________________ CM . . . . Volume XXII Number 28 . . . . March 25, 2016


Before the New Moon Rises.

Cathy Hird.
Waldo, AR: Torquere Press (www.torquerepress.com), 2015.
210 pp., trade pbk., [ still waiting on price information from publisher ].
ISBN 978-1-944449-06-3.

Grades 6-10 / Ages 11-15.

Review by Ruth Latta.

*** /4



Merchants and city leaders also bowed to the king. Some greeted him with a blessing from the Mother. One called on Poseidon to give the king health and the valley prosperity.

When they had passed this man, the king turned to Thalassai. "Not all my people trust Eurynome to address the needs of our current day."

"But you can see that a great many do."

Thalassai hesitated...."In my city there are three temples. People go to seek the guidance of the one whose interests match their specific problem. The same person may attend on Athena one day and the next make an offering to Aphrodite."

"With so many spiritual directions tugging at the people, how does your father hold the city together."

"Loyalty to Tiryns." The answer came quickly to Thalassai. "Honor to him as well."

"Acknowledging the power of the king and the city is enough? Would not the worship of a single god be stronger?"

Thalassai chewed her lip, thinking hard.

"Loyalty to our city is not so much about power as it is a commitment to look after one another... Honor holds us together. Trust rather than power... The strength of the earth grounds us all. We are about to see the produce of a world that works as it should. I think growth is Eurynome's strength, not the kind of power we see in Olympus."

In her first novel, Moon of the Goddess, Cathy Hird created an adventure story in which the Greek pantheon intervene in the lives of mortals. A power struggle is going on between Eurynome, the earth mother goddess, and Poseidon, who controls the sea, storms, earthquakes and the like. The prince of Ephyra, a city on the west coast of Greece, abducts the teenaged princess Thalassai of Tiryns to offer her as a bride for Poseidon in exchange for his intervening with the river that provides essential water to Ephyra.

      Hird creates a Bronze Age culture in which the traditional worship of female earth/nature goddesses is being replaced by a belief in male deities like Zeus and Poseidon, a change associated with the rise of trade in a formerly agricultural economy.

      Before the New Moon Rises is a stand-alone sequel presenting the further adventures of Thalassai, her brother and rescuer Melanion of Tiryns, and the Ephyran princes - the destructive Aphoron and his younger, more honourable brother, Brizo. Having learned from Melanion how Poseidon bled away the river waters, King Kratos (father of Aphoron and Brizo) likes the Tirynian prince, and now Princess Thalassai lives, not in captivity, but with the priestesses of Eurynome's shrine not far from the Ephyran palace.

      Poseidon, however, has not given up his plans for supremacy and tells Aphoron that, if King Kratos had not shifted his worship to Eurynome, Ephyra would be one of the great trading centres like Corinth, Sparta and Athens. Instead, thanks to "the hag, Eurynome," the valley of Ephyra is "all barley and olives again." Poseidon tells Aphoron that his son, a Cyclops, knows a secret that could be an opportunity for Aphoron.

      The novel has three related plots, with the chapters alternating among them. One plot involves Melanion's pursuit of Aphoron, who sets out with three ships to persuade the Mycenaean king to attack Melanion's city, Tiryns. Another plot centres on Brizo, who sets out to free the island of Corfu from a giant shark, a task that the mother goddess Eurynome had asked Aphoron to perform.

      The third plot takes place in Ephyra and centres on Thalassai. She is in love with Brizo, and the feeling is mutual, but her father, the king of Tiryns, does not know of their love, and, consequently has not given his permission for their marriage. King Kratos of Ephyra acts as if their future marriage is all settled, and when Brizo leaves for Corfu, he invites her to move into the palace.

      Thalassai does not trust King Kratos, who was complicit in her abduction and treats her "like an arm band to be displayed to the crowd." She is a devout believer in Eurynome. Although the earth mother doesn't always communicate or intervene when Thalassai would like, Eurynome is quietly working behind the scenes for the general good. When the king falls into a coma (contrived by Poseidon), the stewards call upon Thalassai to meet with foreign delegates and solve disputes.

      The three related plots are resolved in a positive way. The theme of Moon of the Goddess, that the earth and natural world should be held sacred, continues in Before the New Moon Rises - except in the case of the shark. Again, in this second novel, war is averted by negotiation. In this sequel, Thalassai plays a more active role, not in terms of heroism on the road, as the young men do, but in her civil leadership capacity, as indicated by the quote at the beginning

      The novel contains a lot of interesting detail about metal work, women's clothing and healing techniques, demonstrating Hird's knowledge of the Greek past. The map of Ancient Greece at the beginning of the book, showing locations mentioned in the story, is useful but small and should also include such basics as Corfu and the Mediterranean Sea.

      The sheer number of characters, including the rival gods and goddesses, may confuse readers. Back in the mists of time when I was 13 and in Grade 9, we were required in English class to read a text called Old Greek Folk Stories to familiarize ourselves with the personalities and events from Greek mythology that would be referenced in the literature we would study later on. This background was helpful to me in reading Hird's novels. Young adult readers may encounter Greek mythology for the first time in reading her works.

      My personal preference is for novels in the realistic mode where characters solve their problems without divine intervention, but young adult readers have been raised on fantasy and action adventure and will enjoy Before the New Moon Rises.


Ruth Latta is an Ottawa, ON, based author. For more information about Ruth Latta's books, including two YA titles, visit http://ruthlattabooks.blogspot.com.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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