Customer Reviews


87 Reviews
5 star:
 (54)
4 star:
 (23)
3 star:
 (5)
2 star:
 (4)
1 star:
 (1)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


68 of 71 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent popular history
Last summer I was carried away to the far distant Roman republic in Holland's 'Rubicon', and enthralling as that book was, the author has excelled himself with 'Persian Fire'. This is partly because, unlike 'Rubicon', where he compressed centuries of events in to one modest book, 'Persian Fire' is far more narrow in scope, and hence moves forward with much greater...
Published on 26 May 2006 by P. Pensom

versus
22 of 28 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A book about the Greeks not the Persians!!!
Having read 'Rubicon' by the same author (which I avidly recommend) I decided to brush up on my Persian history so bought this book. I thought from reading the reviews on the back cover and from the title the book would focus upon the Persians, their rise to power and detail their Empire etc but I was sorely disappointed.

This book for about the first couple...
Published on 2 Aug 2011 by Laura


‹ Previous | 1 29 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

68 of 71 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent popular history, 26 May 2006
By 
P. Pensom (London) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Last summer I was carried away to the far distant Roman republic in Holland's 'Rubicon', and enthralling as that book was, the author has excelled himself with 'Persian Fire'. This is partly because, unlike 'Rubicon', where he compressed centuries of events in to one modest book, 'Persian Fire' is far more narrow in scope, and hence moves forward with much greater narrative thrust.

If, like me, your knowledge of the titanic battles between Persia and Greece in 5th Century BC is scanty then you are in for a treat. I found myself unable to put this book down, greedily devouring chapters as if it were a novel. In 'Rubicon', the sheer breadth of the book meant it was easy to become lost in the labyrinthine twists and turns of Roman politics, and often I had to remind myself of the identity of a character. In 'Persian Fire' however, the key events are dictated by a much smaller cast, and are all balanced around a central fulcrum: the great invasion of the west by the east. This gives the book incredible dynamism.

If I were to make one minor cavil, it would be that occasionally Holland tries too hard to make the story relevant to contemporary concerns. The book is littered with modish language and modern references which it would be much better without. Anyone with a passing interest in the subject will be enthralled with this narrative, without constant, obvious comparisons to the functioning of modern superpowers. And can we really be sure that buzzwords like 'spin' and 'bling' will make any more sense to future generations than anachronistic slang from the 1920s does to us? I think not, but that is only a slight blemish on an otherwise outstanding work.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant study of a long-vanished war, 10 May 2007
By 
N. Clarke "genco1901" (Birmingham, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
In contrast to Steven Pressfield's Gates of Fire, which often lurches toward the more vicarious macho thrills afforded by blood-and-guts descriptive writing, this is well-written, thought-provoking history which is accessible for non-history buffs. It deals in equal measure with the origins of Persian expansion in the middle east, and how the nascent Greek societies were, in contrast to their foes, politically riven, frequently at war with each other, but brilliantly inventive when it came to military tactics.

Marathon, Thermopylae, Salamis and Plataea - the four major actions which put paid to the Persian plan to invade Europe - are described in major detail, and thankfully the Spartans' last stand only warrants a paragraph or so, giving the reader more scope to examine the wider Greek strategy for the entire 480/479 campaign. Great stuff.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A stirring tale, 27 Nov 2005
By 
Ralph Blumenau (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
After two chapters describing how the Achaemenid Persian Empire grew until it stretched from the Aegean to the Hindu Kush, Holland focusses on the attempt in the 5th century BC of the Persians to add the small city-states of Greece to their Empire. It is one of the marvels of history how these city-states, rent by external and internal rivalries, managed in the end to preserve their independence, like so many Davids against one Goliath. The very different cultures and institutions of Persians, Spartans and Athenians are very well brought out, and Holland paints a vivid picture of this amazing struggle. His long set-piece descriptions of the battles of Marathon, Thermopylae, Salamis and Plataea are quite superb (though I wish the maps, to which one has to refer frequently, were fold-out end-papers instead of being scattered throughout the book). I would not have wishes these passages to be any shorter; but I cannot say the same about other passages, where descriptions, in a somewhat journalistic style, strike me as excessively wordy and repetitive - piling Pelion on Ossa, as it were. But this is a minor cavil about a book which tells a stirring story.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


