Revisited over the holiday period. Last read when I was a teenager, many moons ago. I loved this book even more this time, and found much truth in its pages. It is a skillful blend of careful and detailed research into the period (6th century BC), fictional invention and brilliant writing.
There is a current emphasis on immediately grabbing a reader with dramatic action at the start of a novel, and maintaining a frantic pace and much drama throughout. If that is what you want this will not be your cup of tea, but it is a book that takes one into the atmosphere and the life of the bard Simonides, renown for his ugliness and his beautiful verse and music. The times and the historical figures are evoked and spring to life. Simonides is not a saint, he is flawed and fallible and one can see what will happen before he does at times even if one does not know the history, but his account is a personal and three dimensional one that reverberates with the music and words of the time.
I have a young friend who prefers reading Homer to novels, and shall see if I can persuade her to read this. I guarantee it will start her on a reading life she has not known before.