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Monday, November 13, 2017

Book Review: A Sea of Sorrow by David Blixt, Amalia Carosella, Libbie Hawker, Scott Oden, Vicky Alvear Shecter, and Russell Whitfield

a sea of sorrow

A Sea of Sorrow by David Blixt, Amalia Carosella, Libbie Hawker, Scott Oden, Vicky Alvear Shecter, and Russell Whitfield
ARC, e-Book, 524 pages
Knight Media, LLC
October 17, 2017
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Genre: Historical Fiction, Short Story

Source: Received for review with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Odysseus, infamous trickster of Troy, vaunted hero of the Greeks, left behind a wake of chaos and despair during his decade long journey home to Ithaca. Lovers and enemies, witches and monsters—no one who tangled with Odysseus emerged unscathed. Some prayed for his return, others, for his destruction. These are their stories…

A beleaguered queen’s gambit for maintaining power unravels as a son plots vengeance.

A tormented siren battles a goddess’s curse and the forces of nature to survive.

An exiled sorceress defies a lustful captain and his greedy crew.

A blinded shepherd swears revenge on the pirate-king who mutilated him.

A beautiful empress binds a shipwrecked sailor to servitude, only to wonder who is serving whom.

A young suitor dreams of love while a returned king conceives a savage retribution.

Six authors bring to life the epic tale of The Odyssey seen through the eyes of its shattered victims—the monsters, witches, lovers, and warriors whose lives were upended by the antics of the “man of many faces.” You may never look upon this timeless epic—and its iconic ancient hero—in quite the same way again.

Having thoroughly enjoyed A Song of War, the prior release from the H Team, I was super excited to see that they were taking on the epic story of The Odyssey. Growing up I had always inhaled the tale of Odysseus and his adventures returning home to his waiting family after ten years of war. I first want to address my thoughts on the individual stories before getting into my overall thoughts.

Song of Sorrow by Vicky Alvear Shecter

It makes complete sense that the collection begins with the story of Penelope and Telemachus and how they deal with the suitors for her hand. Without this story you do not have the emotional reunion when Odysseus does eventually come home. Unfortunately for me, this was always the most boring part of the tale, and not a favorite story here either. Shecter did a great job of giving Penelope and Telemachus depth of character, which did make me care about their evolution at the end. The problem here is that nothing happens in this story and as it is the first in the collection, not grabbing my attention is really an issue.

Xenia in the Court of the Winds by Scott Oden

Wow, can I just say that I missed a lot in this story – namely that Xenia is not a character, which is what I thought the narrators name was for quite some time (for the record, his name is Glaukos and xenia is like the right of offering fellowship to a visitor). So that might have made a tiny bit of difference in my appreciation of this story. I appreciated that Polyphemus comes to this land to tell the story of what Odysseus and his men did, but I wasn’t a fan of the way the tale was told. Glaukos is telling the tale to his grandchild of when he was a little boy and Polyphemus came to his land, in that tale Polyphemus tells the story to Glaukos and the villagers of when Odysseus came to his land. I felt so far removed from these characters because of the way the story was told that I didn’t make any connections to them to care how they were affected. I waited and waited for something to happen, only for it to happen in the last few moments of the story before it ended. It didn’t feel like enough of a payoff to have waited that long for. I loved that Polyphemus has a backstory of being from Egypt and how Oden built the myth of the Kyklops.

Hekate’s Daughter by Libbie Hawker

This story (and the next 3) were where my enjoyment was really situated. Hawker fantastically built a believable story of how a woman could have been believed to be a witch based on circumstances way beyond her control. Circe didn’t want to be married to the man she was wed to by her father. When that inevitably fails and she is sent away to an exile, she finds who she truly is. Once Odysseus and his men showed up on the island I felt like the pacing slowed down and I again lost some interest in the story…until he set sail again.

The Siren’s Song by Amalia Carosella

Easily my FAVORITE story in the collection! What is funny to me is that this is the part of the tale, of those included in this collection, that Odysseus has the least interaction with – actually never directly engaging with the Sirens. This gave Carosella so much latitude to work with, but also really required her to build these shell characters into someone the reader could care about, as if they had read the Odyssey they wouldn’t have already had indepth knowledge of them. This was also the first story that I felt had forward momentum the whole way through with events transpiring throughout. I felt that life or death struggle these women were facing and really cared about their outcome. Excellent contribution to the collection.

Calypso’s Vow by David Blixt

Odysseus easily spends the most time with Calypso of all the people who he encounters in his travels home. I think this story should have had the longest page count because there is so much to tell here. Odysseus really finds himself here. He changes throughout each of his encounters with the people on his journey, but this one really gets him to a place where he feels like he is finally the man to return home to Penelope. I liked that Calypso has a heart and doesn’t want Odysseus to leave, but knows she is not the woman for him and that eventually he must return home. Watching the evolution of the two characters throughout this story was breathtaking.

