Book Review: Steven Saylor’s Seven Wonders

Posted June 19, 2013 by Kathy Davie in

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Steven Saylor’s Seven Wonders

Seven Wonders

It is part of the , series and is a on June 5, 2012 and has 336 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.

It’s a prequel full-length novel of short stories woven together for the Roma Sub Rosa historical mystery series in which we’re introduced to Gordianus Junior.

The short story, Down These Strange Streets: Styx and Stones, is pulled from this novel.

My Take

Yep, it’s a torture session all the way through as Saylor won’t let on why Antipater had to fake his death until the very end. I did enjoy his “death” by the way — Roman funereal rites are, um, interesting.

Seven Wonders is a nice blend of being introduced to Gordianus (the younger) and our tagging along on their tour of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World in this collection of short stories woven into a single tale.

Reading the trip is a great way to travel and discover new cultures, new foods, and be involved in mystery after mystery — at least until they invent time travel! — not that I enjoyed everything I learned in each culture.

Oh, man, the Cynic at the Games was pretty funny — a natural-born heckler, he had some good points. The bare bones of what’s left of the Hanging Gardens is fascinating, but more so is the tour we embark on of the Pharos Lighthouse. Wow. It’s incredible what the Ancients were able to accomplish.

And I still want to get an airline ticket to follow in their footsteps…!

The Story

Gordianus Senior is also a Finder, and he’s worried about Junior being caught up in the wars that will soon engulf Rome. So together Gordianus the Papa and Antipater, a Greek tutor and poet, fake Antipater’s death and Antipater whisks Gordianus out of Rome.

It will be a challenging trip for the two: in Rome, sentiment is rising against Greeks while everywhere else in their known world, the tide is turning against the Romans.

The first stop on their journey is Ephesus, “home to the great Temple of Artemis” where they will stay with a former pupil of Antipater’s and solve a terrible crime. The next stop is in Halicarnassus, home of the great Mausoleum and where Antipater’s widowed cousin, Bitto, lives a most horrific lifestyle — in Antipater’s eyes. It’s her neighbors that are the problem. One which Gordianus resolves quite unexpectedly. It’s on to Olympia from there where Gordianus and Antipater are in time for the Olympic games. And, yes, another mystery even as they take the tour to view the great statue of Zeus. The ruins of Corinth are along their path to the harbor, and the two stop to rummage and pay homage to its destruction. The next stop is Rhodes to see what remains of the Colossus of Rhodes where Gordianus uncovers a nasty plot.

It’s Babylon and its fabled hanging gardens after this where Antipater and Gordianus experience the same regrets we do in this modern day about the Mayan ruins. It’s off to Egypt and the Great Pyramid after that where Gordianus prevents the ruin of a man and finds another ruin.

Last on the list is the Library of Alexandria, for Antipater and Gordianus have the same question: who made this list of Seven Wonders and why? And along the way, they pass the Pharos of Alexandria. It’s a stop that resolves a number of questions and strips Gordianus of the last of his innocence. He also encounters what he considers the Eighth Wonder of the World.

The Characters

Gordianus is turning eighteen as they set out on their journey from Rome. Gordianus, the father, is a Finder who loves puzzles and his son. Damon is the ancient doorkeeper in the house. Antipater of Sidon, soon to become Zoticus of Zeugma, is a world-renowned Greek poet and scholar with a secret life. He has been, informally, Gordianus’ Teacher. Consul Quintus Lutatius Catulus had thought he was Antipater’s best friend, and he’s rather put out about the funeral.

Eutropius is a widower with a daughter, Anthea, who will perform in the procession along with one of her friends, Chloe, the daughter of her father’s friend, Mnason. Amestris is a slave girl in the household of Eutropius. The Megabyzoi are the priests with Theotimus, the head priest.

Bitto, Antipater’s cousin, loves life and has found a unique way to ensure a comfortable lifestyle. Tryphosa and her daughter-in-law, Corinna, are Bitto’s unwelcome neighbors; Timon was Tryphosa’s son and Corinna’s husband before he died.

Exagentus, a wealthy man from Pontus, is the friend with whom Gordianus and Antipater stay during the Games. Protophanes of Magnesia is an athlete favored to win the pankration, until events threaten to derail his plans to participate. Simmius is the Cynic. Phidias is the artist who sculpted the great statue of Zeus.

Corinth, or at least its ruins
Titus Tullius and his party are fellow guests at the inn where Antipater and Gordianus are staying. Ismene is a waitress and a witch while Gnaeus is a retired Roman soldier who runs the inn. Marcus, Quintus Menenius, and Lucius are Roman soldiers stationed there.

Colossus of Rhodes
Posidonius is a scholar, scientist, and explorer who has spent time in Gaul. Zenas is his faithful and reliable slave. Gatamandix is a Druid of a tribe called the Segurvoi and another guest. Cleobulus is a young Rhodian and one of Posidonius’ pupils. Vindovix is a Gaul with a fairly extravagant mustache and an interest in Gordianus. He claims an ancestor of his posed for the Colossus.

Darius is the guide who attaches himself to our duo. Mushezib is an astrologer who befriends them. The priestess of Ishtar has jurisdiction over the abandoned temple.

Hidden relics and the origin of the Delta’s name appear here along with Antipater’s musings over the Nile’s origin. Kemsa is their guide there. Djal, son of Rhutin, is in desperate need of help, and we learn of the reverence Egyptians have for the mummies of their ancestors. We also learn of the three different funerary plans. All graded by cost, of course. Anubis and Isis are part of a vision quest Gordianus experiences.

Isidorus is a chance-met fellow passenger on the way who just happens to work at the Library. And we learn that inter-office politics and paperwork have been around for a very long time. It’s also where Gordianus discovers the truth of the saying “Stay here long enough, and every traveler in the world will cross your path” when he sees the assassin who escaped in Olympia. He also encounters a small group of spies against Rome: Anubion is some sort of supervisor at the lighthouse and Nikanor has become a liability. Bethesda is the slave Gordianus buys.

The Cover and Title

The cover is the greens of a sea at dark of night with a pair of ships sailing under a lightning-filled sky off the coast where the lighthouse of Pharos shines.

The title sums it up quite succinctly, for we are visiting The Seven Wonders.


Leave a Reply