Today I have my review for The Falcon of Sparta by Conn Iggulden. I read this book via NetGalley and my thanks to Michael Joseph Books for accepting my request.
In the Ancient World, one army was feared above all others. This is their story.
When Cyrus, brother to the Great King of Persia, attempts to overthrow his reckless sibling, he employs a Greek mercenary army of 10,000 soldiers. When this army becomes stranded as a result of the unexpected death of Cyrus, and then witnesses the treacherous murder of its entire officer corps, despair overtakes them.
One man, Xenophon, rallies the Greeks. As he attempts to lead them to freedom across 1,500 miles of hostile territory seething with adversaries, 10,000 men set off on the long way home.
I have read a few books by this author and I think this may be my favourite one…so far…
Spartans, Greeks, Persians, battles, and power struggles… it has the lot, and more. I know the basics of this period in history, around 400BC and going into this book I knew I would come away knowing a little more.
This author does such a wonderful job with bringing history alive with his words. The vivid imagery is easily conjured up from the pages as raging battles, strategy and formations are mixed with harsh marching conditions through deserts, mountains, and plains. Entwined within these is a story of family and power. The mix of historical fact is balanced so that all the information is given in an easily digestible way without being swamped.
The story starts with the wishes of the King, he effectively pits one brother against another upon his death. At the King’s death, Cyrus is only just able to avoid his own death and so forms an army to overthrow his older brother, the new King. Things do not go according to plan, outwitted and outmaneuvered the army is in disarray. A horse-master steps forward with suggestions that make sense and so he leads them on a perilous march.
This is a good sized read at 448 pages and within the few, I knew I was in for a treat as I was enjoying it so much. The flow if fabulous as I got taken into a world of intrigue, scheming and conniving to reach the ultimate goal…Power.
There is not a massive cast list, even though there are 1,000’s involved. It is the main players that are used and they soon became recognisable and familiar as the story was told.
The first part of the book is about control and power, the second is about the army trying to escape and return home. The sheer number of people involved is staggering, an army of thousands and the followers’ number just as much again. The logistics of feeding, moving, clothing this amount beggers belief. A march of 10,000… I just cannot express how mindblowing this is in my mind.
Journeying through rough terrain for hundreds of miles on foot, with little food, being attacked and chased is not for the weak. Choosing life and freedom over death features prominently. It definitely piqued my interest as further reading on the internet followed after finishing reading this book.
If you like Historical Fiction set early in history, that includes epic feats, that combines fact and fiction, then you really should read this one. It is detailed and very readable, with a brilliant flow to it. There is an interesting read in the Authors’ notes at the end, well worth a peruse. It is one I would definitely recommend.
About the Author:
I was born in the normal way in 1971, and vaguely remember half-pennies and sixpences. I have written for as long as I can remember: poetry, short stories and novels. It’s what I always wanted to do and read English at London University with writing in mind. I taught English for seven years and was Head of English at St. Gregory’s RC High School in London by the end of that period. I have enormous respect for those who still labour at the chalk-face. In truth, I can’t find it in me to miss the grind of paperwork and initiatives. I do miss the camaraderie of the smokers’ room, as well as the lessons where their faces lit up as they understood what I was wittering on about.
My mother is Irish and from an early age she told me history as an exciting series of stories – with dates. My great-grandfather was a Seannachie, so I suppose story-telling is in the genes somewhere. My father flew in Bomber Command in WWII, then taught maths and science. Perhaps crucially, he also loved poetry and cracking good tales. Though it seems a dated idea now, I began teaching when boys were told only girls were good at English, despite the great names that must spring to mind after that statement. My father loved working with wood and equations, but he also recited ‘Vitai Lampada’ with a gleam in his eye and that matters, frankly.
I’ve always loved historical fiction as a genre and cut my teeth on Hornblower and Tai-Pan, Flashman, Sharpe and Jack Aubrey. I still remember the sheer joy of reading my first Patrick O’Brian book and discovering there were nineteen more in the series. I love just about anything by David Gemmell, or Peter F. Hamilton or Wilbur Smith. I suppose the one thing that links all those is the love of a good tale.
That’s about it for the moment. If you’d like to get in touch with me leave a comment in the forum or you can tweet me @Conn_Iggulden. I’ll leave it there for the moment. If you’ve read my books, you know an awful lot about the way I think already. There’s no point overdoing it.
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