In Sisken’s debut novel, the first in a trilogy about the end of the Minoan Empire, a young priestess questions her gods in the face of the destruction of her island home.
Cavanila cannot stand by while the people in her home of Akrotiri, capital of the island Thera, suffer after an earthquake. As Sisken stresses, Cavanila’s priorities always align with the good of her people, often making her a character who is too noble and selfless to be true, especially as her decisions cause her to first disobey her priest/prince father, Rhadamantis, and later King Minos himself. But while the ruling men frequently chastise her for her independence, she is permitted to continue following the path she sets for herself, even after she begins questioning whether or not the gods she serves even exist. As the crisis on Thera grows worse—earthquakes are just the first sign that the volcano in the center of the island will soon explode—Cavanila takes on a more prominent role as a leader. Under her father’s command, she’s made the high priestess of the refugee settlement on the island of Nios. As refugees from Thera settle in the Minoan capital of Knossos, Minos believes that Cavanila—despite her unorthodox rules about allowing commoners to have a voice in their own governance—can help integrate the Therans with the Knossians. Sisken’s setting, filled with gods and rituals based on archaeological evidence from the long-vanished Minoan Empire, comes to life in the descriptions of the fire and flames that destroyed much of Thera in the 17th century B.C. But while the natural disaster and its relationship—or not—to the gods is the plot’s most interesting conceit, the story focuses primarily on the political machinations of Minos’ court as well as its fairly one-dimensional characters, including the cold, power-hungry high priestess Jenora and Cavanila’s noble and crown-loyal love interest, Bardok.
An intriguing debut in a well-drawn ancient setting populated with shallow leaders who care for either their people or their own power.