returned with untold booty. This time they’re off to Athens—hardly uncharted territory in third-century b.c., but a dangerous trip all the same, since just now the Aegean is infested with pirates and the whole of Greece is being rocked by a bloody war between the fleets of Antigonos and Ptolemaios. The cousins need to raise money for their family, since trade is badly in a slump now that war has broken out, and they set off to sell a cache of Egyptian emeralds, along with their rarest treasure of all: a skull that Sostratos believes to be that of a gryphon (the mythological beast part lion, part bird). There are the usual adventures on the high seas (pirates, storms) and a good deal of action on shore (women, politics). But with the help of their faithful skipper Diokles, Menedemos, and Sostratos manage, like Odysseus, to make it home in one piece.
Superlative historical adventure, narrated with plenty of action and a good feel for the era.