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on 4 July 2001
Pressfield's previous book, Gates of Fire, is a ripping yarn. Tides of War is much different. It is a much more mature work, and strangely moving once you learn to empathise with the main characters.
Like in life, Pressfield's characters are varying shades of grey - deeply flawed, making valiant attempts at self-justification.
The background to this tale, the Peloponnesian war, is a difficult conflict to comprehend. In effect a civil war, one doesn't expect outrageous acts of heroism similar to those described in Pressfield's depiction of the Persian wars. Add to this the remarkably complex character of Alcibiades and the uneasy decline of the principal nation states of Athens and Sparta.
What the author has achieved is remarkable: he breathes life into an ancient and distant culture, made the crazy decisions of the Athenian powers seem plausible, and turned the central character into a slightly deluded superstar of his time.
I think this was a difficult work for Pressfied to create, but he has pulled it off.
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on 1 May 2005
I guess many reviewers have given this book mediocre reviews, because they'd read Steven Pressfield's former masterpiece Gates Of Fire and expected a similar work. And it's obvious to do so, the setting is the same, that cover looks the same, and another book like Gates Of Fire would certainly be fantastic.
However, Tides Of War is much different. 'Mature' is a word used by other reviewers, and it sums it up quite neatly I think. Whereas Gates Of Fire was hardpacked action most of all, Tides Of Was is much more into the psychological aspects of the events, and focuses on it's characters rather than the story. Oh, not that there isn't action, cause there's plenty, but there's much more to it.
First time I read this novel, I was very sceptical - for the very same reasons as mentioned above. It was not until I was something like two thirds through the book that it really made it's impact on me. However, once I had finished this book, I couldn't put it out of my head. It's got so many fascinating aspects of the human psyche and how the individuals clear thought becomes clouded by the persuasive pull of the mass hysteria. One might argue that the character of Alcibiades is glorified here, and he might be, but that's somewhat besides the point - the point is, that this story brings numerous examples of how the genious is pulled down by the lessers envy and greed, which in the end is bad for everyone, even the ones who did it. That's the real tragedy of human history that has been repeated time after time.
Oh, and don't forget, this tells the story of one of the most important wars in western civilization history. Go play with the thought of what might've happened if Alcibiades had been allowed to pull of the attack on Syracuse, and had defeated the Spartans. It's not beside the point to say that the world as we now it today had probably been an entirely different place!
This is not easy reading, but it is highly recommended for everyone! It is more than well worth the effort.
Overall rating: 10 / 10
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As a great lover of Ancient History books, both fact and fiction, I was recommended to read Gates of Fire. A book about one of the greatest stands against insurmountable odds that has ever taken place in military history. Certainly in Ancient Greece. I found the book, exciting, fast paced and extremely enjoyable. Understandably I could not wait to get my hands on Tides of War.

Although the book was quite enjoyable and well written, I just did not get the buzz out of it that I had got from Gates of Fire. At times the story dragged a little, almost to the point of boredom. I'm not sure why, but it just did not have the sparkle of the previous one.

Steven Pressfield is still a master at drawing his reader into the story and his descriptions of battle and warfare techniques are second to none. Almost to the point of leaving the reader sweating with fear and exhaustion at the brutal and barbarous battle tactics used in these ancient encounters.

It would certainly be unfair to decry the book as a bad novel. It just had something lacking for me, personally. I am sure many people will think it is a terrific read and I hope they do.
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on 10 April 2002
It is hard to believe that this is the same author who wrote 'Gates of Fire', not for reasons of quality but of style and subject. To compare them would be a fruitless exercise because they are so dissimilar and set out to educate and entertain very differently.
One of Pressfield's outstanding qualities as a writer is his ability to impart a consistent mood to his works; his character depictions and style of writing follow the dominant mood he intends to convey. In this book the mood is one of subversion of virtue to expedience, betrayal, fickleness and political machination. The difference between Doric and Ionian individual values and how those values were subverted to become the handmaidens of expiediency to achieve political ends - to the ultimate political destruction of both sides - underpins the entire work.
One of the value shifts explored was from personal sacrifice for the good of the community to personal gain as more important than the good of the community. This shift has been echoed in recent times by the American Democratic Party and Britain's Labour party finally reaching the realisation that they were unelectable if the centre piece of their policies remained individual sacrifice for the greater community good. For this and many other reasons, such as power projection and 'hearts and minds' politics to prosecute a war, Pressfield's book has an astonishing modern relevance.
Even though Pressfield's narrative contains some archaic constructions to give the book a 'contemporary feel', he uses modern language in dialogue to better allow us to empathise with character who is speaking. The effect is pleasing and works well.
I would not hesitate to recommend this book to anybody who has an interest in the Pelloponesian wars, or an interet in the study of what makes charismatic people tick.
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on 14 May 2016
This is the story of Alcibiades and the Peloponnesian War, as seen through the eyes of an Athenian marine and assassin (the book is framed as him giving his confession as he awaits death in his Athenian jail cell). It's one of those frustrating books that gets so much right - but also so much wrong. The depiction of the times is largely excellent, it asks interesting questions about politics and philosophy, contains a memorable portrait of charismatic leadership and has several excellent battle scenes. But in dealing with a 27-year long war it invariably has to move fast and too much of the book feels like a straight historical narrative. Seeing Alcibiades through the eyes of another is interesting but, with so much to get through, it inevitably weakens the portrayal of both characters; we never really understand Alcibiades, except on an intellectual level, and the hero, for all that he has a story and a life of his own, too often feels like a pale shadow. It's still a good book but it would have been better as a trilogy, where the events and characters would have had room to make more of an impact. Worth reading once.
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on 31 August 2008
Having read 'Gates of Fire' I found myself equally impressed by the scholarship and detail of Pressfield's account of the complicated events of the Pelopennesian War and ultimate defeat of the Athenian democratic ideal. True this book is a read requiring more of its readers than Gates of Fire in terms of the scope of the conflict and political machinations of the characters but their personalities commit themselves to your memory in the same way and demand your attention and empathy. Pressfield writes like a poet and a philosopher, requiring his audience to engage with the intellectual concepts of his re-created world. It is not designed to be a superficial, blood-and-gore romp and if read as such will leave the reader confused and unsatisfied. It is about the lengths to which necessity drives a man and what he is prepared to endure to realize his dreams and live with honour.
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on 24 March 2003
Having already read Gates of Fire,(a book I could hardly put down)I was more than eager to begin reading Tides of War but quickly found it to be an entirely different animal. Naturally, I
have learned a great deal of history about an extremely interesting era but, to be honest, I was simply bored! Do read it for the historical content but don't expect to be entertained.
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on 17 July 2009
This book effectively adds character and brings to life the rigid documented history of the period of the Peloponnesian War; the author successfully creates an entirely feasible and highly likely account of the times, contrasting politics and cultures of the period; including the effects of a generation of war through both triumph and tragedy on peoples, families and comrades, not necessarily recognised in historical accounts. The method of narrative is complex but essential in capturing accounts through a range of differing perspectives. An excellent read, equal to that of Stephen Pressfield's, previous epic 'Gates of Fire'
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This, the second of Steven Pressfield's epic novels set in Ancient Greece,lacks the poignancy and viscerality which dominates 'Gates of Fire'. However it offers an alternative introduction to Alciabides and The Peloponessian War to those with little or no prior knowledge. There is plenty of action, the plot is anything but predictable, and the setting of naval warfare makes an interesting contrast to 'Gates of Fire.' It is one of those books which you just can't put down.
I look forward (with great anticipation) to his third historical novel set in Ancient Greece.
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on 7 February 2010
I enjoyed gates of war but found tides of war too hard going. It meanders along and in the end i just couldn't be bothered to finish the book, it just didn't engage me.
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