In ancient Greece, former slave Damian wrestles with insecurity as he takes on an important role in Delphi.
In Journey to Delphi (2012), Iannella’s first book in his planned trilogy of historical novels, young Damian—betrayed and sold into slavery—escapes after being raped and crippled by a cruel master. He flees to Delphi, which the tyrant Kleisthenes wishes to make the cultural center of Greece. Damian’s skills in mathematics, architecture, planning and budgeting make him valuable, and in this second volume, Damian becomes crucial to Kleisthenes’ rebuilding plans. With more money and status, Damian can also afford to marry the beautiful Ariena. Despite his achievements, insecurity plagues him. He feels physically and socially inferior, sees insults and slights everywhere, and worries that he’ll pass down no lasting legacy—as the Delphic oracle seemed to predict. But overcoming inferiority can lead to hubris, and the ending leaves Damian’s destiny still in doubt. Like the first book, this one contains many intriguing, well-researched details about life in ancient Greece about religious rituals, athletic training, sixth-century B.C. Olympic and Pythian games, food and drink, clothing and marriage customs. (For example, on her wedding day, the bride burns her childhood toys.) Damian’s often peevish resentments can become irritating, but they are understandable and give him a source of believable conflict, as does his guilt over abandoning the Orphic principles of his childhood. As in the first volume, the charismatic, far-seeing Kleisthenes is very appealing; a new character, the beautiful athlete Phorcys, is also sympathetic. Ariena, however, is one-dimensional, which may reflect ancient Grecian attitudes toward women and their roles but deflates the love story.
A good second outing in this series, again bringing ancient Delphi to life.