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Search tags: Alexander-the-Great
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review 2016-06-27 17:06
Go see the show
The Greeks: Agamemnon to Alexander the Great (Souvenir Catalogue series, 10 ISSN 2291-6385) - Terence Clark

This is the small companion book to the exhibit of the same name. There is a larger, heavier, and costlier book. I saw the exhibit in Washington, DC at the National Geographic Museum.

This small companion book is a good remembrance of the show. You will not learn really anything more than the wonderful show tells you, but it does have lovely pictures. The show itself is worth going to, and includes some items that have never left Greece until the show. It does blend a bit of Hollywood in - for instance the 300 section is referring the movie, yet then the history is put front and center.

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review 2016-05-09 19:48
Holy Indecision, Batman!
Alexander the Great - The Macedonian Who Conquered the World - Sean Patrick

This book could not determine whether it was  a self help book or a biography. This made it confusing and absolutely unpalatable.

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review 2015-09-26 21:10
Colossus by Colin Falconer
Colossus: A Novel - Colin Falconer

This is an alternate history that features Alexander the Great. The main heroes of the story are Gajendra and Mara. Gajendra rises swiftly in Alexander’s army, going from an elephant boy to general of the elephant forces. Gajendra’s personal elephant is Colossus who is the largest bull elephant in the army. Mara starts off as a grieving window who has lost her children as well and becomes an elephant boy herself (hiding her gender). Colossus is an important force in the army but also an important side character in this story, often being the reminder of more gentle things for both Mara and Gajendra.

I have long been fascinated by Alexander the Great, having read several fiction and nonfiction works about him. So when I saw this alternate history featuring him I had to give it a read. I was not disappointed. In fact, if you didn’t know much about Alexander, you could read this book and believe every bit of it; the story so masterfully intertwines fiction and facts.

Gajendra is a very interesting character. His Uncle Ravi took him in when he was a small boy and taught him the secret language of elephants. Right from the start of the story, Gajendra has mighty aspirations. He fell in love, or lust, the instant he spotted a certain noble woman, Zahara. Since then, he knows he must rise high in the army if there is to be any chance of winning her. But he knows he must treat the elephants well, not just because he cares for them as deeply as his uncle does, but because he knows they are the key to his success. As Gajendra rises in the ranks, he comes to the attention of Alexander himself. Throughout the tale, these two share some very intense conversations. Indeed, just remembering a few specific ones makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

Now Ravi and Gajendra march together in Alexander’s army and they march upon Carthage. Many of Alexander’s foes have never faced elephants in battle and their mere presence unnerves both soldiers and horses. Of course, they take a lot of care when the army isn’t battling anyone and a disgruntled elephant can do quite a bit of damage to Alexander’s army as well. Indeed, I feel I learned some important things about elephants in reading this book. They were definitely an integral part of the plot and not just scenery.

It took longer for me to like Mara. We meet her at the depth of her grief, having lost all her family except her father, a general of Carthage. When the city is attacked by Alexander’s army, her father orders the loyal family servant to protect her at all costs. Lucky for both of them, Gajendra is the one to find them in the aftermath of the attack and take them in as the lowest of elephant boys, mucking dung and fetching water. Eventually Mara’s grief crystallizes and she puts it to good use. Colossus is key in her return to life. By the end of the book, I was very glad I had made the journey with Mara as I came to admire her efforts.

There are very few female characters in this book. Zahara is essentially a love interest and has very few lines. There are perhaps 2 priestesses mentioned and I seem to recall one of them having a few lines. Mara has the greatest presence in the book for the ladies. She is written well and has full depth of character as well as a character arc. My one little quibble is that I would have liked a few more female characters that had a bit of depth.

I received this book free of charge from the publisher (via Audiobook Jukebox) in exchange for an honest review.

The Narration: Neil Shah did a great job. His voice for Alexander was excellent and I can imagine it was a bit difficult to maintain. Alexander’s voice is described in the text as having a kind of high pitched grating to it. Shah did a great job of getting this across to the listener while also keeping Alexander’s voice commanding and intense. His voice for Gajendra was also excellent having a light Indian accent. His female character voices were believable. 