91 of 102 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Persian Fire burns with an Olympic flame, 23 Oct 2005
By 
Diana Swann (Portsmouth, Hants United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Persian Fire: The First World Empire and the Battle for the West (Hardcover)
In this chronicle of the rise and fall of the Persian Empire Tom Holland emphasises thought-provoking parallels between past and present East/West confrontation. But readability does not depend on scholarship, political acumen and a sweeping sense of the larger historical picture alone. The reader is spellbound, as frail but wily Greeks outwit the Persian hordes and their gold-bedecked Great King. This is the stuff of camp-fire tales, told with the immediacy of an eye-witness: the stench, terror, tumult and unpredictability of swaying fortunes in the legendary battles of Thermopylae and Salamis have a cinematic reality. Narrative flow is maintained by Holland's ability to bridge facts with intelligent and imaginative supposition - a far more impressive bridge than Xerxes' short-lived two-mile pontoon between Asia and Europe. The tale is told with a telling mix of passion, humour and conversational persuasiveness. We are left in no doubt that European history would have taken a different course if the Persians had won in 480BC.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Epic telling of history, 3 Aug 2007
This book is an excellent read with a few reservations. For a synopsis and insight into this important time in history you could go no further for a clear and insightful window into the times. The beauty is the way Tom Holland gives you the twin track insight into to empires that come together to influence a lot of what we take for granted today in the west.

The beauty of his 'storytelling' brings history to life and the individual characters in this real life story vividly to the front of your mind and imagination.

One reservation may be that at time the dwelling on finer detail slows the overall pace where often you find yourself reading for hours to 'find out what happened next'.

Clearly those wanting a more focused and purist approach to history might not take to the style, but for me it merely served to prompt me to buy his other books.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Insight., 20 July 2007
This is a fine book and gives a good insight into the Persian Empire from it's origins. Tom Holland has proved again what an excellent author of historical books he is.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ancient History alive and relevant today, 22 Nov 2006
I could not put this book down. It's all here: the towering influence of the Iliad on daily life after 600 years, the arguing Athenians and how democracy happened almost by chance, the first Marathon, the curious habits of the Spartans such as educating girls, Leonidas's hesitation before Thermopolae, the rising tension of the Hitler-like threat from the east, and of course by implication, why Bush is loosing in Iraq, what is behind Iran making the bomb and how Putin has recast modern Russia on the model of Xerxes's Persian empire. It's well told, relevant today and truly facinating.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars History brought to life, 24 Jan 2006
This review is from: Persian Fire: The First World Empire and the Battle for the West (Hardcover)
There is a lot to understand and learn before you can properly begin to appreciate the importance and scale of the Persian Greek wars.
Tom Holland does not assume that his readers are historians. He gives a detailed, yet pacy background of the main players individually and the contries they represented. In other words we get an excellent "how we got to this point" lead in.
Allied with this he does not assume his readers are idiots, the historical information is blended with feeling and colour that has to have a level of assumption, but never goes off the rails.
By the time we get to the battles that made up this war we are well positioned to follow the complicated actions and the personalities involved and this makes the book all the more enjoyable.
I had never read Greek history although I had an interest. this was the perfect starting point and from here I have gone on to read books on the Spartans, Persians and Alexander.
If you want a fast paced, accessable yet intelligent outline of the war that set the stage for so much of World history that followed, there is no better book than this.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Persian Fire burns with an Olympic flame, 1 Nov 2005
By 
Diana Swann (Portsmouth, Hants United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Persian Fire: The First World Empire and the Battle for the West (Hardcover)
In this chronicle of the rise and fall of the Persian Empire Tom Holland emphasises thought-provoking parallels between past and present East/West confrontation. But readability does not depend on scholarship, political acumen and a sweeping sense of the larger historical picture alone. The reader is spellbound, as frail but wily Greeks outwit the Persian hordes and their gold-bedecked Great King. This is the stuff of camp-fire tales, told with the immediacy of an eye-witness: the stench, terror, tumult and unpredictablily of swaying fortunes in the legendary battles of Thermopylae and Salamis have a cinematic reality. Narrative flow is maintained by Holland's ability to bridge facts with intelligent and imaginative supposition - a far more impressive bridge than Xerxes'short-lived two-mile pontoon between Asia and Europe. The tale is told with a telling mix of passion, humour and conversational persuasiveness. We are left in no doubt that European history would have taken a different course if the Persians had won in 480BC.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Greeks and Spartans and Persians, 13 Nov 2005
By 
Mr. M. Brady (Hertfordshire, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Tom Holland can write very well (I read Rubicon and thought highly of it). This one was less easy, but nevertheless presented in a gripping way.
I felt it was more of a Greek view of things: sort of all we already knew from the Greek (western) perspective. But there was certainly enough new material to me about Persia to make it worthwhile, and quite a comprehensive look at the major battles: Troy, Marathon, Platea.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 29 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

Persian Fire: The First World Empire and the Battle for the West
Used & New from: 0.01
Add to wishlist See buying options
Only search this product's reviews