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Book description

An unusual historical fiction that pairs a thorough and insightful understanding of the ancient Greek world with a brazenly modern and arch tone. Normally, I dislike a modern tone and dialogue in historical fiction. It comes across as lazy and breaks my sense of immersion. However, in this case its not a problem because Holts evident expertise in the world sustains his credibility, while the playful and conversational tone makes for pleasant reading. The story is something of a bumbling picaresque, with the two brothers narrating their wanderings and misadventures with the wry detachment of decades of hindsight. Yet tragedy peeks through the farcical tone often enough to give the novel some real heft. Even for clever men of the better sort, the Greece of the 8th century B.C. is a harsh and arbitrary world. One day youre enjoying the open-handed hospital of a local lord, the next youre walking the dusty road hungry and penniless. Theres a scene where the travellers approach a renowned city with great anticipation, only to find it was burned to ground some time ago, and now lies abandoned. Time marches apace.There are some puzzling lapses. Early in the novel, one of the brothers is described as a callow young man participating in battle for the first time, carrying a package of food his mother prepared for him. In the next chapter, he is shown to be a man in his prime with wife and farm, pulling an old chariot out of the barn. And this is ostensibly only days or maybe weeks after the battle. Several lapses of this sort give the impression of hasty writing and superficial editing. Still, Holt has a breezy voice and offers up some laughs without trivializing his subject. Olympiad left a strong enough impression that Ill be seeking out more of his works.

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