Sparta, 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.