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The Courtesan’s Daughter

by Priscilla Galloway

At 15, Phano is on the threshold of womanhood in ancient Greece. But trouble is all around: her stepmother, a former courtesan, is pursued by a ruthless man named Phrynion, who claims she is both his slave and Phano’s true mother; and Phano’s plan to marry the man she loves is threatened. Even when her marriage is secured and she attains a rank she never dreamed of, Phano must remain watchful for the evil Phrynion and his tricks. Political intrigue and the threat of war from Philip of Macedon complicate the tangle of family alliances in Athens. In a breathtaking series of tests, reversals, and surprising family revelations, Phano emerges vindicated and able to weather the storms of Athenian politics.

This is a gripping historical novel with a completely believable protagonist. Told in Phano’s own voice, the story surges forward from disaster to relief to disaster again without sacrificing the textures, tastes, and smells of everyday life in ancient Greece. Galloway’s vivid portrayal of this world reveals the fascinating unofficial power that could be wielded behind the scenes by smart women, young and old, in prominent families. Phano’s search for the truth about her identity is political, but it is also personal and conducted within a web of family members on all sides, including Phano’s own long-lost grandmother. In the dangers that Phano faces (including sexual violence), she is both firmly rooted in her culture yet accessible to modern readers. Although the first-person perspective leaves some characters inadequately developed, The Courtesan’s Daughter is a thrilling way to learn about a fascinating ancient culture.