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The Sacred Band (Sacred Band Series) (Volume 8) Paperback – December 15, 2012
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Janet Morris, Tempus (1987), and, with Chris Morris, Tempus Unbound (1989), The Sacred Band (2010).
In The Sacred Band: Sacred Band Series (Volume 8) by Janet Morris and Chris Morris, ethos and mythos combine; history remakes itself, dimensions are crossed, and realities diverge as the gods and Fates demand. The story opens over three hundred years before the birth of Christ with the rescue of forty-six fighters from the defeated Theban army at the Battle of Chaeronea; a plea for their lives from a foreign cavalry commander, Tempus the Black, which the Storm God grants. These twenty-three paired brothers and lovers join the Sacred Band of Stepsons and flee to fight another day on another battleground. They reach the legendary land of Lemuria, and then go on to the fantasy town of Sanctuary. Will they evade the Theban goddess, Harmony, and the angry Fates?
Janet Morris and Chris Morris have created a classic fantasy that explores love in war, honour, sacrifice, philosophy, religion, theomachy, and the maturation of the human spirit. Beautifully-written and character-driven, the focus of The Sacred Band is the fate of the Sacred Band of Stepsons as it absorbs the rescued Thebans and enters upon a chain of events leading to a battle with the entelechy of dream, in which the Battle of Chaeronea is re-fought with the many major differences that dreams permit. The Sacred Band is a mythical tale with all the breadth and scope that the word implies. It emulates, and to a degree draws on, the works of Plutarch, Plato, Heraclitus and Homer, but is much easier to follow and consequently is utterly captivating. -- Sarah Stuart for Readers' Favorites
About the Author
Best selling author Janet Morris began writing in 1976 and has since published more than 20 novels, many co-authored with her husband Chris Morris or others. She has contributed short fiction to the shared universe fantasy series Thieves World, in which she created the Sacred Band of Stepsons, a mythical unit of ancient fighters modeled on the Sacred Band of Thebes. She created, orchestrated, and edited the Bangsian fantasy series Heroes in Hell, writing stories for the series as well as co-writing the related novel, The Little Helliad, with Chris Morris. Most of her fiction work has been in the fantasy and science fiction genres, although she has also written historical and other novels. Morris has written, contributed to, or edited several book-length works of non-fiction, as well as papers and articles on nonlethal weapons, developmental military technology and other defense and national security topics. Author and composer Chris Morris began writing music in 1966, fiction in 1984, and nonfiction in 1989. Much of his fiction and nonfiction literary work, including all of his book-length science fiction and fantasy, has been written in collaboration with his wife Janet Morris. He has contributed short fiction to the best selling series Thieves' World and Heroes in Hell. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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The ancient world relied heavily on its belief in gods and how those gods controlled or interacted with mortal man, and this makes an excellent platform for a special kind of Fantasy novel. The characters, gods, avatar of gods, and other beings in between the heavenly and earthly realm are gradually introduced and developed, and near the end of the book I found myself feeling well acquainted and even fond of the main characters; Tempus, Niko, Strat, Crit, the Theban goddess Harmony, among others, and was anxious to read the outcome of the climactic battle, hoping they would all survive unscathed. Getting involved with the characters, their lives and destinies in such a way is always a sign of a good story and a well-written book, and for me personally, “The Sacred Band” has made a part of obscure history come to life in my mind and thereby also changed my perception of this part of history.
Set in 338 BCE, the Sacred Band of Thebes, three hundred paired Greek warriors, lovers or friends, are about to be killed along with the rest of the Boeotian Army by the forces of Macedon during the Battle of Chaeronea. Tempus, known as the Riddler, and his band of Stepsons rescue twenty-three pairs, forty-six soldiers, from annihilation. They are integrated into his group, known as the Sacred Band of Stepsons, to fight even greater battles in faraway lands peopled by gods walking the earth, witches, phantoms and ghosts.
The characters, e.g., Tempus, Niko, Strat, Crit, etc. are badly flawed, but very human, the readers can identify with them. I know these people, their characters remind me of several of my buddies when I served in the US Marines during the Viet Nam era. I especially liked Niko. He carries out the commands of Tempus the Riddler even when it conflicts with which he believes to be right. Although he is not the central character, he comes close. I found myself identifying with him more than any other person in the story.
The battle scenes were poignant and brought back mind castrating memories of my own. The term used now would be Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Some the old veterans were still referring to it as "shell shock" when I was in the service. I don't know if Chris Morris served in the military or in combat, but the battle descriptions, even though no firearms were used, were otherwise spot on. Only this novel and the movie, Apocalypse Now, could bring back such searing memories for me. And yes, I can still smell the napalm.
For the reader of historical or fantasy novels, this one is not to be missed, a must read of the highest order.
I can't say enough good about the prose. It's perfectly suited to the story in word choice and in rhythm. It wouldn't be better suited if it were written in heroic couplets, but even so it's a smooth and facile read.
I do have one problem. Daily life kept dragging me into the mundane world and out of the one I had chosen to inhabit for as long as I could. I know there's a prequel out there somewhere, probably Thieves World, and I'm going to find it.
If you like adventure and magical realism I know of no place where better is to be found.
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