Book Review

BOOK REVIEW: In The Shadow Of Heroes by Nicholas Bowling

– Short Review –

A brilliant romp of a tale which seamlessly blends Greek Mythology with the Roman Empire.  What emerges is a classic adventure which sees two slaves set off on a quest to track down the location of the fabled Golden Fleece.  Can they find it before the Emperor Nero’s henchmen?
If you liked Brightstorm by Vashti Hardy you’ll probably enjoy this

– Longer review –

In a nutshell this book is the “History – Mythology – Adventure” promised on the back cover.  The shiny cover draws you in from the start with it’s golden sheen and ram’s head bedecked by a laurel crown.
What follows is a breathtaking adventure which follows the fortune of two slaves as they try and determine the hiding place of the fabled Golden Fleece.
Cadmus is slave to Tallus, a scholar in Rome, who found him as an abandoned baby.  He knows nothing of his past or parentage but is bright and thrives under Tallus’ stewardship.  Suddenly though Tallus disappears just before a fellow slave, Tog, arrives from Athens with a message for him.
Cadmus wants to find his master and, believing that it will provide some clues, opens the message.  In doing so he opens the door on a quest to find the Golden Fleece (of Jason and the Argonauts fame).  Trouble is that Cadmus is an intellectual type – he needs the power and strength that Tog provides, she’s a slave of Amazonian power and the brawn to complement his brains.
They need all of their wits about them to try and find the fleece before the Emperor Nero and his henchmen.  In a journey that leads from Rome to Athens and then Britain they manage to thwart their enemies but will the Fleece be where myth and legend suggests or is the truth closer to home all the time?
As Cadmus starts to uncover the secrets of his past it becomes apparent that his destiny goes beyond slavery and the book ends with the tantalising promise that this is just the first in a series of adventures for these characters.
I love the way the book cleverly combines modern storytelling with myth/history we’re already familiar with – with references to Rome burning and the Argo it already feels like we’re on familiar ground.   What’s remarkably refreshing is to see a gender reverse where it’s the girl that’s the physical powerhouse – we have a male and female star in this book that shine equally brightly, so it will have really wide appeal.
The action literally doesn’t stop from start to finish and, by the time we reach the end, we know just enough about the characters to leave us wanting more.  With a treasure trove of myth, legend and history to draw from this is a series that could run and run (please).
In The Shadow Of Heroes is published by Chicken House Books and is available here.
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Nicholas Bowling

Nick Bowling is an author, stand-up comic, musician and Latin teacher from London. He graduated from Oxford University in 2007 with a BA in Classics and English, and again in 2010 with a Masters in Greek and Latin Language and Literature, before moving to his first teaching job at Trinity School, Croydon. While writing Witchborn, he has also performed a solo show at the Edinburgh festival, and has co-written, recorded and released an album and two EPs with soul-folk singer Mary Erskine, Me For Queen. Witchborn is his debut novel.

Reviewed by Angela Paull

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