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5.0 out of 5 stars Continuing Success for the Two Merchants, 8 April 2013
Arch Stanton (Nottingham, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Sacred Land (Hardcover)
For this adventure Menedemos and Sostratos are off to Phoenicia for the summer's trading. Sostratos has rather charmingly for a ethnocentric and language-proud Greek learned Aramaic so that he can communicate inland. Unlike the previous books this one takes place mostly on land. Sostratos goes inland to see Judea and the crazy God-happy Jews and buy some balsam, which leaves Menedemos in Sidon trying to get rid of a cargoful of olive oil forced on them by Sostratos' new brother-in-law. This does mean that the two cousins spend most of their time apart, which unfortunately removes most of their banter. They make up for this a bit by having each of them focused on a promise they make before departing. Of the two Sostratos' story is more interesting since he is actually traveling and he gets to explore one of my favorite areas in the world.

While the book is a little less episodic than the previous ones due to the trip to Judea it isn't as different as you might think. The sailing from town to town has simply been replaced with riding from town to town. They still focus the plot on selling their goods to whoever's buying. It has to be said that the section in Jerusalem features a bit of the future irony I rather disliked in the first book. There it focused on Pompeii and Sostratos' unnatural interest in the quiescent Vesuvius' volcanic nature. Here it is his repeated dismissal of Jerusalem and their god as parochial and unimportant. 'They'll never amount to anything' he thinks. But who said they would? It's quite obvious he's thinking that because of the irony in the statement. Turtledove doesn't do that often but that can make it even more irritating when it shows up.

I think that this book is a minor step down from its predecessors simply because of the aforementioned issues combined with the obvious episodic structure. Still, it's quite clearly within the five-star range. This is book two in the Hellenic Traders series. The other books in this series consist of Over the Wine-Dark Sea, The Gryphon's Skull and Owls to Athens.
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The Sacred Land
The Sacred Land by H. N. Turteltaub (Hardcover - Dec. 2003)
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