Review By Don Sloan
Mystery looms right off the bat in this excellent fourth novel in the Orfeo Saga, as Orfeo is kidnapped and stowed aboard a full-sailed, deep-hulled ship of indeterminate origin.
His wife, the beautiful and strong-willed Clarice, is baffled by the abduction, as is his good friend Daryush, who sets sail in search of Orfeo. He is accompanied by Semira, his wife.
“They stood for us at our wedding,” she insists, with the full force of her determination. “If it were not for them, we would not be here.”
Strong indeed are the bonds between Orfeo and his friends, including his old mentor Zurga, who prowls the harbor of the ancient Egyptian city of Tanis, looking for the elusive vessel.
While in Egypt, Zurga — also called by some “The Last Wanderer” — heals the mother of King Thutmosis and samples one of the goods traded by those aboard the mystery ship: a white, powdery substance that, when smoked, brings on feelings of euphoria. Today we know it as cocaine.
Interesting as that is, however, Zurga finds out very little from the king about the ship and its exotic crew. So, he travels on, carrying with him the hope that he will not have to cross the fearsome “Great Sea” to find Orfeo.
Fast forward several chapters. Asok, high priest of the Quetzalcoatl cult in Ixtlan, cannot believe his good luck. A golden-haired god long-foretold has arrived just in time to help him bilk the superstitious populace into parting with their hard-earned gold, just for a peek at Orfeo, who remains bemused by his predicament, mistaken as the storied man-deity.
Then, just as the Ixtlans — the native people holding Orfeo — and the rival nation Nastases are preparing for war, Clarice and all her friends swoop in to rescue him. But wait! Whose ship is burning in the harbor? Alas, it is the getaway boat, and Orfeo and his mates must now make ready to fight for their lives.
This splendid sequel to Zurga’s Fire spares no swashbuckling as Orfeo and his intrepid trio of B.C. buds are drawn into a fierce fight for freedom. The first half of the book ends on a bittersweet note, however, and we are thrust quickly into the second half, which could easily stand on its own.
Suffice to say, Orfeo, Clarice, Daryush, and Semira become hard-pressed in their respective homelands, defending themselves from armed aggressors and deranged demigods, such as deadly, yet strangely comical Hellion, who challenges Daryush to a fatal test of skill and strength. And, there’s the Spartan King Iraju, who tries to defy Daryush in an impenetrable stone tower. Are they successful?
You’ll need to purchase this five-star historical thriller to find out. Congratulations are in order to author Murray Lee Eiland, Jr., for his meticulous research and superb storytelling skills.
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