Finding Ithaka: An Epic Story Traversing Time (Ionian Trilogy Book 1)

Written by Anna Harvey
Review by Misty Urban

Dr. Thea Sefton returns to the Greek island of Kefalonia as part of an archaeological expedition searching for the palace of Odysseus, regarded here not as a legend but a real person whose journey Thea traces using geographical details from Homer’s poem. On the team is Rob Hughes, an affable climate scientist, but Thea’s developing camaraderie with him is dampened when she discovers that the funds for their expedition come from Dimitri Kampitsis, the smooth-talking local lover who abandoned her twenty years ago.

Between chapters of Thea’s story, the aging king Odysseus, overlooking a peaceful Ithaka with his son Telemachos, reflects on his many adventures. Through his flashbacks, Harvey gives the highlights of the Homeric epics her own twist, from the ploy that brings down mighty Troy to the episodes featuring the Cyclops, the Sirens, the Lotus-eaters, and Kalypso. The most developed and poignant interlude is the hero’s romance with Kirke, the beautiful high priestess of a shrine sacred to the goddess Fredonia. Though Odysseus eventually returns to his faithful wife, Penelope, Kirke still keeps his heart.

The span of the book and its large cast leave little room for character development; many of Thea’s colleagues and Dimitri’s wife Clemmie are little more than broad outlines, and Thea’s several changes of heart over her beaus are abrupt. The flashbacks-within-a-flashback of the Odysseus portions occasionally leaves the reader uncertain of where they are in the narrative. But fans of Homer’s epics will likely enjoy Harvey’s interpretation, and the natural beauty of the Greek isles—along with snippets of Greek dialect, history, and culture—add texture and vibrancy to the contemporary tale. While the separate plots bear little relation to one another and both end without resolution, the story is interesting enough to leave the reader curious for book two.