Tagged: luciana cavallaro

The Labyrinthine Journey by Luciana Cavallaro

(Cover picture courtesy of the author.)

Follow Evan as he continues his odyssey as Servant of the Gods in The Labyrinthine Journey. The quest to locate the sacred object adds pressure to the uneasy alliance between Evan and the Atlanteans. His inability to accept the world he’s in, and his constant battle with Zeus, both threaten to derail the expedition and his life.

Traversing the mountainous terrain of the Peloponnese and Corinthian Gulf to the centre of the spiritual world, Evan meets with Pythia, Oracle of Delphi. Her cryptic prophecy reveals much more than he expected; something that changes his concept of the ancient world and his former way of life.

Will Evan and his friends succeed in their quest to find the relics and stop the advent of Christianity?

[Full disclosure: I received a free ebook from the author in exchange for an honest review.]

After the cliffhanger of the first book, I was very excited to get an email from Luciana asking if I’d like to read and review the second book.  Although I was worried that since two years had passed it would be hard to get into the second book without reading the first one again.

However, I didn’t need to worry at all.  There’s a nice amount of exposition in the first few chapters that catches the reader up quickly and relatively unobtrusively.  We get re-introduced to our cast of characters including Evan, the High Priestess, Hektor, Homer and Phameas.  We also re-hash just enough of the plot of the first book to remember that Evan and his crew are on a mission to save the Greek gods from oblivion and have found one of apparently two objects that will accomplish this.

The Labyrinthine Journey is a fast-paced romp through the ancient Greek world as Evan (called Evandros in this time) and his crew search for the second piece of the puzzle.  Of course, things aren’t always so simple and as they find out on their journeys, they truly need three artefacts and thus the title The Labyrinthine Journey is completely justified.  They have to journey across Greece to consult the Pythia at Delphi and then the real journey begins when they learn the second artefact is on the island of Thira (or Thera, modern Santorini) in the ruins left by the massive volcanic eruption years ago.  And that’s not even the hardest part.  Because where the Greek gods are concerned, absolutely nothing is simple.

The relationships we saw in the first book have changed slightly as Evan adjusts to his new life as Evandros.  He still hates Hektor’s guts but Homer, Dexion and Leander attempt to keep things from getting violent between the two.  Alexina, the High Priestess is both more familiar and more enigmatic as we discover the full extent of her powers the Mother Goddess has granted her now that she’s in possession of the golden serpent.  And the growing romance between Alexina and Leander is subtle but sweet.  What intrigued me was that although we saw a little more of Melaina, Kronos’ daughter, her motives are still as mysterious as they were in the first book.  On one hand, her father is Kronos but on the other hand, there seems to be a bit of an attraction to Evandros at play and she does seem to want to help him.  However, the gods and the titans are not always straightforward.  While I can guess at her motivations, it should be fascinating to see what side she’s truly on in the third book.  That’s part of what I like about all of Luciana Cavallaro’s writing, from her short stories to this full-length series: she is truly good at creating ambiguous characters (which comes in handy where the Greek gods are concerned).  And no matter whether a character is mostly good or mostly bad, they are always interesting.

What I really appreciated (other than the amazing character-building) was the amount of research that went into The Labyrinthine Journey.  Not only about the big events going on in the Greek world at the time (the revolt of the Messenians, democracy in Athens, etc.), but the little details like all of the temples and statues being painted in bright colours.  We’re used to seeing the beautiful white marble statues and remains of temples and great buildings but ancient Greece, like the rest of the ancient Mediterranean was colourful and vibrant.  And where history and myth are silent, Cavallaro makes up something new that is also entirely believable like the Amazons on their far-flung island.  It fits seamlessly into the greater stories that make up what we know today under the umbrella term of ‘Greek myth’.

If you loved Search for the Golden Serpent, you will enjoy The Labyrinthine Journey as much as I did.  It’s a great sequel that definitely doesn’t suffer from the plot bloat that most second books do.  So go ahead and buy it!  You won’t regret it.

And if you haven’t read the first book but figure the story sounds interesting, I highly recommend trying out Search for the Golden Serpent.  If you love Greek myth and/or historical fantasy, you will love it.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

Amazon     Barnes and Noble*     Goodreads

*Unavailable

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.

Amazon     Barnes and Noble     Goodreads

Short Story: Cursed by Treachery by Luciana Cavallaro

Accursed Women by Luciana CavallaroAll Medousa wanted was a life of love and acceptance but one fateful night it changed. While she’s alone in the Temple of Athene tending to the sacred fire, Poseidon pays a visit. No human can stop an immortal from taking what they want.

[Full disclosure: As a thank you for reviewing her four previous short stories, Luciana Cavallaro sent me the paperback Accursed Women as a thank you.  I was not expected to review Cursed by Treachery and as always this review is honest.]

The thing I like most about all of Luciana Cavallaro’s short stories is the level of detail she goes into.  She doesn’t just rehash the common re-tellings of myths that we’ve all heard here in the Western hemisphere.  She actually goes to different source material and tells quite a refreshing version of famous Greek myths.  In this story, for example, Medousa is the daughter of Titans.  That’s not a detail you find in the more common version of this myth.

