Title: Night of Pan
Author: Gail Strickland
Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press
Publication date: November 7th 2014
Buy at: BookDepository
The slaughter of the Spartan Three Hundred at Thermopylae, Greece 480 BCE—when King Leonidas tried to stop the Persian army with only his elite guard—is well known. But just what did King Xerxes do after he defeated the Greeks?
Fifteen-year-old Thaleia is haunted by visions: roofs dripping blood, Athens burning. She tries to convince her best friend and all the villagers that she’s not crazy. The gods do speak to her.
And the gods have plans for this girl.
When Xerxes’ army of a million Persians marches straight to the mountain village Delphi to claim the Temple of Apollo’s treasures and sacred power, Thaleia’s gift may be her people’s last line of defense.
Her destiny may be to save Greece… but is one girl strong enough to stop an entire army?
The fact that I yelled “YES” at the question at the end of the blurb every time I read it should have been warning enough for me to be wary about the novel. But alas, I was not. Not that this is a terrible book. It just felt… cold.
You see, the plot itself is not a bad one. It’s about how a girl flees from an arranged marriage, discovers that the priests have been lying about hearing Apollo speaking to them, and tries to convince the villagers that she is indeed having visions and communicating with the god Pan. The subplots are interesting too, from her parents’ secret past to Thaleia’s fear of losing her best friend, there’s always something to keep one wondering.
My problem is not the plot, but the writing itself. I didn’t feel anything for Thaleia – or any of the characters. A giant boulder could have dropped on their heads and I wouldn’t have been upset one bit. I suppose this is partly because it felt like a story a history teacher would tell their students in the hopes of making them learn Greek history better. Whilst I applaud what must have been extensive research of the time period and admit to having learnt a few things, it’s still true that the writing feels stiff and far too formal.
On the other hand, the story is told through the eyes of Thaleia, who showed very little if any character growth and depth. Indeed, none of the characters stood out in particular for a good reason, and all seemed to shift from one mindset to the other without a proper preamble. Some are even forgotten for the rest of the novel after they change said mindset.
What’s more, the pace is altogether confusing. It shifts from rapid to slow, culminating in a battle that has too quick a resolve. Before you know it, before you’ve been able to understand that the great danger is through, you’re reading the first chapters for the sequel. Not to mention the fact that Thaleia, who had only a few visions, suddenly is overflowing with them and is capable of performing magic she was never taught how to manipulate. Fantasy or not, all gifts must be learned and nurtured.
Night of Pan did not work out for me. Despite the mythology, and the obviously extensive research put into the worldbuilding, it ultimately felt like a hollow tale. It is a promising book, but one that doesn’t reach its aim.