Is it bad to compare a writer’s work with someone else’s? All I want to say is that anyone who loves Caroline Lawrence’s Roman Mysteries, must surely love Zizou Corder’s Halo. I know it’s mainly the subject matter that makes me say this. Ancient Greece and ancient Rome, and one or more adventurous children and lots of real history stuffed into the plot. But it has the same happy feel to it, and it’s romantic.
Halo came at just the right time for me. If you recall my thoughts on the Greek myths the other week, then Halo is another excellent way for me to learn, or re-learn Greek history. I’m fairly sure I remember elements of the history in this book from school lessons. But lessons so frequently make little sense at the time, and then you forget even what little you may have grasped. Or is that just me?
As I was almost finishing the book I came across Josh Lacey’s review in the Guardian, and wondered whether it would contain a spoiler. I didn’t, so I was OK for not waiting. He seemed to have enjoyed Halo, although he mentions flaws. And that made me think (very unusual) and I came to the conclusion that sometimes an adult reviewer judges a children’s book as though it was intended primarily for adult readers. Because I don’t think I can agree with Josh.
Halo is a baby girl who is washed ashore in a storm, and who is then brought up by a community of centaurs (forget Foaly for the moment, lovely though he is), only to be stolen away later by humans. She is enslaved several times, and she sees Sparta and Athens, and there is a memorable chat with a certain oracle in Delphi. (I never knew it was like that!)
Our heroine has a lovely centaur brother that anyone would be proud of, and she falls in love. It’s very romantic. She makes friends, and she becomes proficient in skills from archery to medicine. Halo keeps searching for her birth family, too, and I just wondered how the oracle could be anything but someone who simply made things up.
Towards the end there is one situation where I would have preferred for there to be two characters, instead of how Zizou deals with it. But that’s just me. It’s romantic. And funny. As well as educational and purely enjoyable.
Would still like to know how a mother and her teenage daughter can agree for long enough to write a book together.