If you’ve read “The Emerald Tablet”, the first book in the “Legends of Amun Ra” series, you’re going to love this novella. The action is set 7,000 years before the adventures of Leoros and his friends on the planet Potara, and it offers a glimpse of its history. Joshua Silverman is very good when it comes to world-building, so, as you read, Potara reveals itself before your eyes as a fascinating world where the Greek and Egyptian influences come together to create something different and unique.
Thea is a young girl who lives with her father, Helios, who trains her in the art of sword fighting every morning, even though he is just a farmer. Or, is he? From the very first pages we understand that there is so much more to Thea, that she is not just a farm girl, and it is even hinted that Helios might not be her real father. She is special. Her eyes turn purple when she is scared or angry, and after years of practice she learned how to form and control balls of purple energy. She has no idea why she can do what she does, or if she inherited this gift from her real parents. But when a terrible accident happens and Thea is left alone in the world, she will be forced to find out the truth about her past and follow her destiny.
I really liked “Gardens of Ampheia”, and it took me little time to finish it. The action is well-paced, the author gives enough details and descriptions, but the story doesn’t drag for a second. I could relate to Thea, even though I didn’t agree to most of her actions. I could understand her fear and indecision when it came to doing the right thing. As a reader, I think I got used to seeing the lead character making the fair decision without thinking twice and even risking his/her own life. This doesn’t happen with Thea, because her fear of being accused of murdering her father is too strong. She is confused and unsure of what to say when she is asked to testify against a poor Egyptian thief, and even though I didn’t like her much at that moment, I could perfectly understand her confusion. Thea is not really a heroine, at least not now (and I’m not referring here to her fighting skills, which are perfect).
There was one thing I didn’t quite get, and I thought it was kind of a poor plot device. So, Thea stabs Helios by mistake, and then runs to the nearest farm to get help. Right… well, why did she leave Helios in the blazing sun with no water and didn’t think of getting him inside the house, which, by the way, was very close to where he lay dying? Yes, of course, she had to tell everyone that she found him like that. But when you find someone hurt, you first try take them to a safe place, and then run for help. You don’t just leave them out in the open to die of heat and thirst. Then, Thea arrives to the farm and tells the farmer and his son they have to take horses and ride to Ampheia, the nearest city, to fetch a doctor. Why did she go with them? They rode 4 hours to get there, then 6 hours back. All the while, Helios was dying in front of his own house, in terrible agony from the bleeding wound and, of course, thirst, having no one to even comfort him. Did Thea help in any way during the trip to Ampheia? No. She wasn’t even the one to find the doctor. So, why did she go? I’m pretty sure the farmer and his son would have agreed to go alone if it meant saving their friend’s life. Anyway, when she gets back to Helios’ farm, after 10 (if no more) hours of being away, Thea finds him dead, with his stomach ripped open by birds. A ghastly image that has a strong impact on the reader, but the events that led to it seem very unrealistic to me. Maybe they would’ve made sense if Thea’s presence was actually necessary during the journey to Ampheia, but it wasn’t.
End of spoiler!
I think the second part of the story is better than the first one, and I really couldn’t turn the pages fast enough to see what Thea would tell the judges. The battle scenes were perfect, just like in “The Emerald Tablet”. Vivid images, a lot of action, and a determined Thea who is not very sure of what she is doing, but she knows she wants to save Messenia because it was her word that caused the war. Overall, it was an enjoyable read, and I’m waiting for future novellas that will reveal even more of Potara’s complex history.