CM . . .
. Volume XIX Number 28. . . .March 22, 2013
Cursed by the Sea God. (Odyssey of a Slave, Bk II).
Vancouver, BC: Ronsdale Press, 2013.
204 pp., trade pbk., pdf, & ebook, $11.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-55380-186-3 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55380-188-7 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-55380-187-0 (ebook).
Trojan War-Juvenile fiction.
Odysseus (Greek Mythology)-Juvenile fiction.
Grades 7-11 / Ages 12-16.
Review by Ruth Latta.
...Lopex stepped out, Circe hanging on his arm. Her feet were bare, her toenails painted an eggshell blue. His sandals had been misplaced.
"So, Circe, where are my men?"
She turned her gaze up at him. "Are you sure we have to do this right now? Perhaps later, after we've had dinner, or..."
He frowned impatiently. "Now."
She pouted. "Oh, very well, but you have to understand that it was for their own good. Most men are nearly pigs already, you know. Not you, of course, my lone wolf." She reached up to stroke his ear but he shook her off.
"For the last time: Where are they?..."
In Torn from Troy, Canadian author Patrick Bowman introduced readers to Alexi, a 15-year-old orphan taken captive by Lopex (aka. Odysseus), the Greek leader who won the Trojan War by means of the wooden horse caper. On leaving Troy to return home to Ithaca, Lopex takes Alexi along as his slave, interpreter and healer. This first novel ends with the Cyclops encounter.
Cursed by the Sea God takes Alexi on more adventures from The Odyssey. Throughout Book Two, Alexi lives in fear after losing the respect of Lopex and his men. This downturn happens after visiting Aeolius's isle. To aid him on his journey, Aeolius gives Lopex a mysterious bag that keeps moving as if inhabited. When they set sail, Lopex keeps the bag under his arm, sometimes opening it a little. When Lopex goes to sleep, one of the men cuts the drawstring.
"A scream escaped like a hurricane unleashed ," says Alexi. "All of a sudden the ship bucked like a terrified steed, tossing first one, then a second screaming man over the rail to vanish in the churning sea below... I struggled to shut the sack again but without the cord my hands were too weak to pull it shut."
Lopex, roused from sleep, blames Alexi for the death and destruction caused by releasing all of the world's winds at once, and he tells Alexi never to speak to him again. Here, Lopex appears less than heroic.
Bowman puts a new twist on Aeolius, God of the Winds, making him an un-godlike, puffy, excitable monarch who sentences his subjects for trivial offenses to "polishing" - death by sandstorm. Readers may enjoy looking up the iconic events of The Odyssey and noting Bowman's variations on them. Bowman not only uses Homer's plot points to create an action-packed novel but brings a great epic poem to life for a new generation who might otherwise never hear of it.
Reading Torn from Troy, I was impatient to get on with Odysseus's journey and disappointed that the book took readers through only the first few adventures. Cursed by the Sea moves at a fast pace from one thrill to the next. Bowman's grotesquely fat Lestrigonian cannibal queen creates interest and revulsion, and the entrapment and bombardment of the Greek fleet by the Lestrigonians is vivid and dramatic. Circe, the sorceress who turns Alexi and several other men into pigs for a short while, is an intriguing personality and one of the few female characters in the novel. Bowman creates an atmospheric journey to the underworld with details like dark, blood-like river water, black trees and clutching vines. In Hades, Lopex consults with the seer Tiresias, and Alex meets some loved ones. Then comes the challenge of getting out. Alexi saves the day: Lopex's ship "shot out of the tunnel like a cork squeezed from a goat skin."
The Charybdis and Scylla and Sirens sections are well-presented, and the Cattle of the Sun chapter shows Bowman's unique touch. Tiresias warned Lopex not to let his men slaughter any of the Sun God's cattle, but the hungry crew ignore the prohibition and slaughter several animals in Lopex's absence. In Bowman's tale, there is a ghoulish consequence. Lopex orders the men to burn the remains and eradicate all trace of their presence on the island.
Gradually, one sees Alexi and Lopex being contrasted. Young Alexi is brave in the face of danger and brutal treatment while Lopex's (Odysseus's) heroism is called into question when some of his men recalled his tricking them into entering the Trojan Horse. "We took Troy," Deklah tells Alexi, "but a thousand years will never wash away the dishonour of how we did it."
Lopex's win, based on stealth and cunning, not "strength and honour", combined with instances of his bad judgment, make the reader feel that Alexi is wise, at the end of the novel, to consider escaping. If I remember the Odyssey correctly, another reason why Alexi should take off is the conspiracy of the irate sun god and Zeus to kill all Odysseus's men. Will Alexi flee in time and find his lost sister? Cursed by the Sea God has a cliffhanger ending.
Ruth Latta's teen novel, The Songcatcher and Me, (Ottawa, Baico, 2013) is set in the twentieth century. For further information, contact her at email@example.com.
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