Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
I am a huge fan of historical fiction, but I recognize that it is inherently much more difficult to write a historical biography, and especially when the character written about is almost mythical. As Dr. Reames mentions in her postscript, the information about Alexander is nebulous, contradictory, overlaid with myth and altered by centuries of political changes – there is no way to know the full truth. Add to that the fact that the society he lived in is also poorly understood and completely foreign to the world we live in today, and writing a book of this scope becomes hugely difficult. What sources are to be believed? Which facts or theories will work best with the narrative the author wants to present?
The differences between this book and the first are stark. Book I was about learning who Alexandros was, how he thought, how his experiences formed his adult character. There was significantly more attention paid to the relationships he had with his friends, his family, and, of course, Hephaistion. His military training and its importance to him as a prince was described, as were the wars Phillipos was waging, but the focus was not political at all. I found it much more character and relationship-driven, which is, of course, what draws me to a book and is my personal preference.
Book II is more about the external factors in Alexandros’ life, and how he reacts to them. His father presented him with a command during one of the campaigns shortly after the book started when he came of age, and from there Alexandros embarked upon what was to be his career and his life. Military campaigns, political machinations, conquered territories… the pace was much faster, allies and enemies were introduced in confusing array, and old friends and acquaintances from the first book changed in how they interacted with the Pellan court. I have to admit, I got a little overwhelmed and confused, especially because I (sadly) know almost nothing about ancient Greece and Macedonia and their history, and I did not stop to look at the background information the author supplied in separate websites. I admit to being a little shallow with my books – most of the time I just like to read and let the story soak in, rather than to study it. I feel that to truly appreciate this book, you would need to either have some knowledge of the era going in, or to commit to studying.
That being said, I did enjoy watching Alexandros grow into his own. For good or bad, it seemed that his focus on being Phillopos’ heir, and anticipating becoming king, led to increased distance between him and Hephaistion. They became soldiers and officers primarily, and their relationship, though still close, seemed less romantic. Less about love, and more about loyalty and reliance. Which was absolutely necessary, but still a little disappointing to me as a romance reader.
Finally, <SPOILER ALERT>, I was not really prepared for the book to end where it did. Although I knew this book was “The story of Alexander before he became ‘the Great”” I was surprised that the book ends when Alexandros becomes king at the exact moment of Phillipos’ violent death. It was more than abrupt, and if another book was in the making, it would have been an excellent stopping place, but I understand this to be the final book in the series.
For those readers who are more knowledgeable about the ancient world, for those that are more interested in the historical facts (as much as they can be known) of the era, and for those that enjoy empire building and intrigue over relationship development, this will be a great read. For me, it was good, but not great. The 3 star rating has more to do with what I like personally than it does with the quality of the writing in the book, so I hope those reading this review will take that into account!
Cover art by LC Chase matches the first, but I found it interesting that Hephaistion is the man on the cover rather than Alexander…
ebook, 350 pages
Published October 21st 2019 by Riptide Publishing
Original Title Dancing with the Lion: Rise
SeriesDancing with the Lion #2