Gardens of Ampheia by Joshua Silverman

SilvermanGardensOfAmpheiaWhy I Read It: Enjoyed The Emerald Tablet by the same author.

Where I Got It: A review copy from the author (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: Those who like lead female characters, ancient Greece, endings with a twist should check this book out.

Publisher: Enchanted Forest Press (2013)

Length: 100 pages

Series: A novella of the Legends of Amun Ra series.

While this novella enhances the Legends of Amun Ra series, it can stand on it’s own completely.

Set in Potara, a parallel place with similar Grecian and Egyptian deities and cultures, Thea has been raised by Helios, a man not her father but close enough. He has trained her in secret over the nearly 2 decades, forcing her on tougher runs and training her on how to wield edged weapons. Oh, and she also has to tend goats, which is no easy task. She knows she has a hidden past, yet Helios has never answered her questions. Finally, one day her frustration pushes her harder than before and a horrible training accident sends her rushing to the nearest farm for help.

Thea, the front and center character of this tale, is a mix of things. As with most young ladies her age, she would prefer to stay out a bit late drinking with the nearest farm lad and sleep in the next morning. While she grumbles away Helios’s advice for a bit of fruit before her morning run, she still goes on the run. Her life may be a boring routine of training and goat tending, but her mysterious background keeps the reader wondering. Through a mix of events in the story and flashbacks, we learn more about Thea, her purple power, and can make some guesses as to why Helios trains her as a warrior, and also how to be self-sufficient (such as setting snares and preparing her own meals).

A long-standing series of conflicts has existed between the Thothians and the larger empire of Egypt and the Grecians for some time, since before Thea’s birth. When Thea finds herself at the center of yet another conflict, she is faced with hard choices. Constantly challenged by her friend and neighbor farmer Cilix, her path forward becomes conflicted. I liked that Thea made mistakes in this story and had to live with them. At each step of the way, I could see how one misstep lead to another and yet another. In this sense, Thea was very real.

Thea and the reader eventually do get some of the answers to her questions, but it didn’t happen in the manner I expected. Also, since we know early on that she is trained as a warrior, her fighting prowess is not exhibited until near the end. Personally, I would have enjoyed a little more of her either on the battle field or perhaps in some sort of bar brawl earlier in the story. There is one soldier who is a bit of a jerk and I wanted to see Thea go all Xena Warrior Princess on his ass. Yet I respect her restraint.

I enjoyed the backdrop of the story with the Grecian mythology, culture, and civics. Joshua Silverman‘s attention to details comes through clearly in his world-building. From the Greek food to the lack of stirrups (yes, they were invented and came into common use far later in human history than you think), the reader gets a clear picture of Thea’s world. In a society where women are not generally warriors, Thea has several stereotypes to overcome. This definitely adds to the tension of the story. Thea herself isn’t out to prove herself; she is simply trying to make up for her mistakes. Overall, this was a very enjoyable story of a young lady coming of age at a brutal time in Potara’s history. My few criticisms concern a handful of typos, one horse who had a sex change, and some goats that had lambs (instead of kids); these few things did not distract from my enjoyment of the tale.

What I Liked: Ancient feel, even if set on a similar parallel world; Thea is so human, mistakes and all; underlying mystery; the ending was not what I expected.

What I Disliked: A mild criticism – I would have liked a bit explanation or strong hints earlier on about Thea’s birth mystery. Learning it all at once at the end felt a little rushed.

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