Friday, March 14, 2014

A return to Alexander's empire

You'd have no reason to know it yet, from this blog, but I really enjoy Gail Carriger as an author.  She writes laugh-out-loud funny steampunk books with big hearts. She blogs, too.  And not too long ago, she gave out a couple of recommendations for historical fiction that isn't as well known as it should be. Judith Tarr's  Lord of the Two Lands was one.  

Lord of the Two Lands follows Alexander the Great in Egypt.  Gail highlighted a small excerpt from the text that involved a cat. And it's available as a pretty inexpensive ebook So, I was triply sold.  

This book covers a period of time that Mary Renault's books gloss over, so it's a good fit with my recent reading.  This is Alexander, after Issus, in Phoenicia and Egypt.  The main character is an Egyptian priestess named Meriamon, whose gods-given mission is to bring Alexander to Egypt after a vision reveals that he will free Egypt from its hated Persian conquerors and become Pharaoh.  

From a historic perspective, this is of course the founding of the Greek Ptolemaic dynasty in Egypt, which ends three hundred years later with Cleopatra's dramatic and ill-fated fighting with Augustus's Rome.  So it's a fascinating period of history.  There are fine descriptions of ancient warfare and military logistics.  Gods of all sorts are real and magic exists on different levels., but it's not overdone.

Siwah Oasis, Site of Ancient Oracle of Amon.  Photo courtesy of user:heksamarre, Wikimedia Commons

I had heard there was romance, and wondered how that would work with Alexander, who was historically, ummm, not that into women.  I guess I should have known - he wasn't the focus.  Meriamon's relationship with one of Alexander's companions is handled nicely, as are her interactions with Alexander.  

   Final call:

This is an entertaining, easy read that's also got a good head on its shoulders.  If you like historical fiction, put it on your list.     

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