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The World Beyond: A Novel of Ancient Greece
In 429 B.C., the second year of the Peloponnesian war, fifteen-year-old Rhea loses her parents to a plague that strikes Athens. Facing an unwanted marriage to an older man, she yearns to meet the handsome young athlete Doros. Meanwhile, Maron, a gifted sculptor-slave she has befriended, urges her to shape her own destiny and risk all for love.
Madden sets her transportive coming-of-age story in Athens during the Peloponnesian War. After high-spirited 15-year-old Rhea’s entire family dies of the plague, she moves in with her aunt and strict uncle. Only months after losing her family, Rhea finds out her uncle has arranged for her to be married to a cruel older man, and soon she finds out the reason: to pay off her uncle’s gambling debt. During an outing, Rhea finds a glimmer of hope when she becomes enamored with a handsome young athlete, all the while not realizing that Maron, a sculptor slave she has befriended, is in love with her. Rhea’s powerlessness regarding her upcoming marriage leads to schemes to get out of it, even begging the man she is to marry to release her. She goes to Pericles’s mistress for help, but Pericles has the plague and his mistress can’t intervene. Rhea quietly rebels, sneaking out of her uncle’s house and having lively, late-night adventures with a flute girl, her cousin, and Maron. Madden recreates the Age of Pericles with cunning, engaging characters and vivid descriptions of Athens, complete with its cultural mores and caste system. Historical sites—the Acropolis, open-air markets, temples of the gods and goddesses, the Long Walls—provide local color. (BookLife)
Historical Novel Society

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)