Scroll down to read Reviews and an Excerpt from ARROWS OF ARTEMIS
Niobe & Chloris: ARROWS OF ARTEMIS is the last novel in the Niobe trilogy. Queen Niobe of Thebes must deal with escalating political tensions between her husband Amphion and her powerful brother, King Pelops of Pisa. Meanwhile Pelops’ wife Hippodamia fears her husband will choose the bastard Prince Chrysippus over her own sons, Atreus and Thyestes. The murder Hippodamia plots to protect her sons is only the beginning of the bloodshed…and the fate of Niobe’s daughter Chloris hangs in the balance.
Arrows of Artemis brings back familiar characters: the bard-turned-king, Amphion, and his music which moves stones; his strong and great-hearted brother, Zethos. We also see Niobe’s other brother, Broteas, in his quest to please their demanding and difficult father, King Tantalus. Pulling many myths together, we learn why Tantalus is the root of the word, “tantalize,” the origins of werewolves, and who might have been behind one of history’s first mass murders.
Although Pelops, Niobe and Tantalus lived more than 3000 years ago, their influence is felt yet today. Greece’s Peloponnesian peninsula – the location of Olympia, Mycenae, and Sparta – is still named for the erstwhile king. The Olympic Games were founded to celebrate Pelops’ famous chariot ride. At the ruins of Olympia you can still see the site where they sacrificed to him.
Niobe is remembered in a rock on Mount Sipylus in today’s Turkey. There’s even an element named for her – niobium – and another named for her father, tantalum.
Our Books (in English)
TAPESTRY OF BRONZE SERIES: THE CHILDREN OF TANTALUS, THE ROAD TO THEBES, AND
THE ARROWS OF ARTEMIS
To read it again at the original website go here.
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Review of The Road to Thebes and Arrows of Artemis, Victoria Grossack and Alice Underwood.
The last two novels of the Niobe trilogy (and prequel to Jocasta) will not disappoint those who began the journey with Children of Tantalus. By the end of the third book, my classical knowledge kicked in and led me to exclaim: "Oh, THAT Niobe!" When I did some digging, I was amazed to find how accurate their retelling is with regard to the details of the mythology / legend. There really was a charioteer named Myrtilos that Pelops had a fateful encounter with, for example.
Grossack and Underwood's basic strategy is to naturalize the mythic claims with empirical explanations. I won't give away a big example (THE big example), but I can tell you that they turn the legend of Amphion building the walls of Thebes with his music into a more logical narrative -- which then gets spun into the myth by oral transmission. And, as noted in my previous reviews of their work, they add highly plausible psychological motivations and backstories to enrich the rather two-dimensional flat characters of the bare-bones original versions. Which is not to disparage the original telling: clearly some of these depths were implicit in the original tales. But Grossack and Underwood thoroughly develop what is only there potentially. The result is a crackling good read that Hollywood could do worse than try to film. (I already have a casting suggestion for Chloris!)
It's all here in the Tapestry of Bronze series: romance, sex, suspense, violence, mystery, the machinations of the gods. After reading these books, you will want to visit rural Greece -- or at least go to your nearest Greek restaurant and enjoy some retsina and feta! These books truly bring the past to life in a believable and compelling manner.
-- Bob Mielke, Professor of English at Truman State University, The Copperfield Review.
If you prefer to read his review over at The Copperfield Review, go here.
Excerpt from ARROWS OF ARTEMIS
Chloris ran down the hallway, her bare feet slapping against the stone floor-tiles. Dodging a servant polishing the bronze wall-sconces, she turned into the corridor and darted up the stairs to the weaving room.
The door stood open; inside, well-born ladies gossiped as they worked the tall looms, their voices raised to carry over the rhythmic clatter of the warp-weights. In one corner, maidservants carded wool; nearby, Chloris’ grandmother and aunt sewed golden spangles onto the flounces of a new skirt.
The queen looked up from her seat by the wide window. “Chloris! Where have you been?”
