June 13, 2013
King of Ithaka by Tracy Barrett
King of Ithaka
by Tracy Barrett
Henry Holt and Company
Sixteen-year-old Telemachos spends his afternoons spying on girls with his best friends, Damon, the son of a farmer, and Brax, a boisterous centaur. He knows that life on the tiny island kingdom of Ithaka isn’t perfect. After all, they have no king since his father Odysseus went off to fight. But his mother, Penelopeia, is doing her utmost to hold things together, judging complaints, hosting the nightly dinner and keeping the stores as full as possible with so many neighbors willing to impose on her hostility.
But everyone is growing restless. They no longer seem satisfied with how Penelopeia settles disputes and the neighbors have decided that Odysseus is certainly dead. It is time for Penelopeia to marry one of them and make him king.
Telemachos doesn’t understand what has kept his father away but he has to keep his mother from being forced into marriage. He decides to sail to a nearby kingdom to find out what they can tell him of his father. His friend Damon plans to go along but then Damon’s father breaks his leg. Now only Damon’s skills in the families fields stands between his family and starvation. Things are so desperate that the local prostitute has already come by and offered to buy his oldest sister for a fair price.
Telemachos sets sail with only Brax for help and a centaur on a small sailing ship isn’t as helpful as one might hope. Then strange things start to happen and soon Telemachos suspects they have a stow-away but he is surprised to discover that it is Polydora, Damon’s sister.
When the journey begins, Telemachos is certain that it is enough for a good king to be strong and brave and generous with those who obey him. But as he encounters a variety of kings who have these three traits but still lack so much, Telemachos begins to see what they are missing.
Yet it isn’t until he returns home and discovers yet another new face that he puts it all together.
Author Tracy Barrett brings an academic’s understanding of classical history and literature to the world of ancient Greece. Her story weaves all of this in with an adventure worthy of Odysseus himself, if only the man had what it takes to reach the same conclusion as his son.
A fast moving novel with a wealth of information about the Ancient World. While it contains a great deal of action, it isn’t action/adventure in the sense of Percy Jackson simply because this is a much more thoughtful novel. (Keep in mind: I love Percy Jackson, this is simply a very different type of book.)