The Source: Purchased at Omnilit
The Grade: A
It is 526 B.C. and the empire of the Pharaohs is dying, crushed by the weight of its own antiquity. Decay riddles its cities, infects its aristocracy, and weakens its armies. While across the expanse of Sinai, like jackals drawn to carrion, the forces of the King of Persia watch and wait. Leading the fight to preserve the soul of Egypt is Hasdrabal Barca, Pharaohs countless wounds, it is her spirit that heals and changes him. Once a fearsome demigod of war, Hasdrabal Barca becomes human again. A man now motivated as much by love as anger. Nevertheless honor and duty have bound Barca to the fate of Egypt. A final conflict remains, a reckoning set to unfold in the dusty hills east of Pelusium. There, over the dead of two nations, Hasdrabal Barca will face the same choice as the heroes of old: Death and eternal fame or obscurity and long life.
I bought this book in 2010, I think. I started reading it but abandoned it. I always intended to get back to it, one day. It took awhile, though. What spurred me was the fact that I decided to rebuy it in epub, to replace the pdf copy I bought in 2010. And I am glad I did.
One word can describe this book: Epic. At times, it felt almost like I was reading fantasy novel, with minium of magic. This isn't fantasy, but Historical fiction. This isn't my favorite genre, since it often involves bloody, gorefilled battles.. ( I know, I have probably read the wrong books). But this book were different. Oh, there were battles in it. What made me love this were the vivid settings, and the human characters.
The settings made me feel as if I were walking through Memphis, standing on the ship on the way to Gaza, feeling the wind tussling my hair. My heart ached everytime Barca lost one of his friends. The ache tenfolded when I realised the source of The Beast. At the start of the book he was almost a murdering machine. He live for battle. Yet through the book, he change. He starts to feel compassion. That change stems from Jauharah and her patience.
Jauharah... I wept for her. For her loss, for the pain she had suffered, and for the choices she had to make.
And Callianestes... I admired him for daring to what was right. Heck, I admired all the characters for their honor and courage.
The combination of the characters and the setting created a riveting tale, that I just couldn't put down. But, as I read it, I was reminded that history goes in circles, and that no civilisation last forever.
What I didn't like. I'll admit it. I wish there was a happy ending, since is Hasdrabal Barca and Jauharah had earned it. Yet, that would make it a romance, which this isn't.
Still, I'll definitely read more by Scott Oden in the future.