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Night of Pan by Gail Strickland

Night of Pan

by Gail Strickland

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I've always been interested in reading about Greek mythology, but it's usually not easy to find fiction set in that time. However, Night of Pan is exactly that.

Thaleia is a fifteen year old girl living in Delphi. She's no ordinary girl, immediately on the first few pages you're introduced to her specialness. She's a special snowflake if I've ever seen one. She's way ahead of her time, thinking she's more than just a future wife/mother and this all is before the visions even start.

Though it was interesting to read about the period (it is absolutely evident that a lot of research was done before the novel was written) and it was also nice read about how an Oracle comes to be (I'd never really thought about that before) it still disappointed me a bit. Besides Thaleia all characters felt hollow and even Thaleia never felt real.

Overall the story is written well and a lot happens, but some chapters are too slow. The ending builds up and then there's a cliffhanger and you're supposed to wait till the second book to find out what's going to happen. I don't like this construct. I like it to have at least some ending of itself. Interesting promise, but the book didn't use it to its full potential.

Night of Pan is the first book in the Oracle of Delphi trilogy.

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. ( )
  Floratina | May 26, 2016 |
I would like to thank author Gail Strickland & Curiosity Quills Press for granting me a copy of this e-book to read in exchange for an honest review. Though I received this e-book for free that in no way impacts my review.

Goodreads Teaser:
"The slaughter of the Spartan Three Hundred at Thermopylae, Greece 480 BCE—when King Leonidas tried to stop the Persian army with only his elite guard—is well known. But just what did King Xerxes do after he defeated the Greeks?

Fifteen-year-old Thaleia is haunted by visions: roofs dripping blood, Athens burning. She tries to convince her best friend and all the villagers that she’s not crazy. The gods do speak to her.

And the gods have plans for this girl.

When Xerxes’ army of a million Persians marches straight to the mountain village Delphi to claim the Temple of Apollo’s treasures and sacred power, Thaleia’s gift may be her people’s last line of defense.

Her destiny may be to save Greece...
...but is one girl strong enough to stop an entire army?"

Thaleia is a young Greek girl living in Delphi, but she is different than all the other girls. Where then yield she stands strong and defiant. She doesn't mean to be problematic, nor does she mean to create problems for her best friend, Sophia. Yet somehow things always manage to go awry when Thaleia is involved. Thaleia is much more like a modern girl in her thoughts and deeds than she is like the others of her time. She thinks for herself, loves adventure, and won't tolerate injustice - not for others, or for herself. And that is how she views her upcoming betrothal to the crude Brygos, as a betrayal by her family, but more by her father as he holds the power in their family, just like in all families.

But this story is about Thaleia's journey of self discovery, told against the backdrop of the Persian's invasion of Greece and the last stand of King Leonidas and the Spartan 300. Part of her journey includes growing up and starting to see things for what they really are. Life is not black and white, and no two people are exactly the same. It may be the power of her blood that allows her to make this leap in logic, or it may simply be her destiny; whatever it is, none of the other girls have it, nor do they even understand it. Not even her beloved Sophia. The other part is learning to believe in herself, to really know herself, and in that knowing to trust the gods to work through her and save Greece, and specifically Delphi, from the overwhelming Persian invasion. This combination certainly makes for an energizing set of events, keeping the pacing of the story steady and exciting, yet without overloading on the excitement and causing the reader to become immune to the drama being played out for them.

Thaleia meets the God Pan on the mountainside, where he gives her his pipes. She keeps this meeting to herself in the beginning, for even she doesn't trust that what happened was true. But as she has more and more visions it certainly seems that she really did meet Pan. Which means her destiny is far greater than being trapped in a loveless marriage, should she not be able to run away in time.

Time and again Thaleia is tested by the gods and villagers alike. The tests becoming faster and more dangerous once it is clear to her that she is the rightful Oracle, and the The Child of the Clouds. Indeed the Child of the Clouds on speaks in birdsong, which no one understands - not even the corrupt head priest Diokles. Yet somehow Thaleia does understand the girl, not that it makes anything easier for either of them.

Although Thaleia is the central character and focal point of the story, the other characters are also fascinating and often provide good counterbalance to Thaleia. Even with minimal descriptions and scenes, the supporting characters certainly manage to make themselves and their actions felt loud and clear throughout the entire book. While some questions are answered, others are being set up for the following books.

