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Thus reads an ancient stone at Thermopylae in northern Greece, the site of one of the world's greatest battles for freedom. Here, in 480 B.C., on a narrow mountain pass above the crystalline Aegean, 300 Spartan knights and their allies faced the massive forces of Xerxes, King of Persia. From the start, there was no question but that the Spartans would perish. In Gates of Fire, however, Steven Pressfield makes their courageous defense--and eventual extinction--unbearably suspenseful.
In the tradition of Mary Renault, this historical novel unfolds in flashback. Xeo, the sole Spartan survivor of Thermopylae, has been captured by the Persians, and Xerxes himself presses his young captive to reveal how his tiny cohort kept more than 100,000 Persians at bay for a week. Xeo, however, begins at the beginning, when his childhood home in northern Greece was overrun and he escaped to Sparta. There he is drafted into the elite Spartan guard and rigorously schooled in the art of war--an education brutal enough to destroy half the students, but (oddly enough) not without humor: "The more miserable the conditions, the more convulsing the jokes became, or at least that's how it seems," Xeo recalls. His companions in arms are Alexandros, a gentle boy who turns out to be the most courageous of all, and Rooster, an angry, half-Messenian youth.
Pressfield's descriptions of war are breathtaking in their immediacy. They are also meticulously assembled out of physical detail and crisp, uncluttered metaphor:
The forerank of the enemy collapsed immediately as the first shock hit it; the body-length shields seemed to implode rearward, their anchoring spikes rooted slinging from the earth like tent pins in a gale. The forerank archers were literally bowled off their feet, their wall-like shields caving in upon them like fortress redoubts under the assault of the ram.... The valor of the individual Medes was beyond question, but their light hacking blades were harmless as toys; against the massed wall of Spartan armor, they might as well have been defending themselves with reeds or fennel stalks.Alas, even this human barrier was bound to collapse, as we knew all along it would. "War is work, not mystery," Xeo laments. But Pressfield's epic seems to make the opposite argument: courage on this scale is not merely inspiring but ultimately mysterious. --Marianne Painter
Started off slow but as he mentioned it's all part of the story. In the end great detail and very inspiring piece of historyPublished 1 hour ago by jayraad
This was done really well. Historical novel that could easily be made into a motion picture, better than the 300.Published 5 hours ago by Philip B. Warren
This book is a great story of valor and depth into a society filled with honor. Do yourself a favor and read itPublished 1 day ago by Tyona Atencio
Combat is combat and the Spartans were the seals of their day the brotherhood of men facing death was well portrayedPublished 3 days ago by kim kessler
Talk about manliness, this book got it and some. Life lessons throughout the book, I am glad I gave this a go, I absolutely love it.Published 4 days ago by Dennis Rudnicki
I obviously knew how the story ended, but the clarifications of the various days of battle were intriguing. Read morePublished 5 days ago by dws
There are books and there are books! This is one of those, "There are books!" After reading his "War of Art", and all the talk of the 'Muse' and what it takes to... Read morePublished 5 days ago by Rod fan
Fantastic and compelling. If you like historical fiction and books about the military pick up this book. You won't regret it.Published 5 days ago by email@example.com (firstname.lastname@example.org)
I really loved this book. He had the themes he wanted to tell, a chronologically short timespan to do it in, and the events were immediate enough that we could buy the literary... Read morePublished 9 days ago by Gregory Muir