Travels in Elysium begins at a languid pace on a beautifully described Aegean island. Azuski is meticulous in the details of island life allowing the warm day to exude from the pages of his novel, Travels in Elysium, and then suddenly the island is gone. The reader next encounters Nicholas Pedrosa, a twenty-two year old university student from rural England on his way to the southern Aegean Sea to apprentice under renown and infamous archaeologist, Marcus Huxley.
It is apparent from the beginning that Nicholas is naïve and perhaps not fully aware or capable of accepting the challenges of being Huxley’s assistant at a questionable archaeology dig. Marcus Huxley is almost as extraordinary as the myths he chases. Huxley is on Santorini seeking Atlantis through the help of Plato’s ancient texts. Nicholas finally arrives on the island, after a storm at sea, to a less than enthusiastic welcoming. He is just in time for the funeral of Huxley’s former assistant.
So begins William Azuski’s complex and mysterious novel. Nicholas Pedrosa is a likeable protagonist who evolves throughout the story. He is curious and begins working on two mysteries almost from the moment he steps foot on the island of Santorini: one is the death of his predecessor, and the other is the preserved ruins bereft of any human remains. The ruins tickle Nicholas’ imagination. How can three thousand year old homes and businesses be so well preserved, yet there is no evidence of habitation.
Travels in Elysium is well written. Azuski gives life to his characters through well chosen description and words. There is a sing song lilt to Azuski’s writing, not necessarily hypnotic, but rhythmic. Unfortunately, Travels in Elysium falls short on a whole. The novel is overlong. It is difficult to maintain interest in the story. There was almost too much going on in the entirety of the novel, a murder mystery, an archaeology dig hoping to solve an ancient mystery, a coup, platonic meanderings, and a young rural English man coming of age in the southern Aegean. Too often I found myself wishing Azuski would get to some point, action, or just something to move the narrative along. The mythology, the philosophy, and the concept of the story compelled me forward in my reading, all were worth the effort, though the novel should have been cut down by several hundred pages.
Nina Longfield is a writer living in Oregon’s fertile wine country. When she is not reading or writing in her spare time, Nina enjoys hiking in the hills surrounding her cabin.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by William Azuski. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.