The Sea King’s Daughter by Barbara Micheals (1975) – Occasionally, I have to cleanse my palate with something non-SF/Fantasy. The mother of my children got me hooked on Barbara Micheals (really Elizabeth Peters), and I’ve always enjoyed her novels.
With this one, I thought maybe they’d gotten the authors mixed up. Elizabeth Peters wrote her adventure novels under her own name. She wrote her supernatural books under Barbara Michaels, but I was over halfway through this one before anything remotely magical happened.
Ms. Peters was very good at writing strong female protagonists, and this novel is no exception. Sandy attends college, lives with her mom and stepdad, and loves to dive and write. At graduation, she’s surprised when her biological father shows up and offers her a secret job. He’s a real piece of work and could out-Vulcan Mr. Spock. He’s hard, cold, and a brilliant archeologist. He sneaks Sandy to Thera, a Mediterranean island, where he enlists her to do some illegal diving (he’s not permitted to). Reluctantly, she agrees because she’d like to know more about him and she longs to be an archeologist, too.
On beautiful, rustic Thera, Sandy meets a handsome hunk who just happens to work for her father’s competitor. There’s a mystery German who lives in a villa overlooking the sea with his voluptuous wife, a former “acquaintance” of her father. The villagers who work for her father pretend to look for poetry in the dirt while Sandy sneaks off to dive.
There’s intrigue afoot, however, and the players have a history. Sandy’s father was a member of a freedom fighter cell on Crete during the war. The other two members were his current competitor and the hunk’s uncle, killed during the war by…you guessed it…the German in the villa.
The three survivors are hiding a big secret discovered by the uncle: on the harbor floor lies an entire Minoan priest, an archeologist’s dream. Poor Sandy tries to discover everyone’s pieces of the puzzle, but when she’s hurt while diving alone, she becomes an involuntary houseguest of the German and his overdressed partner. The odd woman has ulterior motives for keeping Sandy in the villa and has strange control over the village women.
It all comes to a head when a volcano erupts in the harbor, forcing the men to reveal that someone in the cell was a traitor who caused Hunk’s uncle to be killed. The German’s woman kidnaps Sandy, believing her to be the reincarnated Ariadne, daughter of Minos of Minotaur fame, for a village sacrifice.
The villain is exposed, Sandy’s father takes two bullets while rescuing her, the German explains how the fleet was found and lost again, and she decides to marry the Hunk and go into medicine.
The only supernatural events really are visions Sandy has in the Labyrinth where she believes she’s Ariadne and a drug-infused episode where the spirit of Ariadne passes her as she slips into unconsciousness. Poor Sandy has to survive and uncover her father’s mysteries on her own. Adriadne does nothing to help her.
I particularly appreciated how her biological father remained a cold bastard even after the climax. Sandy’s self-sacrifice and peril hadn’t changed his personality at all. Good writing and good story.