Tessa has had all of her hopes destroyed, and she refuses to hope again. As a hetaera (a high-priced courtesan), she copes with the reality of being objectified by willing herself to feel nothing. She has shuttered her heart to others because loving causes betrayal which leads to pain. She has learned the secret to survival: coat all humanity in bronze and become a statue like the mighty Colossus of Rhodes which looms over the harbor. She has decided the only way to be free will be to end her life on her own terms, rather than suffer on someone else’s demands.
We meet Tessa when she has decided her life is more miserable than death. Readers watch, though, as the scales of hopelessness fall from her eyes one by one. She is faced over and over with opportunities to love, to open her heart. When the ones she cares about are threatened with mysterious sabotage, Tessa throws herself into the fray to find out who is attempting to take over Rhodes. Every second counts as she discovers that playing two roles is harder than she ever thought and might just cost her everything.
Set on the isle of Rhodes in 227 B.C., Shadow of Colossus offers readers glimpses of what life was like for both the rich and the very poor. We hear the political machinations during bacchian feasts and watch the plotting and betrayal of those struggling to control the power of this rich society. We also see the stark poverty of the slaves who keep the households together, including the Jews who are targeted as scapegoats. In fact, these Jews hold the key to Tessa’s survival, if she can only open her heart to them.
T. L. Higley maintains the tension by heading each chapter with the number of days remaining before the quake that will eventually bring the great Colossus to its knees. The quake destroys Helios, breaking the statue and leaving it tumbled in the surf. What happens to Tessa, however, in the days leading up to this destruction tells a tale of redemption and reconciliation. Higley’s talent as a storyteller is obvious as she weaves the threads of Tessa’s salvation into a story that both inspires and entertains.