Lion of Macedon by David Gemmell

imageSparta, 385 BC and a young man named Parmenion is running from a group of attackers. Parmenion is half Spartan and half Macedonian. He has never fitted in, has only one friend in the barracks but is one of the best strategists of his generation. What he doesn’t know is that the path of life is being controlled by Tamis, a seeress whose gift has told her of the coming of a Dark Lord who will take human form. She knows Parmenion will be instrumental in the future, but doesn’t know which side he will take.

Parmenion falls in love with Derae, a Spartan woman who is already promised to another man. When he discovers their affair he challenges Parmenion to a fight to the death and Derae is sent to Troy, her punishment to be drowned as a sacrifice to the gods. Parmenion survives the duel and escapes to Thebes. Here he fights for Theban independence against the Spartans, before moving on to Persia as a mercenary.

Meanwhile a young man named Philip finds himself King of Macedonia following the death of his brother. Stuck with a crown he didn’t want, he must protect Macedonia from a mass of enemies and there is only one man who can help him.

Phew, this is an epic and only the first of two books. To be honest, it feels like a lot of build up and the main point of the story doesn’t really get going until the last third. It definitely feels like it could be cut down a bit. The characters feel a little two dimensional and seem to go from rational behaviour to all out anger in the space of a couple of words. In fact, the writing in general seems cliched at times. Which is a shame because the general premise of the story is a good one.

I found the historical side of the story really interesting, especially the parts set in Sparta. I enjoyed learning a little more about the culture, the role of woman and how the city- state saw itself within the Greek peninsula. However, I won’t be reading the second book. Instead I’m going to head a little further back in time and re-read Lord of the Silver Bow recently reviewed by BookEater Mai. Set during the Trojan War, this is Gemmell at his best.

3 Bites

Kelly Turner
My love of reading began at an early age. I am indebted to my parents for putting "Naughty Amelia Jane" by Enid Blyton in the loft when I was five, forcing me to read something else. At the age of sixteen I picked up my first Discworld novel and never looked back. As well as devouring anything by Terry Pratchett I am also a fan of other fantasy writers such as Neil Gaiman and Ben Aaronovitch. In addition I like to read historical fiction, and enjoy a love story or two.

Lord of the Silver Bow by David Gemmell

Lord of The Silver Bow
Click here to get a copy from Amazon.

If you enjoy historical fiction, I highly recommend this book which is the first in a trilogy by David Gemmell. It is set in Ancient Greece and Asia Minor (now Turkey) during the build up to The Trojan War. The story follows the fortunes of a young boy called Xander who, on his first time aboard a boat, gets caught up in the most dramatic story of Ancient times.

Through Xander’s eyes we can marvel at the golden city of Troy and are introduced to our main characters: Helikaon, Argurios and the Lady Andromache. All three are paragons of virtue, courage and honour, but they have their faults and weaknesses, being all the more likeable for it.

In this book, Xander is very naïve, tossed on the currents of life as well as literally tossed on the currents of the sea. He doesn’t play a huge role in the rest of the trilogy but he bookends the tale, again taking a lead role in the final chapters of Fall of Kings and, in his small way, he shows more courage and heroism than most of the leading characters.

These books are my favourites of anything I have ever read. This first one is now lovingly bandaged with sellotape as I’ve read it so often. I adore the settings and the drama but what draws me back again and again is the characterisation and the emotion which comes as a result. Still, I have to read chapter thirty-five through a blur of tears.

Through Gemmell’s writing, within the space of a couple of lines, I have felt a strong empathy with a murderous pirate, a greedy merchant and a deadly assassin as well as the more likeable characters.

One of my favourite characters is Odysseus. In traditional Greek tales he is a handsome God-like hero. This Odysseus is overweight and extremely ugly. He is, however, a wonderful story-teller and through his tales we learn how he created his own myth as well as providing much of the supernatural mythology of Ancient Greece.

Owing to its huge cast, I found myself getting a bit confused the first time I read this, particularly in the first few chapters. If that happens to you, please persevere, then hopefully you’ll come to love this wonderful series as much as me.

A no brainer – five bites. Or am I allowed to give it six?

Mai Black
I’ve always loved being surrounded by books, running my finger along the spines or sitting back, gazing at all the titles and authors, reliving those wonderful characters and places, often more vivid than real life. Many of my books are historical or fantastical in nature but I enjoy anything that looks deep into the human psyche. My favourites are David Gemmells’ Troy Series, The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger and A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson.