by Anne Fortier
Diana Morgan, an Oxford scholar fascinated by the warrior women described in Greek myths, is offered a tantalizing deal: spend a week doing a little bit of translation work for an enigmatic archaeological foundation in exchange for five thousand dollars and the chance to be associated with archeological proof that the Amazons existed. After some debate, she agrees. Suddenly, Diana is thrust into the adventure of a lifetime as she’s shuttled from one secret location to another, piecing together the fate of the Amazons as rival organizations seek to shut her down. Meanwhile, a parallel story from the distant past follows the path of a girl named Myrina as she leads a group of disenfranchised priestesses – the original Amazons – into the heart of the Trojan War as they search for a place to call home.
A fast-paced adventure that reminds me of the movie National Treasure, Diana’s escapades are exciting and entertaining. Diana is haunted by the memories of her grandmother, who believed she was an Amazon and taught the child Diana some of their traditions but was also institutionalized by Diana’s parents, who believed the old woman to be mad. The brief flashbacks show a once-strong woman reduced to a shadow of her former self because her mind has been chipped away by the treatments meant to cure her, and it’s heartbreaking. When Diana realizes that the inscriptions she’s been hired to translate are written in a dead language that her grandmother used in her diaries – a language long suspected to be one of many fantastic delusions by Diana’s mother and father – the reader will be on tenterhooks, waiting for the modern-day Amazons that must surely appear in the story.
So the mystery and the suspense in the 21st century story are wonderful and entrancing. Personally, I could have done without the occasionally heavy-handed romance, but I know a lot of readers love that sort of thing. It works well enough.
What doesn’t work is the historical story. The beginning is suitable, as a young Myrina flees her home village after her family is accused of witchcraft. She and her sister join a temple and pledge themselves to the Goddess, but after a group of Greeks attack and destroy her new home Myrina is once again on the move. She meets a young Trojan, falls in love, and leaves to join him in the great city of Troy. This is where the story falls apart for me. The young Trojan is Paris, and Myrina takes the place of the famous Helen of Troy, she of the thousand ship-launching face. The entire story of the Trojan War is rewritten so that Myrina features prominently. It struck me as Mary Sue fanfiction for The Iliad (never thought I’d be writing that in a book review!) and not very good. Myrina’s story is also written with a stiff, arch prose that makes conversations sound stilted and false. When the story suddenly cuts off about two-thirds of the way through the book, I was initially relieved, but getting rid of it threw off the balance that had been so carefully crafted between the parallel timestreams.
But it’s still a fantastic story. It’s the book equivalent of the summer blockbuster movie – a beach read, I guess we’d call that? – so just grab the popcorn and settle in for a fun time.
4 out of 5 stars
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Peeking into the archives...today in:
2013: The Lost Prince (Call of the Forgotten #1/ Iron Fey #5) by Julie Kagawa
2012: Immortality: The Quest to Live Forever and How it Drives Civilization by Stephen Cave
2011: Fashionista Piranha will be on hiatus for a while…
2010: The Passion of Artemisia by Susan Vreeland
2009: A Lion Among Men (The Wicked Years #3) by Gregory Maguire