A startling archaeological discovery leads to the revelation of a lost world.
In this latest historical fantasy from Baren (The Canary in the Mine, 2015, etc.), a new archaeological find rocks the personal and professional lives of the teammates who uncovered it. Dominique Saint-Angel and Guy Thériot-Massat are part of an expedition that’s detected the ruins of a vast sunken city resting a mile and a half underwater off the northern coast of Tunisia. The location suggests Carthage, the ancient Phoenician rival to the growing state of Rome, but the artifacts from the submerged city are many thousands of years older than the era of Carthage. Dominique and Guy are deeply, passionately in love, but Dominique’s growing obsession with the relics begins to drive a wedge between them. And in the midst of her researches, Dominique begins to have a series of highly detailed dreams showing her the long story of the ancient realm whose remains the team encountered. She experiences the dream of the god Ptaath and his eldest son, Psoth, a radiant figure who degenerates into a Satan-like blight on humanity. There follows a long historical novel of the ancient rulers of this lost dominion, embedded in the larger framework of the present-day archaeological party examining its remains. The fantasy Baren creates in this extended flashback makes for exotic and very inviting reading, full of strong male and female characters and intelligently interwoven supernatural elements. The author cannily uses the ancient and modern narratives to echo and reinforce each other and deftly teases out the suspense of what readers already know: that the ancient land they’re reading about is doomed to a quickly approaching destruction. The dialogue in both narratives can be a bit stilted (this will likely be the first 21st-century book most readers have ever perused that uses phrases like “Oh horrors!” unironically). But Baren’s ear for high-tension prose remains sound, and the pacing of the inserted ancient story turns out to be consistently page-turning.
A tale about an underwater city that delivers a sensuous and gripping historical fantasy wrapped inside a contemporary romance.