Book Review: Athena's Son by Jeryl Schoenbeck

by Jeryl Schoenbeck
Papyrun Publishing, 2011
ISBN: 9780615563121
Grades 4-8
Reviewed from copy provided by author for an honest review.
All opinions are solely my own.

 In 276 BC, Egyptians are terrified when a series of murders are linked to Anubis, god of the dead. The evidence is inexplicable. The victims' bodies have no wounds and the killer's tracks are enormous animal prints. Egyptians believe the jackal-headed god doesn't want the new lighthouse build. The pharaoh needs someone special to solve the crimes, someone with the skills and intellect to track down a vengeful god.

Twelve-year-old Archimedes is that person. He is blessed by Athena, goddess of wisdom and war, with extensive knowledge of science, mechanics, and medicine. He has to tread carefully when he applies the cold logic of Greek science in a sultry, mystical world of Egyptian culture. But when an ancient scroll puts him on the path of the killer, it also brings another god back from the dead. Now Archimedes is going to need Athena's war skills.

I've never particularly been interested in ancient history, but this book has changed that opinion. Not only are the characters fascinating but the intricate plot twists and turns delightfully. The author beautifully incorporates science and both Greek and Egyptian religious beliefs. I appreciated that the author points out what characters are real and what aspects of the real individuals he included in the story. Like most historical fiction, he changes things so the story works better, but there is enough realistic information in the story to provide a believable context for the story. 

The setting is intriguing to say the least. While I have little interest in ancient history, I've always had an interest in the Library of Alexandria. If there was one place in the ancient world that I could visit, it would be that place. The author does a nice job of describing not only the School that Archimedes attends but the palace, and marketplace.  It makes things so much easier to visualize when the author takes the time to create a realistic setting, something that can be especially difficult to achieve when describing a time and place that no longer exists.

Character-wise, I liked Archimedes from the beginning.  The boy's courage and ingenuity are clear from page one.  I've always had a preference for heroes that use their brains and Archimedes does that in spades. Berenike, the Pharoah's daughter is quite likeable as well, feisty and intelligent. The secondary characters are interesting, the Pharoah, Callimachus (Archimedes' teacher and head of the School), and Herophilos, the doctor, who lead the way for modern medicine. I had no idea that so much was known about the human body at that time. The villain isn't quite as deep as a character, but his actions are quite in keeping with priests who want to maintain power at the expense of the people.

I loved the plot with large doses of both murder mystery and science there are plenty of twists and turns.  There are some violent parts, which are a bit graphic, which unfortunately sword-fighting tends to be.  The autopsy scene is also rather gross.  I enjoyed the balance between action and thought, science and strategy.  I recommend this book to readers who enjoy stories of brains and brawn, ancient history and science, as well as plenty of action.


  1. I'm so glad this book changed your view of ancient history! (sort of). Greece and Egypt are two of my favorite areas of study. Plus, I have heard wonderful things about this book from a variety of sources.


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