As you read this, I’ll be on my way to attend the Pubcamp Writer’s Conference in Seattle, WA. Which means, finally (FINALLY) you can expect to see some more posts about the craft of writing, and not just about my book recommendations. But before that happens (and because it’s awfully hard to write while also driving), I have another such recommendation for you, courtesy of the blog tour mentioned above. So let’s jump right into, shall we?
Night of Pan
by Gail Strickland
My Rating: 4/5 Stars
The slaughter of the Spartan Three Hundred at Thermopylae, Greece 480 BCE—when King Leonidas tried to stop the Persian army with only his elite guard—is well known. But just what did King Xerxes do after he defeated the Greeks?
Fifteen-year-old Thaleia is haunted by visions: roofs dripping blood, Athens burning. She tries to convince her best friend and all the villagers that she’s not crazy. The gods do speak to her.
And the gods have plans for this girl.
When Xerxes’ army of a million Persians marches straight to the mountain village Delphi to claim the Temple of Apollo’s treasures and sacred power, Thaleia’s gift may be her people’s last line of defense.
Her destiny may be to save Greece…
…but is one girl strong enough to stop an entire army?
I’ve always had a soft spot for books based in mythology, and this one definitely doesn’t disappoint on that front. The story starts with fifteen-year-old Thaleia’s wedding day. A strong, independent heroine, though, she has other plans for her future, plans that don’t involve marrying a man she’s been betrothed to since age five. She escapes and starts to flee, but is stopped by Pan and a prophecy — the Persian army is on its way to Delphi, and she’s the only one who can save her people.
This is an interesting coming-of-age story about how the Oracle of Delphi comes to be. Strickland has clearly done a ton of research into the culture of the region, from the well-known pantheon of gods, to the day-to-day customs and warfare practices of the time. And from that standpoint, it’s phenomenally written. But I did find myself struggling with some of the other aspects. Namely, that the character development felt shallow. I would expect a coming-of-age story to be largely character-driven, but this fell flat on that for me, reading instead like more of a plot-driven action-adventure. I didn’t connect with Thaleia emotionally (nor with any of the supporting cast), and often struggled with her voice. She seemed to be both too mature and too young for fifteen, and some of the modern turns of phrase were jarring against the historical backdrop. While I do feel that she’s a good role model for young girls, she almost borders on a cliche’ed example of the “strong, independent woman” stereotype. I would have liked to see her be a littler more fully developed and multi-faceted as a character.
That said, I do think the prose itself is beautifully written. Lyrical and smooth, Strickland’s style is effortless, and I could appreciate her voice as an author (not to be confused with Thaleia’s voice, as mentioned above.) The additional material included in the book makes this a well-rounded choice for younger readers interested in mythology. It is a YA, and I think it targets it’s market effectively. However, unlike some YA, it doesn’t translate quite as well outside of that target readership. I would definitely recommend it for the 12 + age range it’s intended for, though. And I will probably finish the trilogy, if only to see more of the richly developed, detailed world.
**Disclosure Statement: I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. **
About the Author:
Gail Strickland — classicist, poet and musician — was recognized by The Baltimore Review & Writers’ Digest and published by the Oxford University Journal New Satyrica. While studying the classics in college, Gail translated much of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. Always passionate about music and bringing the richness of Homer’s language and culture to today’s youth, Gail mentored young poets and novelists and introduced thousands of youngsters to piano and Greek mythology.
Gail was born in Brooklyn, New York and grew up in northern California. She raised her children, read French philosophers in French and played in an eclectic country band called the Prairie Dogs whose claim to fame was being the only band to play Candlestick Park between the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.
Her first book, NIGHT OF PAN … a mythic journey of a young Oracle in ancient Greece, was published by Curiosity Quills Press November 7, 2014. NIGHT OF PAN is book one of THE ORACLE OF DELPHI TRILOGY.