Monday, March 9, 2015

Spoils of Olympus: By the Sword by Christian Kachel

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Read: March 3, 2015

322 B.C. The Macedonian Empire is on the verge of civil war following the sudden death of Alexander the Great. As a boy, Andrikos watched as Alexander’s army marched through his homeland of Greek Ionia after defeating the Persians at the Granicus River on their way to the total conquest of the Persian Empire. Soon he will be embroiled in their world, forced to flee his old life due to an unintentional crime. Thrust into the army, Andrikos struggles to cope with the brutal yet necessary training which his superiors put him through to prepare for the coming wars of succession as Alexander’s surviving generals seek to divide and conquer the spoils of Olympus. But Andrikos is not destined to be a nameless soldier; by chance he is chosen for a clandestine mission – and is immersed in a world of intrigue, violence and brotherhood. The path that lies ahead of Andrikos requires him to shed his immaturity and take on the responsibilities and emotions of a man beyond his years as he struggles to save Alexander’s legacy from those who wish to usurp it. The Spoils of Olympus: By the Sword is a historical epic which follows the advancements of one soldier from boy to man set during a time of global conflict.

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Christian Kachel's Spoils of Olympus: By the Sword was one of those titles. I stumbled over it, thought the premise looked vaguely interesting and jumped on the tour bus. I liked the idea, but if I learned anything from Queen of Sparta, it was not to get my hopes up. That in mind, it shouldn't surprise anyone to learn I opened Kachel's work with no expectation whatsoever, a fact which likely contributed to how thoroughly the novel managed to sweep me off my feet. 

It's clear from the early pages of the novel that Kachel's understanding of the period and politics is extensive, but the fictional elements of the novel are equally well-drawn. The story is graphic and intensely descriptive, but I personally thought Kachel's depiction true to the history on which it is based and appreciated the author's dedication to authenticity. 

The story itself centers on Andrikos and his coming of age in the chaos following the death of Alexander the Great which is something I liked for several reasons. Kachel's narrative captures a timeless concept in his illustration of a young man struggling with pressure and social expectations. What does it mean to be a man and how do you retain your humanity and sense of self in a world defined by death and destruction. 

Andrikos' journey is augmented by several supporting cast members, but two stand out in my mind. The slave Mara brings a much needed feminine element to a heavily masculine narrative and staff officer, Vettias who serves as both mentor and friend to Kachel's protagonist. Both these individuals challenge Andrikos in different ways and I liked the contrast that brought to the larger story.

 Refreshingly dynamic and scrupulously researched, Spoils of Olympus: By the Sword proved a profoundly compelling read, the kind of novel I'd easily recommend to fans of both military and historic fiction. 

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Many people will give you respect just for joining the Greek armies but joining does not equate greatness. Many soldiers will die nowhere near a battlefield for a number of disreputable reasons. Others will die with a spear in their back while retreating. Some will not conduct themselves honourably, while only a few will become courageous leaders of men. So while joining the Hellenic cause is a good start for one’s name, you have years of hard times and hard decisions to prove to yourself you’re worthy of respect. Sure, you’ll always be able to inflate your prowess with the other retired veterans over jugs of wine- that is a soldier’s privilege, but you will always know the truth deep down. Remember, an honourable man such as Argos didn’t have to fight in great battles to gain respect from those around him.
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Check Out All the Stops on Christian Kachel's The Spoils of Olympus: By the Sword Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, March 2
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Wednesday, March 4
Interview & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More
Friday, March 6
Review at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book
Guest Post at What Is That Book About
Monday, March 9
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews
Tuesday, March 10
Interview at Flashlight Commentary
Spotlight at Historical Fiction Obsession
Wednesday, March 11
Review at Back Porchervations
Thursday, March 12
Review at bookramblings
Review at The Mad Reviewer
Friday, March 13
Interview & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books

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