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Last of the Amazons Paperback – June 3, 2002

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Editorial Reviews Review

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:

Antiope advanced…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 book’s 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 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday (June 3, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385602669
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385602662
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.8 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (83 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,028,987 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Steven Pressfield is the author of Gates of Fire, Tides of War, Last of the Amazons, Virtues of War, The Afghan Campaign, Killing Rommel, The Profession, The Lion's Gate, The War of Art, Turning Pro, The Authentic Swing, Do the Work and The Warrior Ethos.

His debut novel, The Legend of Bagger Vance, was adapted for screen. A film of the same title was released in 2000, directed by Robert Redford and starring Matt Damon, Will Smith and Charlize Theron.

His father was in the Navy, and he was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad, in 1943. Since graduating from Duke University in 1965, he has been a U.S. Marine, an advertising copywriter, schoolteacher, tractor-trailer driver, bartender, oilfield roustabout, attendant in a mental hospital and screenwriter.

His struggles to earn a living as a writer (it took seventeen years to get the first paycheck) are detailed in The War of Art, Turning Pro and The Authentic Swing.

There's a recurring character in his books, named Telamon, a mercenary of ancient days. Telamon doesn't say much. He rarely gets hurt or wounded. And he never seems to age. His view of the profession of arms is a lot like Pressfield's conception of art and the artist:

"It is one thing to study war, and another to live the warrior's life."

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

60 of 66 people found the following review helpful By Paul McGrath on March 10, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There is a blurb on one of the Flashman novels--I forget which and I can't find it now--which makes a comment about the author, George MacDonald Fraser. It says something like, not only is he a great writer, he is also a great storyteller. I thought of this after finishing Pressfield's excellent novel and feeling strangely unfulfilled. He is unquestionably a great writer: his knowledge of that which he writes is impeccable, he has a great and intelligent imagination, and he has a sound and thorough understanding of human nature. But it is as a storyteller, alas, that the novel falls somewhat short.

This novel has to do with the clash of cultures between the burgeoning Greek civilization and the mythical Amazon society and takes place about 1250 B. C. The plot is a little convoluted. It starts as the story of a group of Greeks tracking down an escaped Amazon slave. On the journey, an account is told by a couple of the older fellows of a previous trip to the land of the Amazons, and the subsequent Amazon invasion of Athens. This makes up the meat of the book. But also in there is the story of the very first Greek visit to Amazonia, made by the mythical Heracles. So we have a story within a story within a story, all of which relate essentially the same journey.

But this is not what bothers me. What bothers me is that the story of these journeys and the events which occurred on them is really all there is. Despite the fact that the book is comprised of several first-person narratives, we don't get the inner, personal stories of these people. To go back to Flashman: yes, he was present at the Charge of the Light Brigade, and yes, he was present at Custer's Last Stand. But the difference is, these are not the story.
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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Judy K. Polhemus VINE VOICE on September 23, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
When you have white space before you, a magnificent book beside you, there develops a reluctance to begin. What if you cannot do the book justice? But throw that question aside and begin. No faint heart for an Amazon or one who reveres Amazons.

"Last of the Amazons" is a magnificent book worthy of only the most devout reader. Brave, bold, courageous, fierce. Think of every bold word you can. Still they are not enough. The Amazons were a race apart. Did they truly exist? Plutarch says they did. Or, were they part of mythical Greece?

Steven Pressfield offers his take on Amazonia through this novel. If they did not exist as real women, they should have. What he presents is one of the early age-old clashes between the wild and untamed and the civilized and rooted. "Progress is inevitable" whether we want it or not. Greece was seemingly destined for greater things than the Amazons.

This story takes place 1250 BC just before the Trojan War. It is again one of the early stories of a manly, yet intelligent king, Theseus, who meets and falls in love with a womanly, yet wild queen, Antiope. She runs away with him to Athens, setting up an inevitable war. Her lover and co-leader, Eleuthera, declares war on Athens.

Two things stand out in memory from this novel: the description of the tal Kyrte, or race of Amazons. They refer to themselves in the plural because they are a working unit. They grow up on the steppes (the origin of the Amazon homeland was probably southern Russia) with a horse as part of themselves. They learn from a horse. They are part of nature. They are free.

The other thing from memory are the battle scenes which fully take up one-third or more of the novel. Whacking and hacking and thudding and smashing.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on June 6, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For those of you who felt that Pressfield's last book "The Tides of War" was a little slow, you'll be pleased to hear that his newest book, "Last of the Amazons" is more on par with "Gates of Fire". While not quite as engaging as that novel, it is packed with every bit as much historical detail and tons of action.
While still set in Ancient Greece, "Last of the Amazons" strays slightly from the formula of its predecessors. Whereas in his first two books Pressfield wrote novelizations of actual historical events, in "Last of the Amazons", he explores the semi-mythological era of early Athens. As always, this novel is impeccably researched and laid out in a highly plausible way, but even the author admits that his story is speculative, at best. However, that in no way detracts from what is a great historical/military novel.
As anyone who has read his prior novels knows, Pressfield excels in writing the story of the mayhem and brutality of combat. I have not encountered a single other author who can make the sweat, blood and fear of close combat come alive like Pressfield. Furthermore, he has a knack for capturing the language of the time, such that his prose reads like something far older than it actually is. That's not to say he's another Homer, but he does capture the spirit of the epic genre in a highly effective manner.
While I didn't empathize with the characters in "Last of the Amazons" as much as I did in "Gates of Fire", they are perhaps even better written. "In Gates of Fire" Pressfield had real historical figures, in a real battle to work with, one that had a tragic and foregone conclusion. As a result, the reader knew the destiny of all the actors, and therefore developed a level of pathos for them that transcended the writing (which was still excellent).
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