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review 2015-03-21 12:52
A FANTASY ALEXANDER THE GREAT -- 80s STYLE!
Sabazel - Lillian Stewart Carl

Sabazel is a thinly disguised fantasy take on Alexander the Great: The Macedonian who led the Greek world in their crusade against the Persian Empire and won himself a world spanning empire as well as eternal glory. The only difference between that historical figure and the protagonist in this fantasy novel is that they have different names; here, Alexander is called Marcos Bellasteros.

 

The story begins with our mighty conqueror leading his armies in their crusade. Before the final battle for control of the empire, however, fate leads Marcos to Sabazel. This small nation-state is a land of warrior-women (Amazons) who worship their goddess and only consort with men at certain religious holidays throughout the year. The leader of Sabazel is named Danica.

 

Naturally, Alexander . . . err, I mean, Marcos and Danica initially hate one another but eventually fall in love; they then discover that their respective gods wish them to join forces to overthrow the Persian Empire . . . err, I mean the fantasy empire that just kinda, sorta resembles the Persian Empire. Together, they then set out on a quest to recover a magical sword, navigate through inevitable political intrigue, fight the final battle of the war and attempt to remain faithful to the love they share – even though they both realizes they can never truly be together.

 

If all that sounds like a rather straightforward 1980s fantasy, well, it is. But, all in all, Sabazel is still a decent read. Lillian Stewart Carl does a fine job portraying the Macedonian and Greek culture (albeit in a fantasy context), and the story she crafts has plenty of godly magic, political machinations, racial tensions, and even a bit of warfare – though not as much attention was paid to that as the romantic plot – to keep a reader entertained. But, unfortunately, the novel suffers from the same flaw as many fantasy works from this period: A bit of magic, some weird names, and a few fantasy tropes does not automatically make an epic fantasy.

 

So if you find this one on a used bookshelf somewhere, ask yourself a few questions before you pick it up. One, do you like Alexander the Great, Greek myths, and Amazons? Two, do you prefer your fantasy more romantic than violent? And three, does knowing what is ultimately going to happen detract from your enjoyment of the story?

 

If you answered “Yes” to the first two questions and “No” to the last one, then you should pick this one up. If not, you better just stay away. 80s fantasy isn’t for everyone after all.

Source: bookwraiths.com/2015/03/21/sabazel-sabazel-1-by-lillian-stewart-carl
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review SPOILER ALERT! 2014-11-28 00:00
Alexander the Great: Murder in Babylon
Alexander the Great: Murder in Babylon - Graham David Phillips, Stanisław Lack, Horace George Lorimer (In the interest of full disclosure: I wrote this before finishing it, because I felt so annoyed. But having now done so, my opinion remains unchanged.)

I liked the conceit of telling Alexander's life using eight "murder suspects" and the narrowing down to who it might have been in the first chapter is done very well, feeling very thought out and using the few historical sources we have very well. Unfortunately afterwards sometimes this careful weighing of the sources feels neglected in favour of the author's agenda and are treated like gospel truth. Using modern crime experts to solve a (suspected) murder committed over 2000 years ago is something I'm also a bit wary of, considering how little we actually know. But that might have been alright and still made for an interesting read, had the author not used the cheapest of detective fiction tricks: he glosses deliberately over important details in order to pull off a "big reveal" as motive for the murderer he ends up with. That's just seems wrong for a book that claims to be historical non-fiction.

---SPOILERS---

Those details? Anything to do with Hephaistion, making me at times rather angry while reading over the glaring omissions. The reveal? That Alexander and Hephaistion were *queue drumrolls* lovers. Um, yeah, that's news to who exactly? Certainly not to anyone who has ever read or watched anything about Alexander EVER.

On an amusing side-note, Roxane as a possible murderess was also mentioned in another quasi-historical Alexander biography - my beloved "The Nature of Alexander" by Mary Renault, who at least never pretends not to be biased. (I am most certainly biased, too - had the cheap plot device not involved Hephaistion, who so often gets short-changed by historians anyway and who I always want to read more of, I might have felt more forgiving.)
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