Author: Ralph Hardy
Length: 400 pages
Source: eARC via Edelweiss
From a compelling new voice in middle grade comes a reimagination of The Odyssey told from the point of view of Odysseus’s loyal dog—a thrilling tale of loyalty, determination, and adventure.
For twenty years, the great hero Odysseus struggles to return to Ithaka. After ten years beneath the walls of Troy, he begins the long journey back home. He defeats monsters. He outsmarts the Cyclops. He battles the gods. He struggles to survive and do whatever it takes to reunite with his family.
And what of that family—his devoted wife, Penelope; his young son, Telemachos; his dog, Argos? For those twenty years, they wait, unsure if they will ever see Odysseus again. But Argos has found a way to track his master. Any animal who sets foot or wing on Ithaka brings him news of Odysseus’s voyage—and hope that one day his master will return. Meanwhile, Argos watches over his master’s family and protects them from the dangers that surround a throne without its king.
Protagonist: This is my second adventure into books with animal protagonists, and for the most part I don't mind it, however it doesn't feel all that special. I mean essentially the author just gives human intelligance and understanding to an animal or multiple animals of their story. In this story we have Argos who's fierce loyalty to his master is well known. So much so that various animals seek him out to tell him tales of his master. What I really enjoyed about Argos in this tale is that he felt very much like a king of Ithaka in his own right, though more of the animals of the island. He's a very responsible and motivated dog, and I really enjoyed learning his tale.
Writing: So my biggest problem with this book is the writing. Disclaimer: I'm going to be going on a rant here. So this is a Middle-Grade book, regardless of what the author set out to create, it's now a Middle-Grade book. However the writing in this book is way too complex for the average Middle-Schooler to comprehend. That itself wouldn't have been terrible, if the story was compelling enough they could power through and come out more well-read for it, however the story moves at a very slow pace and in this day and age I can hardly see a Middle-Schooler having the attention span to keep up with this book. Next the writing is so grandiose that it begins to come off as pretentious. At first I didn't mind how the author wrote the book in a way that mirrored old-English while keeping it fairly accessible, however between the grandiose writing, the pseudo-Old-English, and the fact the it seems the author goes out of his way to spell every word he can in the least common way, things got really annoying and aggravating really fast.
World-Building: While this story is about Argos and his adventures on Ithaka while awaiting his master's return, it's also a retelling of The Odyssey, the epic tale of how Odysseus, after the fall of Troy, spends the next ten years trying to get back to his wife and son, while they deal with suitors who've come to marry Odysseus' wife Penelope after it's assumed Odysseus dies on his way home from Troy. So I will confess again, I haven't read The Odyssey, however I know many of it's stories and many of Odysseus' adventures from the epic poem. From what i do know this seems to be a faithful adaptation breathing new life into these old stories for a younger generation to discover.
Predictability: Since I know a lot of the story of The Odyssey, there wasn't all that much that came as a surprise for me. However that isn't to say there were no surprises. In fact I don't know if it's because I've recently read another, vastly different, tale of the dog Argos, or if the author did a great job with the foreshadowing, though I suspect it's the former, but there were quite a few fun little twists in this book. Nothing unexpected, but still a great surprise to read.
Ending: So the ending of this book is kind of weird. I don't want to spoil anything, but I'll just say that it shifts focus a bit. The final "book" in this story really encompass the ending of The Odyssey very well. Though I will say it was more drawn out than I expected. There were a few things towards the end that, while they didn't piss me off, did really annoy me that the author would dare even tease the readers about that. Since this is a standalone everything ends in a very wrapped up way, and while I did sort of feel as though this book ended too soon, another part of me felt that it didn't end soon enough.
At first I really enjoyed this book, but as I began looking at it through the eyes of it's intended audience, I began to see it's flaws. While there are some MGers who I am sure can easily follow this story, the average MGer most likely couldn't. Plus with it's slow pacing and nausiatingly grandiose writing, even I got sick of this book. While the story itself is great, it could have been told in a much more accessible way.