Old School Thursdays: The Spartan

A few posts back I mentioned my blog addiction and how I was going to merge my old book lovers blog into this one by sporadically posting my old reviews. I’m going to attempt to post the old reviews every Thursday or almost every Thursday hence the title Old School Thursdays. Thanks to WordPress I don’t have to remember what day it is to post, but can just schedule them so I might actually pull this off.

Anyway, the following review was from 2008 and I have modified it so it fits in to now (basically taking out the subjects and whatnot that I could be referring to back then that might just confuse the crap out of people).

The Spartan

This is the saga of a Spartan family, unravelled by a harsh custom of their people that causes them to abandon one of their own. The elder son, Brithos, strong and healthy, will live comfortably; but Talos, weak and feeble, must be sacrificed to the wolves of Mount Taygetus. Unbeknownst to his grieving parents, however, the child is miraculously found and saved by a Helot — the once-proud people who now live in servitude to Sparta.

While his brother is raised in the mighty warrior caste, Talos, who is now a slave, is schooled in the history of the Helot people by his adoptive father. It is then that he learns of the legend of Aristodemus, the last King of the Helots, whose armour, it is prophesied, will be worn again by the liberator of his vanquished race. When the brothers meet for the first time since their separation, it is over crossed swords as Talos defends the woman he loves from the brutality of Brithos. But fate has a greater destiny in store for them — and as war looms on the horizon, their lives become entwined in ways neither could have imagined. They live out their story in a world dominated by the clash between the Persian empire and the city-states of Greece until the voice of their blood and of human solidarity unites them in a thrilling, singular enterprise.

The Spartan by Valerio Massimo Manfredi unfortunately fell short of my expectations. Seeing as I like that whole Spartan theme (one of my favourite movies is 300 – hmm those outfits, favourite game – God of War. Sure it isn’t set in Sparta but come on, Ghost of Sparta is close enough especially with that attitude and those awesome weapons. The game play on that franchise is magnificent and makes one salivate. It’s like sticking a sugar addict in a candy store. Ahem I’m beginning to digress) and dig a bit of historical fiction I was looking forward to it but I never finished it.

It was like reading a summary of Sparta and the Battle of Thermopylae which would have been fine if the story was meant to be about just the battle. Granted the story probably couldn’t have been told without all that background of politics and war (alas I didn’t read far enough to find out) but it was meant to be a story about certain characters and it was not focused enough on them to keep me wanting to read the whole thing. I didn’t make it much past 100 pages. There was not enough depth (of what minuscule depth there was that is) of character or substance for me and when it comes to characters I like to be able to feel something for them (hate, pity, amusement etc), anything for them to help draw me into the story, unfortunately I felt nothing but irritation.

Amongst other things, I read for escapism and escaping with this novel wasn’t happening at all for me. I do have another book by Manfredi and am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt when it comes to story telling. Authors can’t always hit the mark.

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