A seafaring slave faces pirates and other dangers in this third installment of a historical fiction series set in ancient Greece.
It is 430 B.C. and a young man named Arion finds himself in a perilous situation. He is an oar-rowing slave onboard a merchant ship that is hastily pursued by pirates. An Athenian triaconter is near his ship but there is no telling whether it will be able to help before the pirates inflict their damage. In the violence and ship ramming that ensues, Arion is wounded, though he performs his duties bravely. The pirates are deflected; their captain is executed; and Arion is granted “freedom from fetters” upon returning to shore. Arion is still a slave, albeit one that has risen greatly in the eyes of his master, Artontes. Another person who takes notice of Arion is Artontes’ wife, Melissa. She would like nothing more than a sexual relationship with Arion but the young hero is hesitant. It is a tough time for love with a plague taking many lives in Athens and the unfolding Peloponnesian War set to claim more. It is not long before Arion is back at his oar en route to the Gulf of Corinth to engage in more maritime action. Information about the ancient world is interspersed at every corner in this chain of events. At one point, Arion takes a long stroll to the Parthenon, where the “aura of its architectural artistry envelops him.” While such portions certainly fail to accelerate the plot, they give the reader a more thorough sense of the magnificence of the time period. But other interactions, usually between two characters, tend to slow the book’s progress without providing much in return. A description of Melissa and Arion conversing unhelpfully asserts: “When she sees or senses his hesitation, she gives him long enough to absorb what she is saying, but watches that she may continue before he is ready to speak.” Sten’s (Return to Lesbos, 2017, etc.) story nevertheless delivers a glimpse of ancient Greece’s many facets. Arion’s journey helps to paint a vivid image of the past, whether exploring the complex rules governing slaves or presenting the details of striking monuments.
This vibrant adventure exploring a bygone era offers both stunning and mundane scenes.