The Sword of Telemon
Eiland’s Sword of Telemon is the first in the four-book Orfeo Saga. The story opens with Orfeo struggling to fit in upon returning to his family/tribe after having spent several years as a hostage in the city of Pylos. Shortly after the story opens, Orfeo’s brother Herron is taken as a slave by raiders.
Kiros, father of Orfeo and Herron, and King of the Achians (Achaeans), gathers the tribe at Delphi so that a plan of rescue may be formulated. In the end, Orfeo, the Wanderer known as Zurga, the hero Telemon (Telamon), and Telemon’s second, Orton, are dispatched on a diplomatic mission to ransom Herron or buy him from the slavers. Along the way to Pylos, Orfeo begins lessons in swordplay with Telemon. Zurga, whose role as a Wanderer puts me in mind of the Druids, teaches Orfeo the wisdom of the Wanderers. Together, Zurga and Telemon polish Orfeo as a craftsman polishes and shapes a raw gem to reveal the brilliance hidden within.
Things don’t go as planned with the retrieval, of course, and the group ends up tangling with a conquering people known as the Therans. Orfeo, accompanied by a young woman named Clarice, leaves the group to continue the search for the missing heir. Zurga, Telemon, Orton, and Nadahr, another Wanderer, recognize the danger the Therans pose, and remain behind to gather the various tribes together and begin arranging a defense against Theran incursion.
Orfeo and Clarice, traveling as entertainers, end up being invited to Thera by a man called Draik. Since they now believe Herron has been taken to Thera, they jump on the invitation and become contracted performers for Draik. For a while they are lulled into being at ease among the Therans, but that lasts only until things begin going south for the Therans in their war efforts. They seek scapegoats and turn on Draik, seeing his contributions to said war efforts as causing the failures. He is taken for treason, and the entertainer contracts he held are divvied up among the royals.
Orfeo and Clarice are nearly ready to abandon their search and flee Thera, when Clarice stumbles upon Herron. Mission complete, they flee Thera just in time, as the volcanic island decides to blow a gasket. Even so, the ship they are fleeing on is destroyed in the ensuing tsunami. The story goes on to tell the fates of the major players, some rather surprising.
Fun stuff: I really enjoy historical novels that look at the events that may be the seeds to myth and legend, in this case, the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. The supernatural elements are weeded out, leaving behind a story more realistically plausible. This story also provided a unique and different take on Thera, known today as Santorini — one place believed to have been fabled Atlantis. Orfeo and Clarice weather the fury of one of the most deadly volcano eruptions of the time, one that fair wiped out a civilization.
Not so fun stuff: The story started a bit too slow for me. The prose can be flowy. I do feel that there is much that could be condensed or chopped entirely. The story needs another good proofing. There were a scattering of grammar and spelling errors, along with some inconsistencies. Two that really stick out in my mind are a description of Orfeo waking with his left hand clasping his left arm, and referencing both Zeus and Mars in regards to the same character. If they are Greeks, it would Ares instead of Mars. I have the same qualm about the use of Vulcan instead of Hephaestus. I also had a disagreement with some of the variant spellings (Achian/Achaean, Telemon/Telamon, Orfeo/Orpheus).
However, all that being said, Eiland’s Sword of Telemon, is a delightful sojourn to an ancient time. I loved it so much that I just bought the complete four-book set. If you enjoy historical fiction, or Greek history and mythology, this book is sure to please. Come, walk with Orfeo as he finds himself and comes into his own, as a warrior, as a scholar, as a man of the Achaeans and a man apart from the Achaeans. This is a brilliant rendering of a classic myth, and a coming of age story easy to relate to, especially if you’re a little on the eccentric side, like me! Orfeo must learn where he truly fits in given the vastly different experiences he’s had and doesn’t always find it an easy thing to do.
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