Woman of Stone by Debra Tash

Book Review by Skarr

In 148 BC, the praetor or Roman governor assigned to Macedonia, Quintus Caecilius Metellus, crushes the revolt in that province, putting to bed any dreams of Macedonian independence inspired by Andriscus, a pretender to the throne, who claimed to be the son of the famous Perseus. While Metellus was busy with his new army, later honored by the senate on his return to Italy in 146 BC with the cognomen Macedonicus, the Greeks sought to lead a semi-revolt against Rome, appointing Critolaus, one of their pro-independence leaders as a dictator in Corinth.

Envoys sent by Rome were mistreated and to teach the city a lesson, the Roman senate sends Lucius Mummius (later awarded a cognomen Archaicus for his victories in Greece) to teach the Corinthians a lesson, prompted by mercantile interests in the region, as Mummius is a known, rapacious plunderer and not only razes Corinth to the ground after massacring its citizens but steals its most precious works of art and has them shipped back to Rome.

This novel by Debra Tash cleverly blends her story of a young priestess of Apollo at Delphi and the unexpected love that blossoms between her and Macedonicus against this backdrop of war and tumultuous conflict in Greece. Not only does she manage to keep a consistent, dramatic and at times, poignant thread between the lives of the ordinary characters in her book and these tremendous events that were to shape the history of Greece, but she also paints a vivid, colorful and historically accurate portrayal of those times, by transporting the reader to that time through the sheer power of her prose.

There is quite a seamless transition between the way the characters relate to one another in their personal capacity to the actual historical events that shape and direct their lives. Debra also presents the inner workings of a general's soul as she delves deep into his thoughts to flesh out the man for who he really was, rather than relying solely on historical accounts of the life of Macedonicus. The priestess, Timarete, for whom the great general develops a powerful attachment is a little mysterious and I think portrayed as a little too virtuous, the ideal of the perfect, chaste woman who is utterly blameless and without a single fault.

This to me was the sole defect, if any, that you can find in this novel, as regards the way this character was presented. In my mind, a few flaws in her character would have made her a little more believable. However, this is a very minor nit and the novel is not only full of excitement, but moves at a dramatic pace and builds up to a thrilling climax, when the reader can find the opportunity to be a part of history as Corinth is razed to the ground by the avaricious Mummius.

There were a couple of other things, again minor, which I didn't care for. One was the frequent reference to 'One God' and other concepts which I felt detracted a little from the overall theme of the novel, as the characters try to justify their thoughts and actions. In the case of the general, it is remorse for the inevitable deaths that he is personally responsible for and in the case of the priestess; it is a sense of shame tinged with a slightly misogynistic view of the world, a recurring theme whenever a female character expresses her thoughts and feelings.

Again, these are relatively minor nits and a matter of personal preference and in no way detracts from the overall excellence of the book. Debra writes very easily and her prose is often lyrical and very evocative of the times, giving you a real sense of what it must have felt like, living in ancient Greece. There are scenes of everyday life and life in the camp and numerous other touches which I found wonderful.

Although there is an undercurrent of romance in the novel, I would hardly classify this as a Historical Romance novel and would instead categorize this more as Historical Fiction, as the author has done some pretty painstaking research and it shows throughout the novel.

This is overall, a great read and for any young adults out there who want to really learn about history and forget about Harry Potter for a minute, try reading this work and you will find that history can be truly fascinating and can not only educate you but really push the envelope insofar as your imagination is concerned. Due to adult and mature themes in certain parts, I would recommend this for young adults or mature teens. For all fans of historical fiction, this is a must read!

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Union Jack Woman of Stone for the UK