The Orpheus Descent by Tom Harper

I have to say that based on the cover of the book, I would have been unlikely to pick this up off the shelf, let alone read the blurb to see if I would like to read further. However, I am very glad that I am part of the secret book club and therefore had to read this. 

Once you get past the cover, which I think is aimed at men, the book is very enjoyable. It didn’t take me long to read, and I didn’t want to put it down! The action is fast paced and never loses too much momentum.  The story is easy to follow, as although it flits between the present day and ancient Greece, the two, up until the last couple of chapters, never mix within the same chapter, ensuring that you know where you are.  In addition, the chapters in Ancient Greece are prefaced by a different quote from Plato, usually relevant to the events in that particular chapter.  I was disappointed with myself that I did not realise the significance of this until about half way through the book. 

Pythagoras makes an appearence

You don’t have to do much fact checking, and I fear the historical content isn’t great – part of the story may be set in Ancient Greece, but it is still fiction, and the facts that are there tend to be those that are common knowledge to the majority of the world, rather than specific to those who may have a particular interest in that point of history.  Saying this, I did learn a little bit more about Pythagoras, beyond the a² + b² = c² that you learn at school.  Maybe I would have been more interested in trigonometry if I had been told a bit of this particular back-story!

A male perspective

Tom Harper is described as a ‘thinking man’s Dan Brown’, but I think I enjoyed this book so much more than the Dan Brown books.  I feel that it is similar to Dan Brown’s books in that the male is the main character, with a female secondary character, but in The Orpheus Descent she is much more integral to the story.  However, I think that this story could have easily been told from the Lily Barnes’ point of view and still have been as interesting, maybe even more so.  She is painted as a damsel in distress, but I feel that Lily would have been far from that.  Maybe that is just my own personal moan that there are far too many heroes in historical fiction and not enough heroines

To sum up, I think that this book is definitely worth a read, even if it is only to pick up some quotes from Plato to make you look more intelligent and interesting at your next drinks or dinner party.  While reading it for that reason though, you will find an enjoyable, easy to read narrative.

Find out more about the Secret Book Club here

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