In The Shadow of Heroes by Nicholas Bowling
|In The Shadow of Heroes by Nicholas Bowling|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Linda Lawlor|
|Summary: A skilful mixture of myth and history with a hero anyone of us could identify with. Brave and determined at times, but just as often scared and hurt, Cadmus and his friends face all manner of challenges including the anger of Nero, one of the most vicious men ever to rule ancient Rome.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 384||Date: May 2019|
|Publisher: Chicken House|
Life as a slave in ancient Rome could be harsh and degrading, but Cadmus has it much easier than most. Taken into the household of the scholar Tullus when he was a baby, his keenness to learn and his excellent memory have made him invaluable to his master, who treats him more like a secretary and perhaps even a member of the family, rather than a despised, barely human creature.
But then Tullus disappears, whisked away against his will by the soldiers who serve the Emperor Nero, a self-proclaimed god whose every word is obeyed because he's really clever at thinking up the most excruciatingly painful punishments for anyone who fails him. And why does he want Tullus? Because Nero has got it into his head that the Golden Fleece, spoken of in the old myths, is actually real, and he wants it. After all, he's a god, isn't he? That means he's probably related to all those heroes in the old stories, and owning the Fleece will prove it.
So Cadmus is, for now, without a master, and at the mercy of the other slaves who have always resented his favoured status in the household. Worse still, the scholar who was helping Nero previously sent Tullus a strange girl-slave called Tog just before he died, with a message about the Fleece, and so the two young people set off on an epic adventure to help Tullus which will take them to Greece, where they meet a strange secret cult, and even across the waters to the land at the edge of the world – Britain. Not even Tog's extraordinary strength and Cadmus' excellent knowledge of the old myths and legends can guarantee them success as they battle all manner of foes including a real heart-in-the-mouth encounter with the emperor himself.
There's a lot of background information in this story, and presumably it's pretty accurate as the author is a Latin teacher (bet his classes are lively!) but at no time will the reader feel that Important Facts You Ought To Know About The Ancient World are being forced on him or her. Cadmus acts just as we would do in his place, and while Tog remains a fairly mysterious character throughout, what we learn about her tragic past goes a long way towards explaining her behaviour. The story is chock-full of excitement, swinging dizzily between despair and hope, friendship and loss, and by the time readers reach the final page they will feel as if they've travelled all those thousands of miles with the two companions.
Readers who enjoy a combination of adventure, thrills and courage, set in a time far distant from our own, will also enjoy Slave Girl by Jackie French. Hekja, the thrall of the title, and her Viking mistress Freydis, travel from Greenland to America (yes, tons of time before that Johnny-come-lately Columbus!) and needless to say meet all manner of misfortunes and triumphs on their way. Tense, pacy and utterly gripping.
You can read more book reviews or buy In The Shadow of Heroes by Nicholas Bowling at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy In The Shadow of Heroes by Nicholas Bowling at Amazon.com.
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