The World Beyond: A Novel of Ancient Greece by Deanna Madden
The World Beyond is a coming-of-age story set in 429 BC ancient Athens, where slaves and women do not share the freedoms extolled by the city. The young, rebellious Rhea has lost her entire family to plague and is betrothed to a cruel man more than twice her age in an arranged marriage. After becoming infatuated with a handsome young athlete, she climbs the Acropolis, so she can pray to Athena to spare her from the contractual marriage. There she meets an intelligent and skilled sculptor-slave, Maron, who challenges her traditional beliefs about foreigners and the role of slaves and women in Athens. Rhea’s budding relationship with Maron emboldens her to explore Athens and to meet other people outside her social class. She must ultimately decide whether to resign herself to an unhappy fate decreed by the Greek paternalistic society or choose her own destiny with a slave she learns to love and cherish.
Deanna Madden masterfully tells the tale from the first-person perspective of Rhea. The storytelling is engaging as we experience Rhea’s journey into a new world outside her social class. The compelling, historical tale is relatable to modern-day women trying to figure out who they are and what they want in life. The powerful theme that friendship and love can bridge cultural differences makes this a poignant and heartfelt novel.
The World Beyond is an ancient historical novel with modern-day relevance for both young adults and adults. Highly recommended.
(Reviewed by Linnea Tanner)