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The Seven Wonders: A Novel of the Ancient World Hardcover – Jun 5 2012

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books (June 5 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312359845
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312359843
  • Product Dimensions: 24.1 x 16.3 x 3.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 522 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #215,802 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Saylor knows his stuff and brings the ancient world alive in what is a neat prequel to his Roma sub rosa series. However you don't have to have read any of his other books to enjoy this book.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 109 reviews
32 of 37 people found the following review helpful
Another Magnificent Roman Mystery From Steven Saylor May 24 2012
By John D. Cofield - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Long time followers of the career of Gordianus the Finder, 1st century BCE Rome's private detective par excellence, will know that he occasionally mentions the long journey he made in his youth to see the Seven Wonders of the World. Up till now we've only been able to wonder what actually happened during that monumental trip, but now Gordianus' creator Steven Saylor has given us the answer in the form of a well crafted mystery which is also (like all of Saylor's Roman works) an amazing evocation of the days of the Roman Empire.

The story begins with preparations by the 18 year old Gordianus and his father for the funeral ceremonies of the eminent poet Antipater of Sidon (who really lived and thus joins Cicero, Cataline, and Caesar, among many others, as one of the actual ancient Romans with whom Gordianus interacts in Saylor's mysteries). There's only one problem: Antipater is very much alive, but for reasons best known to himself he prefers to be thought dead and gone. Gone he soon will be, for he and Gordianus are preparing to leave Rome to tour the Seven Wonders. The chapters that follow each present separate mysteries, all intertwined with the overall mystery of why Antipater needs to stay hidden. Most are tied up with one of the seven Wonders, which are all beautifully described in the fine historical detail his readers know to expect from Saylor. As the story progresses Gordianus learns more about Antipater and even more about himself, as he is enjoyably initiated into the "Venusian mysteries" by several obliging females and also begins to learn and sharpen his investigative skills. Most importantly for his future, he meets and purchases the woman who is to dominate his life, Bethesda. The date is about BCE 92, when the Roman Republic is tottering but still standing as its Empire expands and is threatened by other powers, like Mithridates of Pontus whose agents play a role in some of the stories in this volume.

When I pick up one of Steven Saylor's mysteries I know I will be reading a well crafted and enjoyable tale. Just as importantly, I know the history and scholarship behind Saylor's fiction will be impeccably presented, and that ancient Rome will live again in my imagination.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Delightul Tour of the Ancient World that Keeps You Guessing June 2 2012
By Janet Perry - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
This is the first of Saylor's mysteries I have read and I am very impressed. His knowledge of the Ancient World is huge and combined with his ability to tell a number of well-crafted small mysteries makes for an abosolutely wonderful book.

It's hard to combine good scholarship with good storytelling, those kind of books tend to be dull and didactic. But Saylor's book doesn't flag one bit. At each of the Seven Wonders you'll learn plenty about the building (or ruins), the people, and the customs, but you won't notice because the plots are so engaging.

As The Finder and his teacher travel to each of the Wonders they come upon a mystery to be solved, usually by chance. The Finder has not yet become known for his extraordinary skill and in fact hasn't even realized he has it, but his sharp eye, keen observation, and good memory combine to solve every one.

I really enjoyed this book.

One note though. Before I began to read the book, I noticed that several of the chapters had been published in magazines, so I worried this would be a very loose collection and not an integrated novel. It's not. While the mystery contained in each chapter is self-contained, that makes sense given the travels. But the book is a complete, and completely wonderful, whole.

A great summer read.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Wonderful! An Enthralling, Mysterious Trip June 1 2012
By Phyllis T. Smith - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
More than any other historical novelist writing today, Steven Saylor brings the ancient world to life. Here he sweeps us off with his fictional sleuth Gordianus to visit the Seven Wonders of antiquity. To go with the Wonders, there are seven deftly plotted tales. I particularly enjoyed the one in which Gordianus has to find out if a mother has contrived with her daughter-in-law to murder her own son; also the story of dead Roman soldiers and a witch's curse. There is a central puzzle--why does the poet who accompanies Gordianus on his journey hide his identity? By the novel's final pages, all the mysteries are solved to the reader's satisfaction.