During Thaleia's self-exploration she finds that she will be betrayed by those she loves, and supported by strangers who believe in her from the very first. Yet she still finds a way to not only forgive those who betrayed her, but she almost seems blind to what is really happening. And at this point things could go either way - the worst betrayal could have come from real concern, or it could have been prompted by jealousy and anger. But the answer is not to be found in this first book of the series. And given what Thaleia managed to pull off in this first book, it does make me pause to wonder what on earth she can do in the second act to top this opening act!

This book is certainly fine for adult readers, but it felt to me as if it was designed for a younger audience - it felt much more like middle- & high-schoolers are the target audience. But don't let that stop you from reading this book/series, as it also easily speaks to older readers as well. Between the interesting protagonist, the smooth story arc, and the creative ending, this book certainly isn't lacking for any of the necessary requirements that make for good reading and solid entertainment! ( )
  Isisunit | Nov 20, 2014 |
First book in the Oracle of Delphi trilogy

When Thaleia begins to see nightmarish visions, it is a sign that she is the next Pythia, or oracle of Delphi. However, the head priest has already selected his own Pythia that he can control completely, and he has no interest in Thaleia’s abilities. With each vision of horror, Thaleia tries to convince her village that Greece is in terrible danger, but instead of listening men brush her off as crazy. But Greece is in trouble as the Persian armies of King Xerxes march ever closer, and if Thaleia cannot make herself be heard there will no chance for survival.

Author Gail Strickland clearly did a lot of research into the history of Delphi and daily life in ancient Greece, and it shows. The structure of the temple of Delphi and the political machinations that govern the priesthood are unnervingly realistic, and the characters of the gods that appear to Thaleia are very consistent with the personalities shown in classic Greek mythology. It’s an excellent way of revealing Greek religious practices to young adult readers looking for the next adventure after finishing the Percy Jackson and Heroes of Olympus series.

While the world is built up beautifully, the characters are a trifle flat. Diokles, the evil priest who sets up a false Pythia, seems wicked through and through. Thaleia is such a strong and independent young woman that she seems too mature for fifteen, but then again I must remember that fifteen back then was much older than it is today. There aren’t too many other characters who get enough “page time” to fully develop, but one of the most interesting personalities is Sophia, who acts as a foil to Thaleia. Unlike her friend, Sophia is content with her life as it has been planned for her, and has few ambitions beyond getting married and settling into raising a family. Throughout the book, Sophia represents the life Thaleia is supposed to want even as her visions drive her in a different direction.

Thaleia has been touched by the gods, and in her role as the Pythia she can utilize their powers. The exact nature of these powers is extremely inconsistent. She has visions of the future, as any oracle would – fair enough. But over the course of the novel, Thaleia demonstrates many other powers: summoning a fiery demon from Hades, bringing a dead girl back to life, and commanding the wind, rain and earth. The easy explanation is that she is a vessel through whom the gods work, and her ability to make the earth tremble, for example, is merely the temporary gift of Poseidon. This is very unsatisfactory from a literary standpoint because every problem up is solved by via dei ex machina. Even though there are actual gods in the narrative, and this means of resolution makes sense, it can’t help but feel contrived at times.

Still, it’s a fun read. There’s a lot of action and adventure, and the reader becomes truly immersed in Thaleia’s world. If a little deus ex machina doesn’t bother you, definitely check out Night of Pan. ( )
  makaiju | Nov 15, 2014 |
....richly evocative, immediately accessible!

Evocative, poetic and moving. The story of the 300 takes new wings after King Xerxes and his Persian army defeat King Leonidas at Thermopylae, Greece 480 BC. What of Greece now?
Thaleia as the oracle come in to being, surrounded by treachery and greed, on the cusp of womanhood and great events is a striking female lead easily identified with. An epic character brought to life by Strickland's startling descriptors. I look forward to the rest of the trilogy.

I loved the cover. It reflects the moment when the satyr Pan tucks poppies into Thaleia's hair. 'The poppies burst into life and multiply until [Thaleia's] hair is a storm of green stems, a filigree of leaves and blooms...' Thaleia moves beyond herself, beyond the girl, to become the divine messenger, the oracle Pythia, with 'poppies dancing like Medusa's snake-hair.'

Strickland has combined a pantheon of Greek gods and historical happenings seamlessly with the very human story of a young girl/woman caught up in their drama and the destiny of her homeland. A YA novel at its best.

A NetGalley ARC ( )
  eyes.2c | Nov 8, 2014 |
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