All of the short stories in the Accursed Women anthology are unique in the way they’re told.  In Cursed by Treachery we see things from Perseus’ viewpoint and that’s interrupted by flashes of Medousa’s life as a Gorgon and her old life as a priestess in Athena’s temple.  It’s a fascinating way to tell Medousa’s tragic story and you would think it would be confusing but it isn’t.  We slowly learn how Medousa came to be a priestess in Athena’s temple and the horrible events that led to Athena cursing her for something that was hardly her fault.

Was Medousa’s tale my absolute favourite story in the whole anthology?  Not really.  But it’s a testament to the strength of Luciana Cavallaro’s writing that I still enjoyed it while learning something new.  It’s a well-written short story with interesting subject matter and a very interesting ending.  What more can you ask for?

I give this short story 5/5 stars.

Amazon     Barnes and Noble     Goodreads

Short Story: Aphrodite’s Curse by Luciana Cavallaro

Aphrodite's Curse by Luciana Cavallaro(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

APHRODITE’S CURSE is about a dynasty’s fall from grace, unrequited love and retribution.

A powerful family is brought to ruin, the consequences unforeseen and irreparable. The trouble begins with King Mino who asks the gods for a bull to be sacrificed so that he may become ruler of Kretos and surrounding lands. Poseidon sends him a gift of a white bull and instead of sacrificing it, King Minos keeps it. Poseidon is angry by his supplicant’s actions and as punishment glamour’s the king’s wife, Pasiphae to lust after the bull.

The story is told by PHAEDRA, Theseus’ wife, who witnesses first-hand, the rise and fall of her family. She grows up in a privileged environment, a princess and daughter of King Minos. From a very early age she knows the power her father wields, but is also aware his actions may have precipitated the misfortunes that followed.

She reflects on the different and disturbing events from a detached perspective. Her tone can sometimes be one of a spoilt child, then at other times resigned and on occasion shows an uncanny insight. This retrospective musing comes from her sighting of Hippolytos, her husband’s son from a previous marriage. She falls in love with him and finds it difficult to contain this secret and eventually tells her nurse.

Phaedra asks for Aphrodite’s help, even builds a temple, however Hippolytos spurns her advances. Shamed by her actions and by his revulsion, she poisons herself, leaving a letter to her husband writing that Hippolytos had raped her.

[Full disclosure: I was never asked to review Aphrodite’s Curse like I was Luciana Cavallaro’s other books, but instead received it for free when I signed up for her newsletter.  As always, this review is honest.]

Out of all the women Luciana Cavallaro has written about, I liked Phaedra the least.  This is more of a matter of personal preference because I didn’t find her the least bit sympathetic.  But could I understand her motives and did I care about what she had to say?  Absolutely!

The fact that I didn’t like Phaedra but actually really enjoyed this story is a testament to Luciana Cavallaro’s skill as a writer.  Phaedra had believable motivations for what she did because of her personality, which we glimpse both through her reflective flashbacks as well as her present day commentary as she is dying.

I’m not exactly familiar with the myth of Phaedra because it was relatively minor in the scheme of things, but after a bit of research I find that I appreciate Aphrodite’s Curse even more.  It was well researched and the level of detail was enough to make me feel like I was there in Phaedra’s world.  I could see the handsome Hippolytos, the temples, Phaedra’s deathbed, etc.  The description wasn’t on par with the beautiful descriptions in The Curse of Troy, but it was certainly up there.

Really, Aphrodite’s Curse is what a short story should be: short and sweet but powerful.  The descriptions are great but they’re not overdone, the characters come to life and I felt like I was back in the time period the story took place in.

I give this short story 5/5 stars.

Amazon     Barnes and Noble     Goodreads

Short Story: Boxed in a Curse by Luciana Cavallaro

Short Story: Boxed in a Curse by Luciana Cavallaro(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

She was created by the gods as a gift to humanity. Then there was the urn.

Pandora, the first woman on Earth, was endowed with many gifts: beauty, intelligence, domesticity, and curiosity. She was at once lover, sympathiser and nurturer. Zeus presented an urn as her wedding dowry. Neither she nor her husband, Epimethos knew what it contained inside, and Hermes, the Messenger, warned them never to open it.

So the story goes… according to Grandpa.

Two precocious children visit their grandfather and beg him to tell a story. It wasn’t ‘on a dark and stormy night’ or ‘once upon a time’ type of story either.

[Full disclosure: Luciana Cavallaro sent me a free ebook in exchange for an honest review.]

Unlike the other two stories about famous Greek women that I’ve read by Luciana Cavallaro, we don’t get to hear Pandora’s story from her own lips.  That’s why I was initially a little apprehensive about reading her newest short story, but I was worried over absolutely nothing.  Despite hearing a second hand account of her life, Pandora came across as yet another strong woman who was given the short end of the stick in later stories.

