A Coin for the Ferryman
If you could bring someone back from the dead, just for a few days, who would you choose?
The protagonists in A Coin for the Ferryman choose Julius Caesar, as much for convenience as for his own sake. After all, it turns out it’s easier to bring someone into their future if you can pinpoint an exact location in both time and space, and Julius Caesar’s death is a well-known enough event to supply both of those variables. A team of scientists and classicists determine to snatch him from the jaws of death, bring him into our time for a few days to learn what they can, and then send him back to the very moment he left, to fulfill his part in history.
Are there some questionable morals here? Certainly. To its credit, the book delves into them, asking questions that could otherwise have been too easily brushed off for a fast-paced adventure more suited to a high-budget Hollywood movie than a serious novel.
The book does not delve into them constantly, though, to the point of becoming boring. Edwards did not set out to write a thriller, nor did she set out to write a philosophical treatise. Her characters bring up the ethical quandaries of essentially kidnapping someone only to return him to his doom, but only when it fits within their characterization. A Coin for the Ferryman is a character-driven novel, for better and for worse.
The better: I never felt like there were plot points Edwards felt compelled to hit. Yes, there was the inevitable arrival of Julius Caesar, but considering his arrival is the premise of the book, I didn’t feel I ought to be too surprised by that. For the most part, I could not predict what would come next and easily found myself lost (in the best way) among the twists and turns of the plot.
The worse: at times the book wound up being rather dull. I never found myself bored, but as some of the scenes only served to illuminate some corner of a character’s life, rather than to push the plot forward, I did wonder whether they were all necessary.
Above all else, though, the book felt like a love letter to the classics, and perhaps the wholly character-driven arc is part of that. It was beautifully written, and well-balanced between modern drama and affection for Rome. As someone whose interest in Roman history waxes and wanes, I appreciated the different focuses. This book never reached the point of being great, but it’s one I would gladly read again.
|Page Count||540 pages|
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