I stumbled across Christian Cameron years and YEARS ago when my Aunt dropped off a giant box of books for my parents to read. Obviously I had to get in there since I have broader reading tastes than they do and came across one by him. It was an incredible book, so when I was used book store shopping and came across another by him, I nabbed it!
Sadly, it sat on my bookshelf for years …and years. But now that my TBR pile is itty bitty, it was time to go through the old 6ft book shelf and see who was neglected. My husband and I actually had a conversation about that, I made a joke that we were addicted to books and he scoffed, “I know, I’m the one that had to carry them downstairs!” I stammered a few times looking for a response and only managed; “I …well …maybe …some of those are yours!”
Both books I’ve now read by Christian Cameron are historical fiction, which I love. The older the better. So this book about Ancient Greece was RIGHT up my alley.
This book was written in a very interesting way, the protagonist, who is now an older man, it telling his life story to his daughter and her friends. I loved the way it was done, but it created an odd paradigm where you KNOW he succeeds at every task, because he’s the one telling us the story. I actually kind of liked how he would break the story to talk directly to his daughter and her friends, sometimes commenting on how he was an egotistical ass as a teenager/young adult, sometimes asking for more wine or commenting on his daughter getting upset at something in his story. It felt very “Interview with a Vampire” because of that.
Our protagonist is a man named Arimnestos of Plataea (warning now, I might spell some of these words wrong, I didn’t make notes and it’s a 404 page book so looking for a word used a handful of times is difficult) and the story starts when he is a child, at home with his parents and brother and sister. His father was a wonderful craftsman that drew the attention of great men, men like Miltiades – who brought mention of the war between Greece and Persia.
When the time came and all the men of Plataea gathered for war, Arimnestos’ family was called upon. His older brother was given armor as a hoplite and Arimnestos was tasked with the other young boys to distract the Persians and throw rocks at them. It was a rough battle, and his older brother did not make it. But Arimnestos learned something important that day that would be a common theme through the rest of the book – he was born killer. After getting his brothers armor and being upgraded in the phalanx, they rushed to the next battle.
As Elder Arimnestos liked to remind his daughter, there may be happy moments, but it was not a happy story. From losing his father to a back-stab, being sold into slavery, to fighting for his freedom and not knowing what else to do but keep fighting. Pirates, prostitutes, and the bronze storm.
If you aren’t a historical fiction fan, this book might be a bit boring. It goes through Arimnestos’ life from about age 9 to around 20. Growing up, going to war, things like that, nothing magical or thrilling, no horror or supernatural, just a young man stuck in a world that both wants to use his talent for killing, and to see him dead.
Arimnestos as a teen is a horrible person. Egotistical, naive, womanizing, all things that make him insufferable. But at the same time, that’s what made it interesting, he seems superhuman (ie: Mary Sue) but since he, in his older age, it the one narrating the story, it’s like he’s reanalyzing himself. He speaks about how egotistical he was, how immortal he felt, how foolish he was, and doesn’t shy away from when he really fucks up.
If you like historical fiction, especially ancient history, Cameron is a great author to check out!