An action-packed new series set in the mysterious, dangerous Bronze Age.
Young Hylas–goatherd, Outsider, thief–is hunted by powerful warriors who want him dead and have kidnapped his sister. Hylas is forced to flee his home, but not before a mysterious stranger gives him a bronze dagger. While on the run, Hylas must use his skill and wits to survive a shipwreck and a great white shark attack, befriend a dolphin, and help Pirra, the runaway daughter of a High Priestess. Together with Pirra, the dolphin, and the valuable bronze sword, Hylas fights to discover why he’s being hunted and find his sister before the warriors find them.
You can read an excerpt here.
This book just left me feeling underwhelmed. There was nothing overtly wrong with any of it, but nothing especially right about it either – it just kind of lived in that uncomfortable middle ground, being neither compelling nor repelling. And so I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it either – and in the end, I found I just didn’t particularly care one way or another.
Which was a shame, because I was primed to like it – I really liked the idea of a Bronze Age adventure story, especially one with a pre-Greek pantheon of gods. And it did seem promising at first, with plenty of action and danger – the classic they’re-hunting-me-and-I-don’t-know-why trope is always fun, and I enjoyed Hylas’ struggle to avoid the Crows and find his sister. But then the danger kind of faded to a distance, so the momentum died down, and then suddenly everything seemed to be revolving around the random prophecy made by the random guy Hylas randomly ran into – not to mention the other random prophecy that just so happened to implicate Hylas and ruin his life – and it was all completely unattached from any reason for me to care. There just was no emotional connection, for me, to any of it – the prophecies, Hylas’ capitol Q “Quest”, or any of the players, really. The characters themselves were just bland – Hylas was a fine, poor-but-honorable sort, and as for Pirra, she was equally fine, if entirely too familiar - I mean, how many young girls of privilege running away from forced marriages have we all read? – and it all just kind of mushed together into a stew of forget-ability. And so Hylas wanders too and fro, stumbling into random places of religious import, longing for a sister we never get to meet, all the while tripping over dangerous circumstances as the dolphin swims adorably around and through all of it – and then suddenly the story was over, and I found myself lacking any vital interest whatsoever in seeing what would happen next (because of course this book is the start of series).
On the plus side, the dolphin is super cute – though I don’t know that occasionally switching to the dolphin’s POV really added all that much to the story – and I did enjoy Paver’s attention to historical detail, and the nice way she had with slowly filling in the geography of her Bronze Age landscape, gradually broadening and deepening Hylas’ world. And easily my favorite part of this story – the one part I did emotionally connect with – was Hylas’ conflict with his best friend, Telemon. It was really the one and only part of this story that felt PERSONAL, fraught and compelling, and I really enjoyed how their relationship was tested, their loyalties questioned, and how by the end their friendship would never be the same. I just wish this book had more of THAT, a whole lot more.
Still, overall, I can’t help but think the Big Idea of this story, i.e. the epic sweep of FATE and DESTINY, just fell flat on its face. The Big Prophecy of Doom turned out to be not that compelling, and the Random Prophecy of Hylas’ Future was basically a road map for random plot points to come. If it had all been towards some greater purpose or meaning, maybe I could have bought into it all a bit more, but there was just nothing there to hold onto.
And so, in the end, this book really did nothing for me. I almost find myself wishing I could have hated it, because then, at least, this story would have provoked a decent reaction from me, instead of this utter disinterest I find myself left with. It’s just…sad.
Byrt Grade: B
As Levar Burton used to say – you don’t have to take my word for it…
Although I breezed through the book and in spite of its action-packed storyline… it was boring and unremarkable read in the end…While there isn’t anything that makes this a bad book, there’s nothing really here to recommend it, either.
Paver’s story should appeal easily to lovers of historical fantasy (and, of course, Percy Jackson fans) with its polished blend of action, ancient history, and myth.
Action-packed chapters ending in cliffhangers keep the story moving forward at a fast clip. Richly detailed and historically believable scenes show Paver’s commitment to authenticity. Unfortunately, an uneven plot, a lack of character development and unstable fantastical elements will keep readers from fully engaging. Though the story promises much in its premise, it falls short in its execution.