Today on my blog I have a guest post from Cath Mayo, one of the authors of Athena’s Champion. I can’t wait to read this and has gone up my to be read pile as I love books like this. A few days ago I had a guest post from the other author David Hair, this can be found here
Thank you to Canelo for allowing me to be a part of this amazing tour!
The first in a thrilling new historical fantasy series; Odysseus must embrace his secret heritage and outwit the vengeful gods who would control or destroy him… Prince Odysseus of Ithaca is about to have his world torn apart. He’s travelled to the oracle at Pytho to be anointed as heir to his island kingdom; but instead the Pythia reveals a terrible secret, one that tears down every pillar of his life, and marks him out for death.
Outcast by his family, hunted by the vengeful gods, Odysseus is offered sanctuary by Athena, goddess of wisdom, and thrust into the secret war between the Olympians for domination and survival. Only his wits, and his skill as a warrior, can keep him ahead of their power games – and alive.
When one of Athena’s schemes goes drastically wrong, and the young Helen of Sparta is kidnapped, Odysseus must journey past the gates of Hades to save her. Falling in love with a Trojan princess, a bewitching woman who poses a deadly threat to both his homeland and Athena, won’t make his task any easier…
Drawing from classic Greek mythology, Athena’s Champion, first in the epic Olympus Trilogy, is perfect for fans of Madeline Miller and David Gemmell.
Here is Cath’s Guest Post all about Exploring Delphi. Thank you so much to Cath for this post and all the wonderful pictures!
David Hair and I have set the opening scenes of our new book, Athena’s Champion, in an oracular shrine on the slopes of Mt Parnassus, in Central Greece.
Originally known as Pytho, the shrine later became famous as Delphi. The view from Delphi/Pytho is one of the most spectacular I have seen. The sun-drenched, ancient ruins of the site are perched on a narrow, sloping shelf poised far above the Pleistos River and ringed by amazing cliffs.
The cliffs around Delphi (photo: Cath Mayo)
I first experienced the dramatic potential of this setting many years before I actually went there. In The Mask of Apollo, one of Mary Renault’s wonderful historical novels set in Ancient Greece, someone tries to murder the narrator, the actor Nikeratos, by sabotaging the rope which has him suspended high above the open-air stage in Delphi. Nikeratos survives and the murderer flees, eventually to be hunted down and thrown from the cliffs encircling the shrine.
I’d already seen photos of these cliffs, so I was intrigued as to how the murderer – and his pursuers – could find their way up through them. I was a climber and high-alpine tramper in my youth, and I have a love of the mountains – and the unknown – that can still grab at my heart. I promised myself that, one day, I would go to Delphi and explore what lay above and beyond the shrine.
It took me until 2014 to get myself there. I was alone – my husband was going to join me in Greece later – and I decided to stay, not in the modern town of Delphi next to the ruins but further up the Pleistos valley, in a small family hotel just outside the little town of Arachova, with fabulous views down the valley towards Delphi.
From my window, near Arachova, with Delphi (Pytho) on the right, hidden by a shoulder of Mt Parnassos (Photo: Cath Mayo)
Lena, the owner of Hotel Nefeles, was incredibly hospitable, in that warm, down-to-earth way the Greeks have, once you’re off the beaten track. It didn’t take me long to find out that she and her father knew all about the track up through the cliffs behind Delphi, and the cave sacred to the nymph Corycia, which lay some distance further on. Lena even had photos taken by her father of the cave.
What a place to set a story!
The entrance to the Corycian Cave, on Mt Parnassus (photo: Cath Mayo)
The first morning, I set off eagerly, armed with a water bottle, plenty of chocolate and my camera in my backpack. After wandering round the Classical ruins of Delphi and checking out the site of the Late Bronze Age village, which is tucked over in a corner by a large ravine, I headed off to find the path up the cliffs. I couldn’t get to it from the archaeological site, which is completely fenced off, so I searched the hillside above the modern town and sure enough, there it was zigzagging its way up above me. Part of the way up, I spotted some weathered stone steps, cut out of the cliff beside me – surely an even more ancient path than the one I was on. I scrambled through the spiky scrub to poke my camera lens through the mesh of the site fence so I could get a decent shot.
An ancient path cut into the cliffs above Delphi (photo: Cath Mayo)
The view from the top of the cliffs was breathtaking. Far, far below me was the oracular site, further again the valley floor, the ancient city of Krisa, which also features in Athena’s Champion, and the coast beyond. I felt almost as though I was a god, floating above the world of men and staring down at their futile, beetling lives.
Back at Hotel Nefeles, the word “beetling” acquired an unexpected resonance. Lena had a small pile of books, mostly in Greek, in the breakfast room that looked down the valley towards Delphi. One of these was a collection of old photos illustrating how life used to be in Arachova. I turned a page to find a picture of two elderly men, one holding a guitar and the other a klarino, the Greek version of a clarinet.
Their formal but slightly shabby suits were in stark contrast to the motley gear worn by the four young hippie types standing beside them. ‘Oh,’ I said to myself, ‘some Haigh-Ashbury types have taken a wrong turning and wound up by accident in the Greek mountains – how funny. The guy on the left is even trying to look like Ringo Starr…’ Then I looked again. It was Ringo Starr, and behind various sets of hats and glasses were John, George and Paul. Apparently, they were in Greece to buy a Greek island so they could smoke drugs without being hassled (it didn’t work out) and decided to hook up with some local musos…
The Beatles in Arachova, Greece (photo: Aristotelis Sarrikostas)
I love the incongruity of this image – young/old; new/traditional; reaching out/turning inwards; universally popular/famous only in their own small community; passing through/offering hospitality. To me, it encapsulates the many side of Greece itself. For thousands of years, Greece has lived a rich, often fraught, often joyous life, acquiring layer upon layer and embracing them all.
When I finally found the Corycian Cave, it was silent and empty, with only a ring of ash-coated stones to show people had ever used it. But according to both legend and historical record, it has often been a place of refuge – for the nymph Corycia, and for ordinary Greek people hiding from the Persians in the 5th century BC, from the Turks during the Greek War of Independence, from the German invaders in 1943, and many more. Dig below the surface and you can keep on going, deeper and deeper.
That’s what David and I are working to do with Athena’s Champion and the other books in the Olympus series – dig deeply into the Greek mythos and bring it back to the surface for readers to enjoy.
Please do go and check out the other blogs that have contributed towards this tour! I was very lucky to have been on it twice! All of the other fantastic blogs are listed below!