Ask a bookseller: epic fates and myth in this novel set in ancient Greece

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“Amber and Clay” by Laura Amy Schlitz.

Courtesy of Penguin Random House

We’ll end our recommendation month for kids and teens and in between with a college title set in ancient Greece. Rosalind Casey of Books of Wonder in Manhattan recommended “Amber and Clay” by Newberry Medal-winning author Laura Amy Schlitz.

It is the story of two very different children, linked by fate. Melisto is the daughter of a wealthy Athenian citizen, privileged and determined, who seeks adventure far from the prescribed life of Greek women by spending a season in the service of Artemis, goddess of the hunt. Rhaskos, meanwhile, is a Thracian slave who spends his days tending to horses that are more valued than he is. He is fascinated by the arts, beauty and philosophy. It’s no spoiler telling you that one of the two characters spends much of the story as a ghost.

“It’s really like nothing else I’ve seen at the intermediate level recently,” Casey says. “It’s also really like nothing else I’ve seen done at all.”

The novel is told in a mixture of prose, poetry and images by artist Julia Iredale which are presented as objects found in a museum. The story is interwoven with voices of sarcastic gods and clever philosophers, pieces of Sapphic poetry and recreated Socratic dialogues – and some very funny footnotes. Casey called it a fascinating and hopeful story and said that despite its considerable length of 544 pages, the story moves quickly and draws readers with it.

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