Although I’m an avid fan of Greek mythology and have been for many years, I actually learned a lot from Boxed in a Curse.  The Pandora myth was never very detailed and I love how Luciana Cavallaro researched for more details as well as added in her own believable ones.  Instead of accepting the ‘she was just really curious’ version of events, she delved deeper into the myth and peeled away the theme of ‘women are evil’ that’s found quite a bit in Greek myths.  No, Pandora is not evil or just curious.  She was a complex woman who really didn’t know how to act in a world full of men but was still intelligent and strong.

Told through the eyes of a grandfather telling his grandchildren the story, we’re really transported back to that ancient time when humanity was new.  It doesn’t really feel like we’re being told what’s happening, but rather it’s described very well and the narrator allows us to draw our own conclusions about the ‘moral’ of the story and about Pandora’s character.  Does all of the blame for humanity’s ills lie squarely at her feet?  Of course not!  I don’t want to give too much away, but after reading Boxed in a Curse you’ll definitely have more sympathy for the first woman.

I give this short story 5/5 stars.

Amazon     Barnes and Noble

Short Story: A Goddess’ Curse by Luciana Cavallaro

A Goddess' Curse by Luciana Cavallaro(Cover picture courtesy of Smashwords.)

Hera, Queen of the Gods, is the most powerful goddess on Mount Olympos. Beautiful, sensual, and merciless, she is a goddess renowned for her jealous rages and for inflicting horrors on hapless victims. She’s the protector of women, virtue, family and marriage yet her husband, Zeus, has had countless affairs. She puts up with it. Why? Is she really malicious or a product of circumstance?

For the first time ever in a candid interview, Hera shares what it’s like to be a goddess and wife to Zeus, the King of the Gods.

Drake Dabbler, chat show host, sees his exclusive interview with Queen Hera as a sure road to a Daytime Emmy… He should have been more thorough in his research.

[Full disclosure: Luciana Cavallaro sent me a free ebook in exchange for an honest review.]

I definitely had my doubts about A Goddess’ Curse simply because it was focusing on Hera, who is renowned throughout Greek mythology for fitting the jealous woman stereotype.  Her treatment of Zeus’ lovers was well-documented as was her part in the Trojan War.  So when I started this short story I was wondering if Luciana Cavallaro would go for the Ice Queen interpretation or something a little more sympathetic.

As it turns out, she decided on a combination of the two.  Learning about Hera in her own words through an interview with an over-zealous TV host is interesting, but the reactions she gives said TV host are priceless.  Not only do you get to see her side of the story in her own words, you get to see flashes of her personality in her interactions with other characters.  I like Luciana Cavallaro’s interpretation of Hera and I absolutely love how she stays true to the goddess’ character by revealing her actions at the end of the story.  I don’t want to spoil things, but what she does is very, very similar to what happened to some of Zeus’ lovers.

There really isn’t much more to say.  Both Drake and Hera were great characters who had interesting interactions, the plot was fast-paced and Luciana Cavallaro covered pretty much all of the topics of interest in the interview.  I’m starting to love the way she lets famous women tell their stories because telling them in third person but having the characters do an interview is very insightful.  Honestly, I wish we had a whole novel from Hera’s point of view.  Yes, A Goddess’ Curse was really that good.

I give this short story 5/5 stars.

Amazon     Barnes and Noble

Short Story: The Curse of Troy by Luciana Cavallaro

The Curse of Troy by Luciana Cavallaro(Cover picture courtesy of Kobo Books.)

Enter a world where legend and reality blur. Queen Helen of Sparta, the most beautiful and desirable woman in the world is both renowned and condemned for prompting a war. Two great powers—the Achaeans and Trojans—fighting a bloody battle where thousands of men died. The grounds of Ilium steeped in their blood. Gone is the age where heroes tread the earth with their magnificence and god given gifts.

But did this all happen as we have been led to believe?

(Blurb excerpt courtesy of Luciana Cavallaro’s website.)

[Full disclosure: Luciana Cavallaro provided me with a free ebook copy of her short story in exchange for an honest review.]

This is my first ever short story review, so please bear with me.

However, this is definitely not the first short story I’ve ever read.  If I’m going to be honest, it’s probably one of the best I’ve read.  I enjoyed The Curse of Troy so much that I wish it had been longer, say novel-lenth.  Luciana Cavallaro’s approach to the famous legend of Troy was most definitely unique and it’s one that I’d like to see more of.

Told from the point of view of a young historian talking to the much older Helen after the events of the Trojan War, The Curse of Troy offers a much more sympathetic version of events.  I don’t want to give too much away, but have you ever considered that Helen was completely innocent of pretty much everything she was accused of?  This sounds quite incredulous, but I assure you that Luciana Cavallaro has packed enough information in this 30 page short story to make you see just such a possibility.

Even in such a limited format, the character of Helen came across very well.  Having Helen tell her version of events to our first-person narrator was an interesting approach and we were able to see her reflect upon her youth with an older, more mature perspective.  Her interaction with the unnamed young historian (our narrator) also revealed quite a bit of her character.  Make no mistake: this story is about Helen, not our mysterious narrator.  That doesn’t mean our narrator is necessarily one dimensional—he’s not—but it provides us with a fresh look at the (in)famous woman of legend.

I give this story 5/5 stars.

Amazon*     Barnes and Noble*

*Only available as an ebook.