“In the kitchen, Mama,” she said, staring at her mother’s chest. Unfortunately Mama dressed in the style of her faraway Eastern homeland: she always kept her breasts covered – unlike most ladies, who made a great display of rouging or gilding their nipples. It was impossible for Chloris to tell which of her mother’s breasts was larger. The chief cook and her helpers said if a pregnant woman’s right breast was bigger that meant she was carrying a boy, while a larger left breast meant a girl. But Chloris couldn’t tell any difference, at least not through the fabric. They both just looked, well, big.
“So I see,” said her mother. “You have crumbs on your chin.”
The cook had given her a pastry with a sweet fig filling. Chloris brushed the back of her hand across her lips to remove the telltale remnants.
“Go wash your hands,” her mother said, “and take up your spindle.”
Sighing, Chloris slouched over to the basin that stood on a table by the door. Her mother was very particular when it came to wool-work: everyone’s hands had to be perfectly clean. She rinsed her fingers in the jasmine-scented water and dried them on a cloth offered by one of the serving women. Then Chloris went over to the empty stool beside the queen. Her wool-basket, distaff, and spindle were waiting for her. She settled the long wooden shaft of the distaff under her left arm; as she fixed a clump of carded wool about its tip, she peered once more at her mother’s swollen belly and breasts. She still couldn’t see any difference between right and left – no more than she could tell whether the baby was resting high or low in the womb. That was how the washer-women said you could tell a boy from a girl.
Her mother the queen preferred loom-work to spinning, but when her belly was large it hurt her back to stand at the loom. That meant spinning instead – which meant Chloris had to do the same. And spinning was dull. At least with weaving there were stories to think about as she helped her mother put shapes and patterns into the cloth: stories about the gods, and about the city of Thebes. But spinning was just – spinning.
The thread she was making snapped, and her ivory spindle dropped to the floor with a sharp clack. Chloris bent to retrieve it. She licked her fingers and mated the two frayed ends of thread together, rolling and pinching them tight so that the fibers would stick together. But when she set the thread spinning it broke again.
“You’re letting it get too thin,” her mother said, catching up her own spindle and reaching over for the one in Chloris’ hand. “See?” Deftly the queen mended the break in the thread, and drew out a new twist of wool. “Keep it even, dear.” She handed the spindle back to Chloris. “Your thread was better yesterday. Is something bothering you this morning?”
Chloris looked into her mother’s dark eyes. “I want a sister, Mama,” she said. “Can’t you give me a sister this time?”
The queen lifted an eyebrow. “Why do you want a sister?”
“I’m tired of being the only girl.” She rested her distaff across her knees. “Alphenor says that boys are better. Boys are stronger – they get to drive chariots and fight with swords.”
A few of the ladies, including her grandmother and her aunt, giggled or exchanged indulgent looks. Chloris frowned at them, and they pretended to grow serious, but she could see that their eyes were still filled with mirth. Deciding to ignore them, Chloris continued: “I want to show him that girls are just as good, but it’s hard with five brothers and no sisters.”
“Isn’t your father teaching you archery alongside your brothers?” asked her mother, putting her own spindle in motion once more. The thread drew out behind it, slender and straight. “And you’ve already gone on several hunts – didn’t you shoot a hare last month?”
That was true; she was learning to handle a bow. But still—
“My dear, Philomela needs more brown thread. Take that skein over to her.”
Embarrassed, Chloris realized she had not noticed the gestures of the woman working the largest loom. Philomela was always kind; for example, she had not raised her eyebrows at Chloris’ mention of chariot racing and sword fights. Maybe that was why she hadn’t seen the movement of Philomela’s hand – because she was too irritated by the laughter of the other women. Chloris set down her own work and carried the skein of brown wool to her mother’s friend.
Philomela touched Chloris’ cheek in thanks. Philomela could not speak, and always wore a veil covering her nose and mouth, but Chloris didn’t know why. She had asked, but Mama had said she would explain when Chloris was older.
