Search for the Golden Serpent by Luciana Cavallaro

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000037_00044](Cover picture courtesy of the author.)

It’s not where he appears, it’s when.
What if you’re born during another time grew up in the 21st century and thrust back into the past? Confused? So is architect, Evan Chronis.
Evan drawn by screams ventures out to his backyard and sees blood trickling down the limestone steps. He steps off the veranda and finds himself in the days of great and marvellous power, a time when the gods ruled the universe.
To return to the 21st century life he longs for, he must risk his life in search of powerful, treasured relics older than the Holy Grail. But what he finds might be more than he expected.
Will Evan find the relics and return home or will he remain forever stuck in a world so different from his own?

[Full disclosure: I was contacted by the author and provided with an ebook in exchange for an honest review.]

I’ve read quite a few of Luciana Cavallaro’s previous works so I was pretty excited to read Search for the Golden Serpent.  The only problem was that she had previously only published short stories and I was a little worried about how she would transition into longer works like this one.  After all, a 354 page novel is not the same as a 40 page short story.  Still, I was more than ready to give her a chance.  In the end, I honestly didn’t even need to worry in the slightest.  Her debut novel is just as good as her previous short stories, even better in many ways.

Evan Chronis is a very memorable character.  In the modern world he’s a successful architect who absolutely adores his job.  Then Zeus decides that he’s needed back in his real time: the early years of ancient Greece, after the sinking of the mythical Atlantis.  I don’t know about you but being immersed in the modern world and suddenly being contacted by a god who drops you in the ancient world would be a little jarring to say the least.  Evan, understandably, really doesn’t handle it all that well in the beginning until he begins to speak the language and make friends.  But poor Evan, called Evandros in his own time, doesn’t ever really get a break: Zeus and the other gods have sent him on a mission to recover powerful artifacts to prevent their eventual fading into historical fiction in the modern era.

He really does have a remarkable physical journey but also a mental and emotional one.  When he goes back to the past he fights it tooth and nail, desperate to go back to our own time.  However, when he realizes that his only option is to recover the artifacts he throws himself fully into the task.  In the beginning Evan is also a little arrogant in his own way, utterly convinced that the people in the past are more primitive and somewhat inferior.  Yet through his journeys he tends to appreciate them a little more and realize that many ancient cultures had more accomplishments than just their fantastic architecture.  And when he befriends Phameas on the ship that rescues him and is forced to learn an entirely new language in a very short time, it sort of humbles him.  He learns a lot on his journey and it was really interesting to see how his character changed throughout the course of the novel.

One of the things I absolutely loved is that Luciana Cavallaro has clearly done her research.  She so vividly describes past cultures that we very rarely read about in historical fiction that you feel like you’re really there.  From the streets of Carthage to the temples of ancient Egypt and a ship from Phoenicia, you will feel totally immersed in the world of the ancient Mediterranean.  It’s brilliant because it shows old empires like Egypt and contrasts it with the rising might of the Greeks.  It’s so rare in historical fiction to get a more international picture like this one and it’s a real treat to have it handled by an author with such a passion for history.  Obviously Evan and his group are fiction but many of the main events and where they occurred are real.  It’s absolutely fascinating and I’m not really doing it justice with this description.

The plot begins a little slow but that’s quickly remedied as Evan is contacted by Zeus and is forced to become Evandros, the version of himself that was raised solely in the past instead of just being born in it.  I suppose some people will find Evan’s period on the Phoenician ship a little boring but I really enjoyed his adjustment period as he learned more about the world he was suddenly dropped into.  It helps that Evan’s point of view is interspersed with scenes with the gods, who are more than a little worried about their fate as well as scenes with the rest of his crew, who are understandably wondering where the Evandros they knew and loved has gone and whether or not he’s even alive.  By the time I got to the end of the book I was on the edge of my seat, anxious to see what would happen next. The ending was a cliffhanger but it was a good place to stop and it was a fairly satisfying end.  It made me want more but I had fewer questions than when I started out.

Luciana Cavallaro really has a gift for making you care about her characters and their fates even if you don’t necessarily think they’re sympathetic or likeable.  That much was obvious from her short stories but she really transitioned into a longer work really well.  The beautiful descriptions that were the hallmark of her short stories for me are expanded and add so much more to the richness of the world she brought to life.  So if you loved Cavallaro’s short stories, you will also love Search for the Golden Serpent.  And if you’re never ready anything by her, you need to pick up one of her short stories and/or pre-order a copy of her debut novel.  You certainly won’t regret it.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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