2015; 208 pages. New Author? : Yes. Genre : Mythology; Fantasy; Historical Fiction. Overall Rating : 8*/10.
It’s 421 BC, and the city-state of Athens has been at war with her rival, Sparta, for ten long years. All the Athenians are tired on the conflict, including Aristophanes, one of the city’s celebrated playwrights.
Well, not quite everyone in Athens has had enough of war. General Lamachus and his Spartan counterpart, General Acanthus would prefer the fighting to never end. Ditto for Lamachus’ crony, Euphranor, who supplies the weapons. None of them is pleased that Aristophanes is getting ready to stage a play titled “Peace”, which might be just enough to sway a majority of the Athenian populace into voting to end the conflict. And Athens ascribes to that pesky thing called “democracy”.
But there are lots of ways to thwart Aristophanes and keep his subversive play from being performed. Earthly things like bribery and sabotage can be quite effective. Then there are the deities on Mt. Olympus who can be invoked, and who are also not of one mind about Sparta vs. Athens and Peace vs. War.
And gods and goddesses don’t believe in silly concepts like democracy.
What’s To Like...
The Goddess of Buttercups and Daisies is a pleasant read that draws extensively from the mythology, history, and theater in the Golden Age of Greece. So if you’re into any or all three of those areas (and I very much like the first two), you’ll enjoy this book. Martin Millar includes a “Historical vs Made Up” section in the back of the book, and it may surprise you how much of the plotline is factual. And if you want a second corroborating opinion, check out Wikipedia. There is also a glossary at the end of the book, but I didn’t make use of that. You can pretty much suss out the meanings of the technical terms.
The chapters are short and (for the most part) are titled for whoever’s Point Of View is going to be given therein. George RR Martin would be proud. The book is written in “English”, as opposed to “American”, and I always like that. The plot is not very twisty, but the shenanigans of the various players will keep your interest. There’s a smidgen of Romance for the lady readers, but not enough to turn away the guys.
The character development isn’t particularly deep, but it’s refreshing to have a protagonist who’s somewhat of a butthead. The Goddess of Buttercups and Daisies is a delight to meet, and even the Bringer of Discord has a certain charm to her. There is steady stream of humor flowing throughout the story, but not a lot of the “yuk-yuk” variety.
TGoBaD is a standalone novel, and ANAICT it’s Martin Millar’s only novel that focuses on classical Greek history and mythology.
Kewlest New Word ...
Draughty (adj.) : cold and uncomfortable because of currents of cool air. Basically, British for “drafty”.
The Goddess of Buttercups and Daisies sells for $9.99 at Amazon. There are 8 other Martin Millar novels available at Amazon, and all but one of them go for that price as well. Millar is also the author of the fantasy series Thraxas, for which he uses the nom de plume Martin Scott. For the most part, those e-books sell for $5.49. You can find a short biography of the author at Wikipedia.
“I hear you’re going to a drinking party at Callias’s house.”
“We call them symposiums. What of it?”
“It will be full of literary people. Take me with you.”
Aristophanes seemed surprised. “Why would I do that?”
“Why not? Callias is the richest man in Athens. It will be full of influential people. You could invite me to recite my poetry.”
“The evenings are meant to be enjoyable.” (loc. 438)
“Isn’t he meant to be a comedian?”
“Yes,” said the goddess. “But nowadays, Aristophanes does like to think of himself as a man with a message. Really, I preferred his earlier, funny work.”
“I can’t stand him. You know I had to give him a place to sleep last night because he was too drunk to get home? It’s outrageous. I’m an Amazon. It’s against my sacred Amazon creed for a man to spend the night in my room.”
“It’s not, actually. You just made that up.”
“Well, I still don’t like it.” (loc. 1792)
“I hate it when you need someone and then you find out they’ve changed into a river and gone away.” (loc. 595)
The nitpicking is minor. There is a recurring joke about the chorus members and their costumed penises and phalluses. I didn’t find it offensive, but it was used over and over again, and it got old after a while. OTOH, the flying dung beetle stage prop was both ingenious and hilarious.
An even smaller nit to pick is the use of the term “zero” late in the story. Sorry, folks. But for the Greeks, there was no such thing. Read the Wikipedia article on it. Leave it to the Greeks to make it a philosophical conundrum: How can “nothing” be “something”?
But I quibble. If you want a light, feel-good book, convincingly set in 5th Century BC Athens, I recommend you give The Goddess of Buttercups and Daisies a read. Besides entertaining you, it might just bring back fond memories of your High School Literature and History classes.