The author begins Poseidon and Cleito with a preface about what inspired him to write the story. This both had the feel of the narrator in ancient Greek plays and set up expectations the story didn’t quite meet. I mention this up front because had the author note been an afterword, I could have absorbed the story more easily without looking for a setting that wasn’t there.
The book has much in common with its Greek mythology inspiration outside of the setting in the mix of deceit and misunderstandings. I’ll admit I don’t remember Poseidon and Cleito being among the Greek myths that I have read, so lack the specific background, but the story read much more a mix of Steppe and Egyptian/Phoenician cultures than Greek, with the exception of the names. The cultures portrayed, though, were well done with many levels of society represented.
I enjoyed the characters for the most part, and especially the infighting as they struggled with different objectives and personality conflicts. I didn’t always agree with the choices they made, both the main characters and secondary, but never did those choices feel out of character. Beyond the title characters, several minor characters were given temporary POV, allowing for a more complex, layered narrative.
There are no gods in this book, despite the name, just lies and manipulation. The hero, such as he is, is built from tall tales and pretend visions. Circumstances do drive him to acts of heroism a couple of times, though, showing his heart to be pure even if his motivations are sometimes suspect. Cleito I had more trouble with because her heart is twisted. She has good moments as well, but they’re offhand rather than forming her core. The way things end only emphasize these issues, and I wish there had been an epilogue to show how things turned out after the major conflict. Instead, the final scene is distant from the crisis, though it offers some amusement as a reflection of the story events.
Don’t get the sense that my dislike of Cleito’s personality is a condemnation. This story is a grand look at court politics and the twisted treachery found there. Cleito is essential to this aspect, and had she been good-hearted, she most likely wouldn’t have lasted to the final page. A character doesn’t have to be likeable to be good in the story, and this is an ample demonstration of that.
Ultimately, the book didn’t blow me away as I might have expected when my love of Greek myths is similar to the author’s, but I did enjoy reading it. The story is well written and the cast interesting, while the complexity of the political relationships, especially with the uncle, are quite well drawn.
P.S. I received this book from the publisher through LibraryThing in return for an honest review.