Summary: Thirteen year-old Phano has had a complicated life. With a step-mother who is a Courtesan and a father who has mismanaged the money of relatives and friends, it seems her hopes of marrying well are slim. When Phano and her step-mother finally escape the clutches of Phrynion who claims to own them both, a journey begins that will see Phano in love with a man who is shortly to become the most powerful man in Greece. But will her claims to Athenian citizenship hold up under scruntiny Phrynion keeps raising? In a city facing likely invasion, the favour of the gods is not something to mess around with by having a slave married to a king.
Number of Pages: 256
Age Range: 12-13
Review: Author Priscilla Galloway takes the scant details of a court case facing an Athenian jury before 340 B.C.E. and fleshes out an informative and entertaining story surrounding Phano, the Courtesan’s daughter. (A courtesan, by the way, is a woman who sleeps with wealthy clientele.) Despite what some assume to be a lowly birth by Athenian standards, Phano is actually the daughter of two Athenian citizens, making her a citizen herself. But enemies of her family are willing to use gossip to cast doubt, and Phano finds herself having to explain and defend her heritage on several occasions.
I love the historical aspect of The Courtesan’s Daughter as it transported me to Ancient Greece, a country struggling to hold on to democracy and protect themselves from impending war. So much of their fate is tied to status and the gods, and Galloway brings this to life through her vibrant writing with heartfelt characters.
My favourite character was Newby, the goose, because Galloway’s descriptions of her love and devotion to Phano were simply wonderful. I loved the scene after she has her own brood of goslings where she makes Phano lead them all because Newby sees her as the goslings’ grandmother.
With a quick-paced plot, the historical aspect, a bit of romance and intrigue as well as a main character with substance, Galloway’s book is great pick for early female teen readers.
“‘Love will keep you warm at night.’ The thought flashed through my mind. ‘But love will not feed you. Love will not keep you or your children safe. What will, then? Respectability, right deeds, a good marriage, surely’ – or so it seemed to me – ‘and the blessing of the gods. From our birth, we are in their hands.'” – Phano from The Courtesan’s Daughter by Priscilla Galloway, page 35
“That’s nonsense. Philip respects Athens. He’d rather trade with us than destroy us. You young men all want war. It’s a quick way to make your fortunes. You mark my words, Theo: it’s a quicker way to die. Better to give up some land to Philip, if we must, a northern city or two, enough to keep him quiet, not enough to hurt us here. Better to keep our rich men strong!'” – Bardian from The Courtesan’s Daughter by Priscilla Galloway, page 121