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3.6 out of 5 stars19
3.6 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 4 October 2007
I was pleasantly surprised by this book from a lesser known author in the field of historical fiction. This tale of an unstoppable warrior could have become quite tedious, if it wasn't for the fact that the storyline is well paced, with good characters, and set against a convincing background portrayal of ancient Egypt circa 525 BC.

Most popular novels using ancient Egyptian settings seem to be detective stories, a kind of Poirot in ancient Egypt. This book, I am glad to say, is nothing like that. The author deals with the conquest of Egypt by Cambyses and the involvement of Greek troops, especially the traitorous Phanes of Halicarnassus. Against Phanes we have a Phoenician mercenary, Barca (Rambo). Barca is our unstoppable hero and his ventures are entertaining and easy reading, at least in the first half of the book.

This novel is action packed and fast moving, but in the second half of the book as we approach the battle of Pelusium the novel starts to tire.

If you are familiar with the better novels of David Gemmell, especially Lion of Macedon, then that is the kind of work this reminds me of. It's a little clichéd, a little far-fetched, and has plenty of emphasis on violence, but in the majority it is entertaining nevertheless. The female characters seem to be all slaves so that should give you some idea of where this author is coming from. So if you are looking for romantic historical fiction or for a well researched novel that will teach you all about ancient Egypt, then look elsewhere, this one is about bloodthirsty conflict on the Nile delta and unrelenting action is what the author is trying to achieve.
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on 7 September 2007
All great cultures eventually fail: Egypt, some historians say, was around as a great unified culture, religion,& united people, by far the longest ever: over 4000 years. Eventually it too had to end & by then the top was rotten; there was a lack of what would be called patriotism or love of the nation; and at all levels of the nation were non-Egyptians, not that thats bad in itself but many immigrants had brought in other religions which had watered down the traditional religions---you don't have to be religious yourself to see that this weakened a nation where only 2% of the people were literate. There was corruption; they had lost most of their empire; the pharaohs were less considered to be god-kings than before, again, that may seem a good or forward-looking move to us, but it wasn't as far as keeping together a society that for nearly 5 millenia had believed the king was a god and spoke to the gods for the people. At any rate, everything had changed, and Egypt was a rotten fruit, and all the surrounding Empires were waiting to conqueror it.

Of course, quite soon Alexander the Great would conquer it for good and put his relatives on the throne--- his relatives'most famous descendent was there when the Romans came to conquer it again a few hundered years later ---was Egyptianized but not an Egyptian at all but rather the descendent of a Macedonian general and kin of Alexander named Cleopatra.

Anyway, this book is interesting, I do read a lot, both fiction and non fiction, about ancient Egypt and this is the first I've read where Egypt is at this point of total decay and there are hardly any Egyptians in the main story line: there are Greeks, Phoenicians, Libyans, Jews, Arabs, and others, all peoples who have moved into Egypt for a better life over the past generations and thrived there. So, that was new and different as a book for me.

Some reviewers didn't like the main character Barka, I think as a great warrior he was believable enough. He managed to survive great battles but as he is described as a battle hardened veteren, this would mean, to me, the more he survived, the more chance he has to keep on surviving. At that time, the skills to win in war were ones where a man who was gifted by nature with certain genetic abilities, like an athlete, would be able to have a great head start surviving over others, as long as simple bad luck, like an infected wound, didn't kill him.

An interesting read. Less about Egypt per se than war, and how men act in war.

A note: I don't know about the Medjay at the time the time period the book is set, but originally they were a Nubian (African) tribe that had fought as warriors and allies of the last descendents of the pharaohs and helped them regain their throne and free Egypt in the years when the Hyksos tribes had conquered Egypt, hundreds & hundreds of years earlier. (about 2135BC) That alliance can be read about in Pauline Gedge's excellent historical fiction trilogy: "The Lord of the two Lands".

Eventually the Medjay, by then completely assimilated into Egyptian culture and religion, became the hereditary policemen of Egypt, many fiction and non fiction books mention them in this regard, Lauren Haney has a good series of detective/mystery books where the Medjay who guard the frontier in Queen Hatshepsut's time are the main characters, under their fictional leader LT Bak.

