Chrissie's Reviews > Children of Tantalus: Niobe and Pelops

Children of Tantalus by Victoria Grossack
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Jul 21, 11

bookshelves: greece, history, kindle, turkey, sample-g, borrowed
Read from July 16 to 21, 2011

NO SPOILERS!!!

I wrote this review and it didn't get saved.......................... GRRRRR!!!!!!!!

Let me summarize by saying that this is the first in a trilogy of three books. Although it does not end with a cliffhanger, there are so many threads that left unresolved that you must continue. Immediately! I have already begun the second book The Road to Thebes: Niobe and Amphion.

Besides being about the ancient Greek gods and city-states, about myths and legend, it is about love. All kinds of love, not just that between spouses. It is about sibling love and lack there of, parental love and in fact the love of power and recognition, too. I was amazed at the authors' ability to beautifully portray a form of love toward which I am rather squeamish.

My complaints? The book is over and I simply must know how the events will continue to play out. There is no way I can stop now! This annoys me; I am not use to series. There is no authors' note, but this is resolved by going to the author who is here at GR and asking her questions! You will be impressed by her knowledge of the ancient times. Oh, and don(t forget to print out the map at the site given below. Then you will know where every city is located. There is a map in the book, but in the kindle version it is rather hard to read.

So I recommend this book to those of you intersted in immersing yourselves in ancient Greek myths. I sought a book to escape into, and that is exactly what I got.

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I have completed 43% of the book. The book fits exactly what I was looking for at this moment - a book to fall into and escape today's trials and tribulations. You fall into another world. I feel like I am reliving ancient myths in a manner that is captivating and enjoyable. I have discovered that rarely does historical fiction work for me. I must feel that I am learning something, but here, with this book, I feel I am filling in the holes of my knowledge concerning Greek myths.

Plot: I am not going to tell you anything about the plot, but right smack from the first chapter it is exciting. Always something new is happening.

Character portrayal: Each character comes alive. You learn of each one's unique characteristics. You empathize with them. You understand their choices, given their particular personality traits. They are three-dimensional. The dialogue is modernized, but this does not bother me at all.

Niobe shifted restlessly from one foot to the other. She could feel the weight of her hair pulling the ivory comb lower with each passing moment. Trying to be discreet, she reached up to push the one on the left back into place - and the cursed thing came loose in her hand......

Hastily Niobe twisted the long-toothed comb around a wad of hair and shoved it tight, hoping that she had done it right. Or was her hair sticking up like the crown-feathers of a rooster? Maybe she chould just pull out all of the combs, now while everyone was turned to face the door.....

"Stop figeting!" hissed her mother.......

But Niobe glanced only briefly at the ambassador from Hattusas. Beside him walked the brother she had not seen since the summer when she was eight years old, and he twelve. This was not the slender boy she remembered - he had grown so much taller, and his shoulders were even broader than Father's! His tunic was cut in the Hittite style, as were his boots with their upward-curling toes, his hair was braided back into the long, wide plait the Hittites favored. Still Niobe recognized the easy, confident smile of the boy who had taught her to play knucklebones in the palace courtyard, who had laughed and tousled her hair when she won.
(page 7-8)

Whad does this excerpt tell us? Niobe is not that pleased with her own appearance; she is not that self-confident. It shows that she is not a suppressed female, she wants to win at games. She laughs and is at ease with her brother. Dione, her mother, plays the more typical motherly role. Admonishing and, you will see, less interested in challenging set traditions. The author shows rather than tell us with words who these pêople are.

Historical aspects: Look at the quote above. It made me curious to know - did the Hittites where such shoes? How is this known? Well, I asked the author and was told that murals depeict such clothing. The facts in the book are drawn fo from historical evidence. The myths about these people do have holes, but the authors have taken the known myths and formed them into a story that makes sense. There is later a mastiff statue that plays a central role; that statue is part of the original myth. I appreciate learning about the known history of these times, of the Bronze Age 1350B.C. Here follows an excerpt about Athens:

The closer they came to the city, the more traffic they encountered: as fishermen coming up from the port, huntsmen and woodcutters bringing their loads from the hills; farmers and vintners and their wives with produce to barter in the agora, tradesmen from the city carrying export goods down to Phaleron (the port). The peasants were dressed like country folk anywhere, in drab rough-spun kilts, tunics, or gowns; the wealthier local men were garbed in kilts or tunics much like Lydian style, though many of them sported an odd-looking short beard with a shaved upper lip.

The well-born ladies, however, wore an exotic costume which Pelops had also seen on some of the islands; their long, multi-tiered skirts, dyed in bright colors, were cinched tight at the waist. Above, short sleeved jackets were worn wholly open in front to display breasts with the nipples rouged or gilded.
(page 146)

I had no idea Athenian women went around bare-breasted with painted nipples! Having spoken with the author, I am confident that the facts are soundly based. I enjoy learning these historial tidbits!

Paegan gods: As when I read Jocasta: The Mother-Wife of Oedipus, the reader learns about the ancient gods. I left the book feeling that such beliefs are comprehensible. Given the times, you might think this way too. Some individuals did not blindly accept these beliefs; they thought through possible explanations in a logical manner.

In the well-known myth Pelops shoulder is wounded. Tantalus, his father, states that the the goddess Demeter ate from the shoulder! Not only are some less convinced about the truth of the gods' powers, but there is humor too. Pelops and Niobe (brother and sister) are talking. Listen:

Niobe continued her arguments. "If Almighty Zeus had really healed you, you'd be perfectly well, wouldn't you? So how does father explain that? He says the goddess Demeter ate your shoulder." She laughed without mirth. "I suppose it was too much trouble for all-powerful Zeus to make her cough it back up."

The prose is not stilted or old-fashioned. Some may complain it is too modern. Me, I enjoy ir!

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I have chosen to read this book now because I read the Kindle sample and was immedately pulled into a Bronze Age myth. I quit my last book because it didn't plop me into another world. I am in the mood for total immersion. I really enjoyed Jocasta: The Mother-Wife of Oedipus, by the same authors. I am aware of the fact that I am starting the first of a series of books, and I don't read series, but there is always an exception to a rule. I have read that each book is independent, and they do not end with cliff-hangers. :0)

Maps are to be found at the following link: www.tapestryofbronze.com
There is in fact a map in the ebook too, but the site is very informative. !

I prefer to be upfront. Victoria Grossack, one of the two authors, has over the last few months become a friend of mine. If you have ever checked out my profile, hopefully you have noted that I have a warning clearly stating that I do not seek authors as friends, but Victoria and I did become friends before I ever read any of her books. She has never pushed her books on me, and for this reason, we could become friends. I love having a friend who lives close by. she living in Switzerland and I in Belgium. We both also have close ties to the US, both of us having been born there. I think she was born there........ and both of us having lived so long in Europe that it has really become our home! If you want to know more about Victoria, it is best you put any questions you have directly to her. I, personally, like her very much. :0) I don't think she would mind answering your questions.
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