Hetaera--suspense in ancient Athens, is Book One of the Agathon's Daughter Trilogy. Born a bastard and a slave, Hestia has a gift: the power to read people's hearts. And yet, the secrets of her own heart remain a mystery. Hestia's keen intellect makes her a match for any man. But even a literate slave has little control over destiny. Sold to a prominent statesman with sadistic tendencies, Hestia becomes his hetaera (consort). As her wealth and fame increase so does her despair. She dreams of freedom, but she faces enemies at every turn. When Hestia is accused of murder, the mystery of her past unravels and fate takes another turn. Hetaera: Agathon's Daughter was awarded third place in the Maui Writers Rupert Hughes writing competition.
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Set in ancient Athens, this is a mix of mystery and romance. Hestia was born a bastard and has lived a life of servitude as a house slave. Her master, Agathon, reveals certain secrets upon his deathbed. Agathon’s widow, Melaina, sells Hestia to a local slaver. She in turn is bought by a wealthy man, Lycurgus, who was Agathon’s best friend. Toss in a love interest between Hestia and Diodorus, and you have an entertaining Greek soap opera.
I very much enjoyed this book even with its flaws. While the characters and the plot were a bit predictable, it was also easy to get attached to the main characters. Hestia has an intuition about people and is often blunt enough to speak her observations. Some praise her for this and others curse her. While a slave, she doesn’t simply allow life to happen to her. She makes choices throughout the book, some of which put her in danger. She does, at times, seem a bit too innocent. She has been a house slave all her life, but that doesn’t mean that she was kept locked in doors. She could go to the market, chat with other slaves from other households, etc. Despite this tendency towards obliviousness, she was an engaging character.
Diodorus is also a person who makes choices, though he is under a heavy, life-long manipulation by his mother Melaina. She is the villain of this story and I have to say, there are times where she steals the scene. She was an excellent villain to hate! Lycurgus comes off as a secondary character, though he plays a few crucial cards to keep the storyline moving forward. There were a few times that I felt certain events were contrived, were a little too convenient in popping up when they did. There were 2 chance meetings that I felt were unlikely to have happened without the author’s pen pushing them forward. Still, even with that, it was a fun listen.
The setting was a lot of fun too. I definitely felt like the characters were in ancient Athens. There were plenty of references to clothing, social customs, government policies, and food from that time period. The setting itself was so well done it was a character itself. Over all, I very much enjoyed this book. If Suzanne Tyrpak is this good today, imagine how refined and entertaining her stories will be in the future.
Narration: Laura Jennings was an excellent pick for this story. She made Hestia come to life. I have to say that her performances as Melania were excellent too. She also had a range of male voices which made it easy for the listener to keep all the characters separate.
Interesting story. But it has some historical flaws. Sokratis (not Socrates) was affiliated with the conservative faction more so than the Periklis reformers. And none of them ever proposed freeing slaves. The narration. The mispronounciation of Greek words made me cringe. Take my word for it, that 90% of it is wrong. Using latinized Roman versions of Greek words is insulting. If one is reading Greek words, using Greek pronunciation is not a stretch.