With an epic scope and keen sense of detail, Steven Pressfield has created an entertaining and vital reimagining of the Amazon legend with his historical novel, Last of the Amazons
. Combining myth with history, Pressfield offers a conjectural account of the legendary female warrior tribe as it may have existed in the years leading up to its extinction. Following the Athenian-Amazon war in the fifth century B.C., Amazon warrior Selene is taken captive and placed as an unlikely governess to the two daughters of a high-ranking Greek. The three form a lasting bond, and when Selene eventually escapes to return to Amazonia, eldest daughter Europa follows her. The Athenians, including King Theseus, assemble a group to find them, eventually traveling to Amazonia. Here, those involved relate the story of the Amazon war to the men, and the book's action really begins. Narrators tell of Theseus's earlier voyage to Amazonia, where his weakened crew was given shelter by the Amazons; the love affair between Theseus and Amazon queen Antiope; and the terrible consequences of the queen's defection and the Amazonian invasion of Athens that it inspired.
Throughout, Pressfield instills Amazons with a grandiose sensibility, firmly modeling it after the Homeric epics of its time. Pressfield relishes in describing these events and their heroes with a divinely consequential spirit:
Clearly no few of the foe took her for a goddess, with such splendor did her armor gleam and by such brilliance did her aspect exceed the common measure of humanity. The hour was still early, the west-facing slope deep in shadow, so that the Amazon, seen from the besiegers lines, advanced from gloom into flares of blinding dazzle.
Some clumsy dialogue and clichéd interactions hamper the books emotional resonance, but the level of intricacy and constant action on display here keep the pages moving along. Amazon is ultimately an impressive, fun read that renders history spectacular in its speculation. --Ross Doll
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From Publishers Weekly
Writing about ancient Greece with rich historical detail, passion and drama, Pressfield has previously dramatized the battle of Thermopylae (Gates of Fire) and the Peloponnesian War (Tides of War). Here, he steps further back in time, to 1250 B.C., when the civilized Greek city-state of Athens confronts the barbaric empire of the Amazons in a titanic struggle for survival. The novel does not pack the emotional punch of Pressfield's other Greek fiction, but it still rings with the clamor and horror of close combat, sword on shield, battle-ax on helmet and javelins thudding into armor. The Amazon kingdom, peopled and ruled by a ferocious society of female warriors, occupies land near the Black Sea. The Amazon war queen, Antiope, leads an army of female warriors feared for their savage cruelty and hatred of the Greeks. When Theseus, the Greek king of Athens, journeys into Amazon territory, he and Antiope spar verbally, but fall in love, creating a dilemma for both. Antiope forswears her allegiance to the Amazon life and flees with Theseus back to Athens to become his wife. Antiope's successor, her Amazon lover, Eleuthera, vows to wipe out Athens to erase the shame and treachery of Antiope and Theseus's marriage. She leads a mighty invasion of Greece, culminating in a long siege and a climactic battle before Athens's great walls. Amid the carnage, gore and violence, Pressfield presents a love story so grand it pits nations against one another. Pressfield's javelin is his pen and he wields it well in this gruesome tale of ancient blood lust in an age when there is no word for mercy.
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