As Philomela began wrapping the thread around her empty shuttle, Chloris returned to her mother’s side. “I still want a sister.”
The queen shook her head. “Child, that’s not up to me.”
Was Mama telling the truth? Her mother was the queen, Queen Niobe of Thebes, and Father always said that she was the most capable woman alive. So surely she could make the baby a girl if she chose.
“Father says you can do anything,” Chloris ventured.
This time all the women laughed – and then Mama stopped, rubbing her belly as if it ached. “Why don’t you go ask your father just how I should go about that task? You’re too fidgety for wool-work today anyway.”
Chloris jumped up. “Is Father at the new temple?”
The queen gave a little shrug. “I expect so.”
Chloris’ father the king was building a temple to Apollo. Everyone said that Father played the lyre and sang like the god Apollo himself. Well, almost everyone: Mama said that she’d never heard Apollo sing, so she couldn’t make the comparison – but still Mama agreed that Father’s music was the most beautiful she had ever heard. “That’s why I first fell in love with him,” she would say, and then her eyes would go dreamy, as if she had stopped seeing what was around her.
Relieved to be released from her chores in the weaving room, especially on such a sunny autumn day, Chloris kissed her mother’s cheek in parting.
“Don’t run inside the palace, dear,” her mother called as she headed out.
Chloris walked primly to the end of the corridor, then held herself to a moderate lope after rounding the corner. She headed first to her own room to find her nursemaid; the palace guards would not let her wander outside by herself.
Her nursemaid made her put on sandals, even though Chloris preferred going barefoot in warm weather. But because she wanted the woman to accompany her without too much grumbling, Chloris slipped her feet into the sandals and tied the thongs around her ankles.
At the front door of the palace, she asked the guards the whereabouts of her father. “The king’s down at the cattle-pens on the southwest side of the city,” said one of the men, pointing with his spear.
Chloris thanked the soldier, then went down the palace stairway and across the agora at a pace slow enough for her nursemaid to keep up. Even though it was an easy walk – the road sloped downhill, after all – her servant complained about the steep climb they would have to make on their return.
Her father was easy to spot from a distance; he was so tall, and the golden circle of his crown caught the sunlight. Uncle Zethos was by the pens too, of course – he was Master of the Herds – but so were several other noblemen and a whole crowd of servants. The visitor who had arrived the night before was also there, with all his foreign soldiers in their blue cloaks and kilts. As Chloris drew nearer, she saw her brothers standing off to the side – and she noticed that her father and uncle looked distinctly unhappy. This was not the time to ask Father about Mama giving her a sister.
Leaving her nursemaid, Chloris slipped through the crowd until she reached her eldest brother, Alphenor. “What’s happening?” she whispered.
“Shh,” was the hissed answer. Chloris made a face at him, then looked over at the knot of blue cloaks.
“I’m following the king’s express orders,” said the leader of the foreigners.
Her father frowned at that. She whispered to Alphenor: “But our father’s the king!”
“Another king. King Pelops of Pisa.”
“Pisa – where they hold the Olympic Games?”
The Olympic Games, which happened every four years, attracted the best athletes from all across Hellas. The next games were to take place in another two years and Chloris desperately wanted to go – as did Alphenor and their younger brothers.
“Yes. Now be quiet.”
Obviously, Chloris thought, Alphenor didn’t know what was happening either. She would just have to listen and figure it out for herself.
She shifted from one foot to the other, watching the men’s faces. King Pelops of Pisa was one of her mother’s brothers. What could King Pelops’ messenger be saying to make her father, King Amphion of Thebes, so unhappy?
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The Tapestry of Bronze is a series of interlocking novels set in ancient Greece, starting several generations before the Trojan War. Archaeological evidence indicates that this “Golden Age of Heroes” aligns with Bronze Age dates. Our series forms a tapestry, because the books tie together, though each novel focuses on one strand of story. Jocasta, Children of Tantalus, The Road to Thebes and Arrows of Artemis are available for purchase today. And more are in the works!
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