The King in Waiting by Russell Whitfield

This is where the real action happens and where we get to see Odysseus return home to deal with everything that has happened in his absence. Whitfield has to pull together this Odysseus who has been handled in some way or another by 5 other authors before him and make him one man. He has to bring to the reader than man that you can finally get behind, because Odysseus is really not all that likable when seen through the eyes of the people he has hurt, even here too. While David Blixt began the redemption of Odysseus in the previous story, Whitfield brings it full circle. The scene where the suitors were dealt with was very satisfying, and gruesome.

Epilogue by Vicky Alvear Shecter

Shecter brings us full circle at the end with Penelope trying to understand and take in all that has happened, how Odysseus has changed, and how does she accept a man who has been gone for almost 20 years. It was a very satisfying and sweet closure to the collection.


I did have some struggles with this collection, which were definitely from personal experience with the source material. When you read The Odyssey, it is obviously a heroic tale of a great man, so to see him in a negative light from the majority of the character narrators here is jarring and difficult to acclimate to. I think that these authors did a fantastic job of seeing the story from the other perspective and getting past that veil of heroism. Odysseus and his men either directly or indirectly caused harm to so many people on their journey home. Having come off of previously reading A Song of War, and a FANTASTIC Odysseus crafted by Shecter in that collection, I was primed to see him as this great man. I also was so looking forward to seeing Shecter’s Odysseus again, although Whitfield did do an excellent job with him as well. Unlike in the other collections where many of the characters often have direct interactions with each other, for most of the narrators the only connection is Odysseus. This is why I was very exited to see the Circe and Sirens stories intertwined; I think this was a fabulous choice and an excellent way to flesh out the story of the Sirens as well. These authors were able to take characters who are traditionally imbued with magic or some otherworldly element and make them into real human beings with flaws or other characteristcs that might lead them to be mislabeled. The magical elements are removed from the story, which could make some of the elements of these tales difficult to root in the real world, but they did it. Whether it was through falsehoods spun on purpose to create fear, not understanding someone who is different in culture, or just the way someone tells a tale to make themselves look better, everything made sense in a real world way. The first two tales were a little boring for me and failed to pull me in, but the collection as a whole was well done.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Buy the Book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Also by The H Team:

The H Team is a loose collection of historical fiction authors that unite to write short story collections. Some of the authors previously collaborated for the following books:

day of fire_thumb
A Day of Fire: A Novel of Pompeii

By Stephanie Dray, Ben Kane, E. Knight, Sophie Perinot, Kate Quinn, and Vicky Alvear Shecter
[My Review]

year of ravens_thumb
A Year of Ravens: A Novel of Boudica’s Rebellion

By Ruth Downie, Stephanie Dray, E. Knight, Kate Quinn, Vicky Alvear Shecter, S.J.A. Turney, and Russell Whitfield
[My Review]

02_A Song of War_thumb[1]
A Song of War by Kate Quinn, Christian Cameron, Libbie Hawker, Vicky Alvear Shecter, Russell Whitfield, Stephanie Thornton, and S.J.A Turney
[My Review]

Find The H Team:

Tour Wide Giveaway!

As part of the tour, a paperback copy of A Sea of Sorrow is up for grabs.  Please enter via the Gleam form below.  Please note, if you have questions to contact the HFVBT coordinator as I am not involved with this giveaway.

  • Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on November 17th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
  • Giveaway is open to US & Canada residents only.
  • Only one entry per household.
  • All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
  • Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

A Sea of Sorrow

Follow the Tour!

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On the HFVBT Webpage or on Twitter: #ASeaofSorrowBlogTour

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Review at A Book Drunkard

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Friday, October 20
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Monday, October 23
Review at The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, October 24
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Thursday, October 26
Review at What Cathy Read Next

Friday, October 27
Feature at So Many Books, So Little Time

Monday, October 30
Review at Creating Herstory

Tuesday, October 31
Review at Historical Fiction Reviews

Wednesday, November 1
Review at Back Porchervations

Thursday, November 2
Feature at The Writing Desk

Friday, November 3
Review at 100 Pages a Day

Monday, November 6
Review at Broken Teepee

Tuesday, November 7
Feature at A Literary Vacation

Wednesday, November 8
Feature at Passages to the Past

Friday, November 10
Review at Locks, Hooks and Books

Monday, November 13
Review at Unabridged Chick
Feature at CelticLady’s Reviews

Tuesday, November 14
Review at Bookramblings
Feature at Myths, Legends, Books & Coffee Pots

Thursday, November 16
Feature at I Heart Reading

Friday, November 17
Review at A Book Geek
Review at The True Book Addict

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1 comment:

  1. WOW! What a fabulous and thoughtful review, thank you so much Heather! And thank you for hosting the H Team's Blog Tour!

    HF Virtual Book Tours


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