The Seven Wonders
by Steven Saylor
In 92 B.C., young Gordianus of Rome travels with his mentor, poet Antipater of Sidon, to visit the Seven Wonders of the World. During their journey, they encounter mystery and murder. A young maiden dies during a play at Artemis’ temple. Two deaths and two enigmatic widows puzzle the pair in Halicarnassus. An Olympic athlete is the suspect in a murder at Zeus’ temple. Did a witch slaughter soldiers outside the destroyed city of Corinth? What connection does a man from Gaul have to the god Helios? Who killed the astrologer in a supposedly haunted temple in Babylon? At the Great Pyramid, Gordianus must solve the Sphinx’s second riddle. Gordianus becomes involved in international conspiracy in Alexandria.
These are a series of short stories placed into one volume. The mysteries within each chapter aren’t complex whodunits but there is enough variety in each case to be interesting. Plus, the traveling to see the Seven Wonders is astounding. I’ll admit, when I first read the back cover, I was afraid it was going to be one of those long drawn out tales of intricacy with long narratives and too long phrases with a plot that would just bore me to tears. However, by the middle of the first chapter I was delightfully surprised. After the first Wonder, I knew this was going to be a book I would thoroughly enjoy if only for the way history, the time period, and the culture is presented.
Gordianus: 18, Roman, father is ‘finder of truth’, from his father, Gordianus learned how to pick locks, tell if a woman is lying, and stealth. From Antipater, Gordianus learned history, mathematics, and Greek
Antipater of Sidon: Elderly Greek, famous poet, white hair, and normally white beard, hands are age spotted, wry sense of humor, experience traveler. It is said he helped create the list of the world’s seven wonders but that fact is not mentioned in this story.
These are the two main characters and they meet a plethora of other interesting people throughout their travels. Since the Romans had conquered, they and the Greeks had their differences and the attitude is shown throughout with various characters. I like the naïve youth paired with the experienced teacher. Though a virgin at the beginning, Gordianus is involved with sex in every chapter.
Easy to understand. No lengthy conversations although some descriptions of the sites are shown in dialogue.
First person narrative from Gordianus’ POV. Easy to read and understand narrative. We’re in the ancient world, but the language is basic enough without the difficulty of Latin and Greek with which to contend. No flowery difficult phrasing but enough descriptive narrative to elicit detailed imagery. It’s eloquent without being something you need to decipher, simple without being childish. Several instances of poetic verse. I enjoyed how Saylor showed the origins of modern words and terms through the use of ancient myth – Hermaphrodite, Cynic, Nike. A very enjoyable book.