Amber and Clay

Laura Amy Schlitz, Julia Iredale (Illustrator)
The Newbery Medal-winning author of Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! gives readers a virtuoso performance in verse in this profoundly original epic pitched just right for fans of poetry, history, mythology, and fantasy. Welcome to ancient Greece as only genius storyteller Laura Amy Schlitz can conjure it. In a warlike land of wind and sunlight, "ringed by a restless sea," live Rhaskos and Melisto, spiritual twins with little in common beyond the violent and mysterious forces that dictate their lives. A Thracian slave in a Greek household, Rhaskos is as common as clay, a stable boy worth less than a donkey, much less a horse. Wrenched from his mother at a tender age, he nurtures in secret, aided by Socrates, his passions for art and philosophy. Melisto is a spoiled aristocrat, a girl as precious as amber but willful and wild. She'll marry and be tamed--the curse of all highborn girls--but risk her life for a season first to serve Artemis, goddess of the hunt. Bound by destiny, Melisto and Rhaskos--Amber and Clay--never meet in the flesh. By the time they do, one of them is a ghost. But the thin line between life and death is just one boundary their unlikely friendship crosses. It takes an army of snarky gods and fearsome goddesses, slaves and masters, mothers and philosophers to help shape their story into a gorgeously distilled, symphonic tour de force. Blending verse, prose, and illustrated archaeological "artifacts," this is a tale that vividly transcends time, an indelible reminder of the power of language to illuminate the over- and underworlds of human history.


Reviewed: 2021-07-02

In ancient Greece (circa 400 BCE), two children find their fates linked. Rhaskos is born a Thracian slave and his mother loves him dearly, but she's sold away. Now, he finds comfort in drawing horses in the dirt and his talks with philosopher Sokrates. Melisto is born wealthy and privileged, but has a mother who hates her and a father who is gone more often than he's at home. When she is selected to be a bear for the goddess Artemis at Brauron, she finds a place where she is happy and free. When a freak accident happens, Melisto and Rhaskos' lives are connected on the path to find Rhaskos' freedom.

I absolutely loved the two main characters in Amber and Clay, and their connection to the title as well. The section where you read about Melisto in Brauron as a bear was one of my favorite parts of the book - oh to be a child, allowed to do whatever you please in a wilderness sanctuary and you become friends with a bear cub!

This was told in verse form and at first I was worried I wouldn't like it, but I quickly fell in love. The writing varied - there were a couple of different narrators besides Rhaskos and Melisto, mostly Greek Gods (Hermes was my favorite). The descriptions were amazing:

“She knew her mother was an attractive woman, but there was something feral about Lysandra’s grace, something that reminded her of a weasel she had once watched kill a snake.”

Mostly, I loved the exhibits, the "relics" from that era, that were given between chapters and were described like museum pieces. They gave the readers little insights to answers the museum descriptions may be asking. Even at my age, it would kind of make me giggle a bit when I knew the answers.

I would highly recommend this for all lovers of historical fiction, Ancient Greek history, and those who love a good story.

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@ahelms completed #amberandclay... on 2021-06-29
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