Saturday, October 04, 2008

The Gryphon's Skull by H. N. Turteltaub

The Gryphon's Skull by H. N. Turteltaub is the second book in a historical fiction series that deals with the Mediterranean. Turteltaub is a pseudonym of the master of the alternate history Harry Turtledove. Alexander the Great has been dead for 14 years. The Empire he founded is collapsing in squabbles between his successors. The plot of the book describes the trading season of two Greek cousins Menedemos and Sostratos from Rhodes. They try to make a profit while avoiding pirates and in Menedemos case jealous husbands. Sostratos the intellectual is fascinated by the discovery of a Gryphon's skull that he wants to take to Athens to be studied.

The writing is excellent at portraying the setting of the ancient Mediterranean. The dialogue tends to be a little superficial. Turtledove knows his Greek literature. Characters will quote chunks out of it whenever possible. This would be like 17th-century Londoners constantly quoting Shakespeare. It's a little strange. There are also some anachronisms.

At this point there are four books published in this series. I'm going to pick up the others. Certainly different than most historical fiction I read. Nice to get away from military topics for a change.

Highly recommended!

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