MAYO, Catherine The Bow Walker, 2014 368pp $17.95 pbk ISBN 9781925081015 SCIS 1662071
The Odyssey, the epic poem ascribed to Homer, written about the end of the 8th century BC is about Odysseus (or Ulysses in the Roman era) who at the end of the long Trojan War and the fall of Troy takes ten years and numerous dramatic adventures to reach his home on the island of Ithaca, off the west coast of Greece.
In The Bow, Catherine Mayo imaginatively takes young readers back to the teenage years of Odysseus on Ithaca, heir to his father the king Laertes. He is a strong, bold young lad, and is not daunted facing the dangerous task, in disguise with his father’s squire Eurybates, of recovering the gold treasure from the tomb of his late grandfather Arkeisios in Argos with the help of Diomedes, commander of the Argos fortress of Tiryns. Odysseus is given expert lessons in archery by Diomedes’s lieutenant, Stenelos. When Tiryns is under attack by Thyestes, King of Mykenai, Odysseus and Eurybates make their escape accompanied by the brave and beautiful slave girl, Skotia, whom they rescue and help her return to her home in Arkadia.
The two adventurers arrive back in Ithaca but Odysseus now becomes involved in rescuing the Ithacan flocks of sheep stolen from the island of Zakynthos by Didaion, the governor of Kyparissia. Again masterfully in disguise, he tracks down and recovers the sheep from Phylas, Didaion’s shepherd. Didaion is brought to judgment over the theft, but when Odysseus faces being killed by the vengeful Phylas, he is warned by Skotia who had dreamt of his danger. Odysseus is able to demonstrate his powerful use of the great legendary bow of Eurytos, and he deals with his intended assassin with the help of his faithful dog, Argos.
There has been a good deal of enthusiastic and painstaking research into Bronze-Age Greece, the setting for the novel. In her acknowledgments the author refers to her sources and her use of available experts and there are maps and a list of characters. Teachers’ notes are available for further study. But the novel is not just a text for students of ancient Greece, it is also an exciting well-woven adventure story, fast moving and absorbing and can be enjoyed for itself by young readers ages 9 to 14.
reviewed by John D Adams