To create a good piece of historical fiction is a tricky task. While the author may create a fabricated tale that didn’t actually happen, the world around them needs to be fleshed out by sticking to the historical truth, otherwise it just damages the integrity of the story as a whole. A fine recent example of historical fiction is Mandy Haggith’s The Amber Seeker, which follows an explorer sent on a quest to find resources to enrich his homeland.
The book is a fictional account of a historical figure, Pytheas the Greek. Set in 320BC, Pytheas travels from his home in Massalia (now modern day Marseillies), north to the lands of Celtic Britain to search for amber, ivory and tin. As Pytheas explores this new world, will he find what he set out for or return empty handed?
Published by Saraband, this book is the second installment in the Stone Stories trilogy and it follows a different protagonist to the first book. While Manigan, the main character of the first book, does appear in this, people can read The Amber Seeker without feeling too disconnected.
While it is a story about a man wanting to expand his collective knowledge for good, it also explores baser human themes, such as lust, and while the language that Haggith writes in can be a bit heavy throughout, she dresses it up with a beautiful style.
“I had allowed everything else to fall, to hold lust in one hand and greed in the other, and now both my hands were burned.”
The main thing about Pytheas is that, like all well written protagonists, there is more than one side to his character. In fact, at his worst, he can be viewed as deplorable. However, it is written in a first hand perspective, and it always interesting seeing a story written from the perspective of someone who has a thirst for knowledge. Additionally, he is writing this book to someone. Is it the reader? Or someone much closer to Pytheas?
When reading The Amber Seeker, some people may need to have a phone nearby, as Haggith uses the prehistoric names of the places Pytheas travels to and thus, some Googling may be required. However, that is one particular strength of The Amber Seeker: painstaking research has been put in to the story to keep it authentic, and while the characters – with the exception of the protagonist – are made up, the world they inhabit is very much how it would have been during the Iron Ages, despite the odd element of the supernatural that occasionally pops up. Even the way the characters act is a product of the times, which may need to be kept in mind during the reading.
Review copy provided
An epic tale of adventure, The Amber Seeker is a gem of historical fiction, written with eloquent language and telling an emotional story of seeking knowledge in the name of glory.