“The Seven Wonders” by Steven Saylor

Seven Wonders coverGordianus the Finder is back in this prequel to Steven Saylor’s popular series of mysteries set in the Roman Republic of Cicero and Caesar. Gordianus is eighteen and embarks on the First Century BCE equivalent of a “Grand Tour” with his old tutor and famous poet Antipater of Sidon. As the Italian peninsula simmers with rebellion, the pair head east to visit the Seven Wonders of the World encountering murder, mysteries and political intrigues. Over the course of their year-plus journey, Gordianus evolves into “the Finder” series readers have come to know and love.

For the record, I am not a Gordianus fan. I very much enjoyed Saylor’s multi-generational epics Roma and Empire, which I reviewed, but didn’t take to the couple of Finder novels I sampled. Not because they were bad books, but because I’m not that into historical mysteries. Every reader has her quirks. This book has a distinctly different structure from the others. Saylor uses the journey to visit the Seven Wonders as a framework for several short stories (many of which were previously published in mystery and fantasy magazines.) Each Wonder gets a story with a few interludes, such as attending the Olympic Games and visiting the ruins of Corinth, resulting in ten chapters dealing with murder, witchcraft, ghosts and gods. As their journey continues, a larger mystery entangles Gordianus and Antipater with spies and other enemies of Rome.

But the real story is the evolution of the Gordianus character. He comes of age during these stories. His powers of observation and deduction sharpen as his naiveté concerning the greater world lessen. Saylor does a good job of portraying this young man in a strange land, struggling with another language and gradually coming to understand that the might of Rome is not always a protection among conquered peoples. But also like any young man abroad, he experiences a sexual awakening. He sleeps with his first woman, his first man, a priestess and (possibly) a goddess. By the end, he has grown into a capable man who earns the name “Finder.”

One of the things I admire most about this book is the incredible research and description of the Wonders and the cities Gordianus and Antipater visit. As Saylor says in his Author’s Note: “To explore the Seven Wonders, one enters a labyrinth of history, legend, hard facts and half-facts, cutting-edge archaeology and the very latest innovation in virtual reality.” He does a great job of bringing the locations alive and seamlessly incorporating history into the narrative without bringing the stories to a screeching halt. Each Wonder is given its due with historical accuracy and vivid description. For this alone, I’d recommend the book. For Gordianus fans, it’s a must read.

The Details:

  • Title: The Seven Wonders: A Novel of the Ancient World
  • Author: Steven Saylor
  • ISBN: 978-0-312-35984-3
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books, 2012
  • Format: Hardcover with dust jacket, 321 pages
  • Price: $25.99

Note: The publisher provided a free copy of this book, but the opinions expressed in the review are my own and not in consideration for the book.

Giveaway Details:

Thanks to Minataur Books for providing two copies for the giveaway. Entry is easy: leave a comment on this post by midnight EST Saturday, July 21 (email not necessary in the post). If you want a second entry, sign up to follow the blog or indicate you’re already a follower. For a third chance, repost this giveaway on your Facebook, blog, Twitter, website, etc. and post the link in your comment. Don’t worry if your post doesn’t appear immediately, because I moderate comments and don’t spend my life at my computer. I’ll randomly select the two winners and announce it on Sunday, July 22.  Good luck!

And the winners are:

VPupkin

Cindi

Jolene  (bonus–I’m giving away my review copy)

I’ll be in touch shortly re addresses for shipping.

Thanks to everyone who participated!

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Comments

Book Review: “The Seven Wonders” by Steven Saylor — No Comments

  1. The Seven Wonders sounds like my kind of read. I actually love most historical mysteries and I enjoy good character growth and development. Thanks for the interesting review, as always. I am a follower.

  2. I have loved the Marcus Didius Falco series, often laughing out loud at the situations Falco, Helena, Petro and Maya get into. I would love to receive one of the giveaway copies, but I must say I am already a fan of Lindsey Davis. If the attention to detail and characters is as thorough in the Seven Wonders as in the Falco series, it will be a great book.

    • Hi Betty. I’ve enjoyed the Falco series as well and reviewed/gave away Alexandria last year. The Gordianus series seems (from the three books I’ve read) a darker series, but just as well researched. Good luck in the giveaway!

      • Loved [Alexandria]. I managed to catch it on the new books shelf at our local library when they first got it (Tuesdays are the best days for that).

  3. Last year I was sick for several weeks in the summer and had thus read all the Gordianus novels. Since then I’ve been looking forward to “The Seven Wonders”. So glad it’s finally available!

  4. I feel the exact same way about Saylor’s books, loved Roma and Empire, but didn’t care for the several Finder stories that I picked up. However, The Seven Wonders was, for me, one of those rare books that you read more slowly as you get closer to the last chapter, because you can’t stand for it to end. Aside from all the didn’t-see-them-coming twists and turns, reading about the ancient 7 Wonders was fascinating!

  5. Wow, great! Thank you very much!

    I’m afraid I haven’t received any email from you – it might have gotten into the spam folder, I think. Or maybe you haven’t written yet. But if you have in fact already written to me, please contact me at alexander.kayumov at yandex.ru

    Thanks again! I don’t think I’ve ever won any free stuff. 🙂

  6. Wow, great! Thank you very much!

    I’m afraid I haven’t received any email from you – it might have gotten into the spam folder, I think. Or maybe you haven’t written yet. But if you have in fact already written to me, please contact me at alexander-kayumov at yandex.ru

    Thanks again! I don’t think I’ve ever won any free stuff. 🙂

  7. Sorry, made a typo in my email address the first time. 🙂 Thought I was editing the original post, but ended up duplicating it.

  8. Pingback: It’s a Blog Hop! « Historian's Notebook

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