Author: David Constantine
Genre: Historical, Steampunk
Publisher: Night Shade Books
Publication date: March 20 2012
Paperback: 320 pages
Alexander, Prince of Macedon, is the terror of the world. Persia, Egypt, Athens . . . one after another, mighty nations are falling before the fearsome conqueror. Some say Alexander is actually the son of Zeus, king of the gods, and the living incarnation of Hercules himself. Worse yet, some say Alexander believes this . . . . The ambitious prince is aided in his conquest by unstoppable war-machines based on the forbidden knowledge of his former tutor, the legendary scientist-mage known as Aristotle. Greek fire, mechanical golems, and gigantic siege-engines lay waste to Alexander”s enemies as his armies march relentlessly west–toward the very edge of the world. Beyond the Pillars of Hercules, past the gateway to the outer ocean, lies the rumored remnants of Atlantis: ancient artifacts of such tremendous power that they may be all that stands between Alexander and conquest of the entire world. Alexander desires that power for himself, but an unlikely band of fugitives-including a Gaulish barbarian, a cynical Greek archer, a cunning Persian princess, and a sorcerer”s daughter-must find it first . . . before Alexander unleashes godlike forces that will shatter civilization. The Pillars of Hercules is an epic adventure that captures the grandeur and mystery of the ancient world as it might have been, where science and magic are one and the same.
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
How did I get this book: Review copy from the publisher via NetGalley
Why did I read this book: I’ve been reading loads of mythological, historical novels lately. This sounded cool.
This is going to be short. I didn’t finish this book, here is why:
I’ve been in the mood for mythology/historical novels lately and I thought The Pillars of Hercules would fit the bill. It follows Alexander, before he was The Great, as he makes a move against Athens and then moves further West. His unstoppable army has weapons that most people see as Magic but are really Science (based on the forbidden knowledge of such things that his former tutor, Aristotle, has). Meanwhile, a bunch of other characters are doing mysterious stuff: a Persian princess hires two mercenaries (a barbarian from Gaul, a Greek archer) to protect her on her journey to somewhere to search for something and a messenger is on his way somewhere to deliver a message to someone: I stopped reading The Pillar of Hercules at 40% into the book (I read it on my Kindle) and I have no idea what these mysteries are. Probably that is the point of the book but I didn’t care enough to carry on and find out exactly what these people are doing.
The flap copy will tell you that this is supposed to be an epic adventure that captures the grandeur and mystery of the ancient world . But the first 40% of the novel is an extremely boring string of choppy events, with an inordinate amount of info-dump to the point where I, at times, thought I was reading a history book. Details about Alexander, his father, his conquests, etc were clumsily included in the novel, sometimes even interrupting the action. The excerpt below is only but a small example of info dump – at times whole pages where just like this:
His downfall’s thanks to Craterus. Who saw his chance to rid himself of a rival, and used Alexander’s mindset to make it happen. So now he can put a more pliable man in command of the part of the phalanx that’s been left back in Egypt.
It is as though we were supposed to accept the authenticity of the Ancient Greek setting with passages like these but there is only so much researched facts can do. This was even harder when the language was very grating as it sounded SO modern and dated:
“Now let’s aim this fucker.”
“Will you make up your fucking mind.”
“Heavy stuff, probably bullshit”
“Forest must be full of buggers”
Of course, my problem was not all the swearing but how the swearing reads as though the characters of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels moved to Ancient Greece. It doesn’t capture the ancient world as the blurb promises inasmuch as it makes it sound just like ours.
Finally, here is the main reason why I decided to put the book down. There are several view point characters in the book: the Gaul, the Greek archer, another Greek army guy, Alexander’s friend Eumenes and even a RANDOM MESSENGER. Please note how they are all dudes. The thing is: there is a female character that is supposed to be powerful, smart, rich and important. Does she get a voice? No. Does she get to speak a lot, or appear a lot on page? No. In fact, at one point she is kidnapped then rescued by her HEROIC mercenaries. That’s when I stopped reading the book. Granted, she might have gotten a point of view narration at some point but I don’t see why I should wait for more than 40% of a book to see a female character getting a voice.
Notable Quotes/ Parts:
You can read an excerpt HERE.
Rating: DNF – Did Not Finish.
Reading Next: The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth
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