The book can be regarded as a prequel to Saylor's other novels about Gordianus the Fender. In THE SEVEN WONDERS, we follow his adventures as a very young man. The backdrop is a Roman republic facing both internal strife and the growing threat of a powerful, alien king, Mithridates.

Ancient views on women's roles and different societies' contrasting approaches to sexuality are two fascinating strands woven through the novel. Two of Saylor's most vividly drawn characters are the heraira, Bitto, an older woman with much to teach Gordianus, and the rugged Gaul, Vindovix, who becomes smitten with him. The writing is not at all explicit but Gordianus's tour of the Seven Wonders is also a voyage of erotic discovery, a coming of age for an innocent eighteen-year-old. Fittingly, in the last chapter he encounters Bethesda, a woman who readers of the other Gordianus novels know will become his beloved wife.

At the end of his travels, young Gordianus reflects that "the true wonders a man encounters in his life are not the mute monuments of stone, but his fellow mortals." Saylor excels in making us feel we are truly visiting a distant time and place, and his descriptions of the Wonders themselves are often startlingly beautiful. But perhaps his greatest strength as a novelist is that he creates living, breathing characters that we can easily relate to and care about. He certainly does that in this book. Highly recommended.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Good series of short stories Aug. 25 2012
By Amy Goebel Padgett - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
I gave 4 stars when it really should have been 5, simply because I misunderstood what I was getting when I got the book. I thought it would be more of a novel, but the reality is that it is a series of loosely connected short stories. Which is fine, I love short stories, I just didn't realize it until I got to chapter two.

The premise is that each short story is about Gordianus and his tutor on a trip to each of the 7 wonders of the world. I loved that concept and it was a lot of fun to read. Saylor definitely did his research and made each locale come alive, which is what I like best. Each chapter is one of the seven wonders and Gordianus is given a mystery (not always a murder) to solve. It was really rather addicting.

If anyone has read The Decameron by Boccaccio and Billy Budd by Herman Melville, they are familiar with the concept of an innocent young many first going out into the world and having sexual encounters and "broadening his horizons" along the way. There was also a touch of that, although not nearly as bawdy as The Decameron. There was a definitely "Billy Budd" feel to Gordianus, though. I was really struck by that.

My favorite stories were the first two and the last one. They were all gems though. Another thing I should point out, I like Saylor, but some of his books were a little too rough (too real?) for me and I sort of gave up reading him. But I love stories about ancient Rome, particularly when combined with a mystery, and these stories were right up my alley. They were not at all rough, in fact they were rather light-hearted, perhaps even witty, which was a huge and very enjoyable relief for me. I wish he'd write more books along this line--not the short story aspect--but the lighter touch, leaving out some of the heavier/gritty stuff.

This is a TERRIFIC book for bedtime reading--I read one story a night and it worked out perfectly for me. The more I write this, the more I think I should have given it five stars, because I really did enjoy the history and travelogue aspects and Gordianus' journey to adulthood.

Try it, you'll like it!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
The Start of the Finder June 30 2012
By Charles F. Kartman - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Mr. Saylor has finally given us the start of Gordianus the Finder's career, describing a trip he took as an 18-year-old to see the Seven Wonders of the World. He is in the company of the aging Greek poet, Antipater of Sidon, and Mr. Saylor uses that as an excuse to trot out some of Antipater's surviving works. In form, the book is a series of vignettes loosely tied together by the backdrop of the emerging threat (to Rome) of King Mithradates of Pontus, a rarely mentioned important figure but one who is featured in The Last King: Rome's Greatest Enemy. On the whole, the journey is wonderfully satisfying both as a series of small whodunits, and as a travelogue/history lesson. I found Gordianus' view as a tourist in the ancient world quite charming -- indeed, I was taken by the image of these famous sites as tourist attractions back then -- and while the extensive details of the Wonders may not be everyone's cup of tea, I suspect Saylor fans will delight in them as I did. "The Seven Wonders" may not rank as Mr. Saylor's best, but it is very enjoyable and is an essential piece of reading for those who have followed Gordianus. The ending, in Alexandria, was a real treat ... you should know why.

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