Owls to Athens

Written by H.N. Turteltaub
Review by Adelaida Lower

Fourth in a series, Owls to Athens advances the adventures of the intrepid Rhodian merchants, Sostratos and Menedemos. In the chaotic post-Alexander world, there are plenty of opportunities and danger; you just don’t know which Macedonian captain is going to fall and which will prevail. Sostratos and Menedemos have dealt with this before. Trusting in the neutrality of their native Rhodes, they sail to turbulent Athens to sell their luxury goods. For Sostratos it is not an easy destination. He lived in Athens before as a student, but now he is a tradesman. How will his old teacher receive him? Menedemos, on the other hand, is happy to be away from Baukis, his father’s young wife. Now that he knows that Baukis shares his feelings, Menedemos is afraid to be near her. In Athens, however, in spite of his cousin’s ominous warnings, Menedemos succumbs to adultery. Only this time, it’s different. The affair upsets him and makes him realize the depth of his feelings for Baukis.

Turteltaub, the pseudonym of Harry Turtledove, scholar and bestselling author, encapsulates his vision of the ancient world through the eyes of these two engaging merchants. As the other novels of this series, Owls to Athens can be read separately although this can result in the reiteration of certain facts, such as the traits of some of the characters. Also, sometimes Turteltaub is repetitive within the confines of a particular novel – for instance, forgetting that he has already told us that cooks can be opinionated, he states it again and again. Despite that, in Owls to Athens, Sostratos and Menedemos put their past into perspective and act in ways that are bound to haunt them in a future which will likely find itself the subject of Turteltaub’s next book.