CM . . .
. Volume XIII Number 2 . . . .September 15, 2006
Voyage with Jason.
Vancouver, BC: Simply Read Books, 2006.
208 pp., cloth, $19.95.
Grades 8 and up / Ages 13 and up.
Review by Kallie George.
The winged golden ram took Prixus to Colchis. There he made a new life. He married the daughter of the king and scarified the golden ram as thanks for the flight.
The Golden Fleece was enshrined, so precious that a monster dragon was set to guard it. Sleepless, it guarded the shrine day and night. And still does.
There in Colchis, the Golden Fleece awaits. It is the birthright of all Greeks. Only a true prince of Icolos could fetch the Fleece and take it back. And only then could he claim the kingdom of Pelias as his own.
Ken Catran’s Voyage with Jason, reprinted by Simply Read Books in Vancouver in 2006, is a quick-paced, action-packed retelling of the Greek myth of Jason and the Golden Fleece. Published first in New Zealand in 2000, the book won the Best Teenage Fiction award and New Zealand Post Children’s Book Award in 2001
The original Greek myth tells the story of Jason, son of Aeson and rightful heir to the throne of Iolcus. When Jason claims the throne, his uncle Pelias sends him on a seemingly impossible task—to recover the Golden Fleece from the island of Colchis where it is guarded by a fearsome dragon--in the hope that he will be killed. Despite the danger, Jason goes; knowing that recovering the fleece will prove his rightful claim to rule.
In a great ship, Argo, Jason travels the Black Sea with his crew of heroes, including Hercules, Theseus, Castor and Orpheus, encountering foreign societies and a myriad of dangers.
Out of the well-known cast of characters, Catran chooses Pylos, the only unheroic crew member, to narrate the events. A young apprentice shipbuilder, Pylos is rescued by Hercules from his cruel master and joins the crew on their quest. Pylos is an easy character to identify with: he is the youngest and the underdog. Since he is the only outsider on the crew, he can provide an objective narrative account of the heroes’ adventures during their three-year long voyage.
As Pylos gradually learns more and more about the heroes, he begins to realize that heroes have their flaws, too. Ultimately, Pylos earns their respect and his manhood, becoming a hero in his own right.
This personal perspective on Pylos is wonderful and refreshing, but it is truly the action that steers Voyage with Jason’s story line, including a death defying journey through enchanted rocks and attacks from winged harpies. The adventures culminate on Colchis with Jason’s stealing of the Golden Fleece from pits of dragon-snakes which precipitates an awesome battle between members of the royal family: beautiful, enticing Medea and her brother, Apsyrtus.
Definitely a book well worth reading, Voyage with Jason targets older audiences, especially with its occasional sexual references and frequent gory violence, characteristic of the original myth.
Ken Catran is a children’s writer and scriptwriter in New Zealand and has written some of New Zealand’s best loved television series including Close to Home and Shortland Street. I would suggest checking out his other titles–he has written over 20 novels for young adults—including Golden Prince (short-listed for the 2000 NZ Post Awards and a CBCA Notable Book in 1999), Talking to Blue and the sequel, Blue Murder (winner of the 2002 Ned Kelly Award for junior crime fiction).
Kallie George is currently completing her Masters of Children’s Literature at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC.
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