Gordianus fans will remember that his official detective career began in late-republican Rome in 80 B.C. with the novel Roman Blood. The Seven Wonders takes readers back twelve years to 92 B.C. Eighteen-year-old Gordianus sets out on a tour of the Greek world, tagging along with his father's old friend Antipater of Sidon, a celebrated poet whose bucket-list goal is to visit (or revisit) all Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
The grand tour begins in Ephesus (now on the west coast of Turkey) with the:
- Temple of Artemis. A short boat ride from Ephesus got them to
- Halicarnassus and the Mausoleum. Next it's back to Greece to see the
- Statue of Zeus at Olympia, just in time for the 172nd Olympiad. The travelers board ship again to the island of Rhodes, where they visit the wreckage of the
- Colossus of Rhodes, felled by an earthquake. Then it's on to Babylon and the
- Hanging Gardens, and also the Ishtar Gate, only remaining (at that time) section of the walls that enclosed the ancient city. Last stop is Egypt, to see the
- Great Pyramid of Giza, only one of the seven wonders that is still standing. The tour ends in Alexandria, where once stood the
- Pharos of Alexandria, the famous lighthouse that replaced the Ishtar Gate in later lists.
As always, Saylor's style includes a lot of historical detail without ever getting pedantic - the downfall of many a lesser historical novelist. Wry humor and a lighthearted approach also help to keep things from bogging down. It's not the breakneck do-or-die action pace of a Dan Brown, but a more relaxed and cerebral sort of storytelling - one reviewer described Gordianus as a "Roman Sherlock Holmes". That's a pretty good comparison, if you imagine a modern American novelist's version of Holmes.
We'll save the "five criteria" evaluation for the conclusion of the trilogy, but it's safe to say that Saylor's novels always get high marks.
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