Review: In the Shadow of Heroes by Nicholas Bowling

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Blurb: Cadmus has been scholar Tullus’s slave since he was a baby – his master is the only family he knows. But when Tullus disappears and a slave girl called Tog arrives with a secret message, Cadmus’s life is turned upside down. The pair follow a trail that leads to Emperor Nero himself, and his determination to possess the Golden Fleece of Greek mythology. This thrilling quest will push Cadmus to the edge of the Roman Empire – and reveal fantastical truths about his past…

Title: In the Shadow of Heroes

Author: Nicholas Bowling

Publisher: Chicken House

Genre: Fiction, YA, Historical

Review:

All Cadmus’ knows of life is being a slave to his master Tullus, a philosopher in Ancient Rome. Abandoned as a baby, Tullus raised him, taught him to read and write and gave him a home. But when Tullus disappears, captured by the Emperor Nero and tasked with an impossible quest, Cadmus can’t leave his master behind. But the journey to the truth might be a bit more exciting than he expected…

If you’re in the mood for a quest steeped in mythology and set in the classical world then I couldn’t think of a book more suited! The world building when it comes to the descriptions of not only Ancient Rome, but also Greece and Britain is fantastic and very quickly brings you into a world that we’ve only read about in books. Coupled with that, the story telling is done in a way that weaves myth and adventure together with a sense of real life. This was an interesting take on a sort of mythology re-telling as the myths themselves are initially presented as simply stories, made up to entertain listeners. I’ve found that this is the opposite of most mythology inspired books I’ve encountered which take them on as being much more real from the start. It’s clear that the author has done his fair share of research into the myths that are mentioned and we get to see all of that come to fruition as Cadmus completes his quest. From the heroidai to the trials of Jason and Medea, it made for a more compelling journey. Adding to this is an interesting cast of characters, from Cadmus’ bookish strengths to Tog’s devil-may-care attitude, we got to see a range of personalities, all of which contributed to the story in some way. Cadmus

I also want to praise the fact that we’ve got some mention of the Roman gods in this book. Recently, I was compiling a list of mythology inspired stories and had a hard time coming across many that focussed on the Roman versions of the gods, rather than the Greek. Although the characters do venture to Greece and the story is based on a Greek myth, it was really fun to be able to see the Roman side of things in fiction.

As for what I disliked, there wasn’t anything huge of note but it did get to me a little bit by the end of the story just how much the characters have been travelling for. Now, I fully understand that voyages across land and sea are crucial to a good quest but going from Rome to Greece and back and then to Britain and back etc. just got a little bit tiresome for me. It also felt a little bit like the author understood that as for part of the journey the characters are aboard the Argus (the mythical ship) which moves much faster than a regular vessel. However, if you’re the kind of reader who likes this aspect of stories then I doubt it would bother you!

Overall, I’d definitely recommend this to anyone who has an interest in the classical world and wants to read something based in Ancient Rome instead of Greece (for once!). Also, if you’re a mythology fan then this book has all of the references you could want!

Rating: 4/5

Recommend?: Yes


Have you read this book? Or maybe you’ve read something similar? What did you think? I’d love to know!

You can always find me over on Twitter if you’d like to discuss this book (or any others that I’ve featured) in more detail 😌

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