Friday, 28 April 2017

Mark of the Cyclops by Saviour Pirotta

illustrated by Freya Hartas

review by Maryom

Nico and Thrax both work for professional poet and singer, Ariston, but there is one important difference between the two boys - Nico is a freeborn apprentice and Thrax a slave. Their master travels all round Greece performing at weddings and festivals, and it's while on a trip to a wedding in Corinth, that the boys become amateur detectives. A precious vase, a gift for the bride, is broken and suspicion falls on a slave girl, Gaia. Nico and Thrax believe her story that a mystery intruder disguised in a Cyclops mask was responsible, and set out to clear her name.

Mark of the Cyclops is the first in a series of adventures for children set in Ancient Greece. Nico and Thrax are a little bit like younger versions of  Sherlock Holmes and Watson; Thrax is the one with the investigative mind, Nico his chronicler and 'author' of this adventure. Together they find themselves on the trail of a smuggling gang, which isn't without its danger (though not too frightening for young readers). The story is fun and exciting, and at the same time brings the world of Ancient Greece vividly to life, with facts about everyday life, beliefs, and customs, worked in without detracting from the story-line, plus there are excellent black and white illustrations throughout from Freya Hartas which again help readers picture the characters and setting. Children, and even their parents, will pick up a lot of historical facts without even realising!

This first book centres on the two boys, Nico and Thrax, but I feel the overall story arc is shaping up so that Gaia and her young mistress Fotini will have more important roles in future. I thoroughly enjoyed Mark of the Cyclops, and I'm sure young readers will too.

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher - Bloomsbury
Genre - children's whodunnit adventure, historical, Ancient Greece

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