The Just City

Jo Walton's fantasy novel was on the longlist for Canada Reads 2017.

Jo Walton

Created as an experiment by the time-travelling goddess Pallas Athene, the Just City is a planned community, populated by over 10,000 children and a few hundred adult teachers from all eras of history, along with some handy robots from the far human future — all set down together on a Mediterranean island in the distant past.

The student Simmea, born an Egyptian farmer's daughter sometime between AD 500 and 1000, is a brilliant child, eager for knowledge, ready to strive to be her best self. The teacher Maia was once Ethel, a young Victorian lady of much learning and few prospects, who prayed to Pallas Athene in an unguarded moment during a trip to Rome — and, in an instant, found herself in the Just City with grey-eyed Athene standing unmistakably before her.

Then, a few years in, Sokrates arrives — the same Sokrates recorded by Plato himself — to ask all the troublesome questions you would expect. What happens next is a tale only the brilliant Jo Walton could tell. (From Tor Books)

From the book

She turned into a tree. It was a Mystery. It must have been. Nothing else made sense, because I didn't understand it. I hate not understanding something. I put myself through all of this because I didn't understand why she turned into a tree — why she chose to turn into a tree. Her name was Daphne, and so was the tree she became, the sacred laurel with which poets and victors crown themselves.

I asked my sister Artemis first. "Why did you turn Daphne into a tree?" She just looked at me with her eyes full of moonlight. She's my full-blooded sister, which you'd think would count for something, but we couldn't be more different. She was ice-cold, with one arched brow, reclining on a chilly silver moonscape.

"She implored me. She wanted it so much. And you were right there. I had to do something drastic."

From The Just City by Jo Walton ©2013. Published by Tor Books.