The Amber Seeker (The Stone Stories)

Written by Mandy Haggith
Review by Penny Ingham

Set in 320 B.C., The Amber Seeker is the sequel to the critically acclaimed The Walrus Mutterer (reviewed in HNR 86). The novel is told in the first person through the eyes of the Greek explorer Pytheas of Massalia, a genuine historical figure who left behind a unique account of his sea voyages to Britain, Iceland and beyond. (Each port of call is given its ancient Brittonic name, so a map would have been helpful to follow his progress without having to resort to Google, but this is a minor quibble.)

As in her previous novel, the author’s meticulous research shines from every page. I was particularly intrigued by her explanation for Pytheas’s journey of exploration: in an age when knowledge is power, he is searching for the sources of precious commodities such as tin, amber and walrus ivory. He is also looking for Rian, the elusive slave girl who has stolen his heart and who haunts his every waking moment.

Today, we might describe Pytheas as a scientist. A practical man, he is thrust into a bleak, northern landscape of myth and magic, of earth goddesses, Druids and human sacrifice. There are obvious parallels to Homer’s Odyssey here, and The Amber Seeker is a journey of discovery in more ways than one, although Pytheas is no heroic Greek warrior. Instead he is a complex, tormented soul; sometimes likeable, sometimes utterly repellent. Beautifully written, this novel is a moving and at times, shocking confession of a man tormented by love, loss, guilt and regret. Recommended.