October 7th, 2014

Review: Night of Pan by Gail Strickland

Night of Pan
by Gail Strickland

First book in the Oracle of Delphi trilogy

When Thaleia begins to see nightmarish visions, it is a sign that she is the next Pythia, or oracle of Delphi. However, the head priest has already selected his own Pythia that he can control completely, and he has no interest in Thaleia’s abilities. With each vision of horror, Thaleia tries to convince her village that Greece is in terrible danger, but instead of listening men brush her off as crazy. But Greece is in trouble as the Persian armies of King Xerxes march ever closer, and if Thaleia cannot make herself be heard there will no chance for survival.

Author Gail Strickland clearly did a lot of research into the history of Delphi and daily life in ancient Greece, and it shows. The structure of the temple of Delphi and the political machinations that govern the priesthood are unnervingly realistic, and the characters of the gods that appear to Thaleia are very consistent with the personalities shown in classic Greek mythology. It’s an excellent way of revealing Greek religious practices to young adult readers looking for the next adventure after finishing the Percy Jackson and Heroes of Olympus series.

While the world is built up beautifully, the characters are a trifle flat. Diokles, the evil priest who sets up a false Pythia, seems wicked through and through. Thaleia is such a strong and independent young woman that she seems too mature for fifteen, but then again I must remember that fifteen back then was much older than it is today. There aren’t too many other characters who get enough “page time” to fully develop, but one of the most interesting personalities is Sophia, who acts as a foil to Thaleia. Unlike her friend, Sophia is content with her life as it has been planned for her, and has few ambitions beyond getting married and settling into raising a family. Throughout the book, Sophia represents the life Thaleia is supposed to want even as her visions drive her in a different direction.

Thaleia has been touched by the gods, and in her role as the Pythia she can utilize their powers. The exact nature of these powers is extremely inconsistent. She has visions of the future, as any oracle would – fair enough. But over the course of the novel, Thaleia demonstrates many other powers: summoning a fiery demon from Hades, bringing a dead girl back to life, and commanding the wind, rain and earth. The easy explanation is that she is a vessel through whom the gods work, and her ability to make the earth tremble, for example, is merely the temporary gift of Poseidon. This is very unsatisfactory from a literary standpoint because every problem up is solved by via dei ex machina. Even though there are actual gods in the narrative, and this means of resolution makes sense, it can’t help but feel contrived at times.

Still, it’s a fun read. There’s a lot of action and adventure, and the reader becomes truly immersed in Thaleia’s world. If a little deus ex machina doesn’t bother you, definitely check out Night of Pan.

3.5 out of 5 stars

To read more about Night of Pan, buy it or add it to your wishlist click here.

Peeking into the archives...today in:
2012: The Secret Life of Mary Bowser by Lois Leveen
2011: Mary Boleyn: The Mistress of Kings by Alison Weir
2010: Writer's Block: Open Book Test
2009: The King's Rose by Alisa Libby
2008: Want a job? Librarything.com seeks employees.