December 10, 2011

Canadian Fiction in Ancient Civilizations

Young Canadian readers may choose from a plethora of fiction in which travel from the present to an earlier historical time period fantastically occurs. However, there are far fewer fiction titles in which the entire story is set in that time period, especially when we focus on ancient times. Depending on discussions by economists, archaeologists, historians, etc., the end of ancient times will vary, but for the purposes of this blog, we'll use the early Middle Ages as its end point (although apparently that doesn't jive with Ancient Chinese history.)

Also, there are many books of nonfiction that may be based in ancient times (e.g., Good Times Travel Agency series, Linda Bailey and Bill Slavin, Kids Can Press) or retell myths or legends (e.g., Island of the Minotaur: Greek Myths of Ancient Crete, Sheldon Oberman, Tradewind Books, 2003) or even fictionalized accounts of historical persons (e.g., Cleopatra VII: Daughter of the Nile, Kristiana Gregory, Scholastic, 1999) but I have focused here on novels with new story lines set in ancient times. (Sadly this prologue is longer than the list.)

Torn from Troy: Odyssey of a Slave
by Patrick Bowman
Ronsdale Press
199 pp.
Ages 10+
See this blog on December 8, 2011 CanLit LittleCanadians review

Shen and the Treasure Fleet
by Ray Conlogue
Annick Press
320 pp.
Ages 11-15
When the city of Nanjing is under siege, Shen's mother is imprisoned and his father, an Imperial Bodyguard, is presumed dead. Shen and his sister Chang flee with a travelling acrobat troupe, that gains passage on the new emperor's armada, the Treasure Fleet, led by the powerful Zheng He and then the notorious government official, Yang Rong, who has the power to free their mother.

The Roman Conspiracy
by Jack Mitchell
Tundra Books
164 pp.
Ages 10-13
In the first century B.C., young Aulus Lucius Spurinna must formally be recognized as the head of the household with the sudden death of his uncle and incursions by bands of retired soldiers onto the estate's holdings. Aulus immediately sets off for Rome to inform the family's Protector (who happens to be the Consul Cicero) of the bandits' threats and of his uncle's death/murder. In Rome, Aulus meets Cicero and his enterprising daughter, Tullia, who manages to get him thoroughly involved in their attempt to foil the Roman conspiracy i.e., a plot to take over the government. Soon Aulus finds himself involved in burgling the house of a senator, reporting on traitorous speeches, and even taking command of a troop of Roman cavalry!

Ancient Ocean Blues
by Jack Mitchell
Tundra Books
187 pp.
Ages 10-13
Not content to create the stereotypical characters of Ancient Rome, Jack Mitchell seamlessly melds historical politicos and literati with the story of Marcus, a young man recently sent to Rome for an education. Because of his cousin, Gaius, Marcus is soon sailing to Athens on a mission to thwart Cicero's political machinations which could foil the rise of young Julius Caesar. Marcus seeks Spurinna (from The Roman Conspiracy) as does Paula, his romance-loving, Spurinna-crushing betrothed who stowed away in Marcus' trunk of scrolls. But this is no lame ship voyage: there are pirates, bribes, a poet, a shipwreck, a rescue, battles, romance, and much humour.

Rise of the Golden Cobra
by Henry T. Aubin
Annick Press
255 pp.
Ages 11-15
Nebi, a 14-year-old Egyptian scribe, learns of a traitorous plot involving the Assyrians and Count Nimlot to take over Egypt. Nebi travels south to warn King Piankhi, a principled and compassionate man, chosen by the god Amon to rule the African kingdom of Kush. King Piankhi is guided by maat, the ethical principle of ancient Egyptian religion denoting a life committed to justice, order, and truth. He goes to war to protect his people from the harsh rule of the Assyrians, but Nebi finds himself dealing with the King's hot-headed young nephew, Sheb, who wants to win the war and exact revenge.

by John Wilson
Key Porter Books
279 pp.
Ages 11+
As Vesuvius erupts, old Lucius records his biography from his time as a young Roman soldier, battling the barbarians in Germany and Illyria, through the revolts of the barbarians against the Romans.

n.b. As stories set in Viking times may or may not belong here, I will prep a list of those titles separately. But, if any reader discovers a Canadian title (excluding nonfiction and time-travel) set in an ancient time that I have not included here, please leave a comment to help me address any omissions.

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