In the triogy about Pharaoh Akenaten and King Tutankhamun by Paul C. Doherty, "The Evil Spirit out of the West/ The Season of the Hyeanas/ The Year of the Cobra" the Medjays are also referred to in their role as police. A recent book by Nick Drake, "Nefertiti: the Book of the Dead", a mystery, has a Medjay detective as its lead character.

So, my question is: by this late date in Egypt, 535 BC, were the Medjay made up of just anyone who wanted to join? Because my understanding is that for much of their existance they were a tribe/ ethnic group as well as the word for policeman or a type of warrior tribe. Or did the author not do research on this? Anyone know?
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on 1 December 2013
A weak Egypt tries to beat off the advance of the Persians and their Arab allies whilst their own mercenaries revolt against them. The Hero Barca is a Phoenician mercenary driven to fighting to save Egypt from itself and its enemies. The Egyptians themselves are somewhat lost in the story, minor players in the tragedy. To be honest its not the best era and location to set a novel. You don't see much of the Persians and Egypts glory is long gone. It is mercenary against mercenary for most of the book. However the characters are strong and the fighting is as brutal as you would expect in this ear of toe to toe combat. Good on characters and story but not much history to excite the imagination and its hard to care about how Egypt fares in the final struggle.
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on 11 October 2009
This book has been on my shelf for a year or so and I just got down to reading it last week, 2 evenings and a six hour flight saw it off. This is the kind of book that grabs you from page 1 and doesn't let go. Being a avid reader of historical fiction and the more intelligent fantasy reads ie Locke lamora, and Joe Abercrombie's the blade itself trilogy, this book easily slips into the genre I love.
The hero of the piece, Barca, is easily identified as a warrior who could be a Conan clone but this doesn't detract from a finely crafted if flawed character,the battle set pieces are just sublime, with no long drawn out [lets make a longer book] issues. Barca is a man who is haunted by his past and believes himself beyond redemption and has what we call now a death wish. Placing this man as guardian of Egypts eastern border to repel the ever increasing skirmishes of bedouin tribes seems an ideal occupation for such a character.He progresses to general at the head of Pharoahs forces against Darius and the might of Persia. As is often the case in these stories, a woman brings to him to a new understanding of himself, sounds corny but is actually very nicely written and also adds to make this a profoundly moving story at times. On the basis of this book, I immediately [on landing] bought Memnon, another by Scott Oden, which is rated even higher in Amazon stars. With another flight tomorrow,I can't wait. Keep them Coming Scott,in flight entertainment at it's best!
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on 1 September 2013
I gave up on this book in disgust. The characters were flat, the dialogue stilted and the action seemed to have been made more violent in order to make up for this. Added to this, the author seemed to delight in writing pornographical sex scenes. While women were probably treated like this in ancient times, was it really necessary to write about it as though it was something to fantasise about? I won't be reading any more from this author, and am very disappointed.
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VINE VOICEon 15 October 2006
First, there was the film Gladiator, and it was very good. Then, there were the films Troy, and Alexander, and Arthur, and they weren't that good.

Continuing the "swords n' sandals tradition", Steven Pressfield's book "Gates of Fire" was outstanding, and then, a few years later, Conn Iggulden began the "Emperor" series of books, chronicling the life of Julius Caesar from childhood to death, and it was very good indeed. As in the film world, there now seems to be a glut of books about violent historical figures; Boudica, Attilla, and the somewhat more obscure Barca of "Men of Bronze".

If this book was a film, it would have been made in the 80's. Like heroes from that decade, Barca is "the perfect warrior". Cold, brutal, effecient, and practically invulnerable. This is all well and good, but for the most part I think both literature and films have moved on somewhat, and we want more vulnerability in a hero than just occasional flashes of remorse. Although he seems to inspire great courage and acts of heroism in his men, it is unclear why. He doesn't give big speeches, he doesn't manage a company, he doesn't train them, he doesn't promote them. He's just the big guy at the front who does a lot of killin'. If anything he's a terrible leader, getting all his best strategists killed by throwing them into melees!

Women are temptresses or nurses, kings are cowardly and cruel despots, priests are scheming and conniving, bad guys are all bad, villains are handsome and sadistic, you get the idea.

To give a few things to his credit though, Oden's book does have some elements that make it unusual. His hero is a mercenary rather than a native of the lands he's protecting, and rather than avenge his wife's death, it was he that killed her. Most authors stick with what they know, Greece and Rome at the peak of their power, and Oden is brave to get entangled in a land of long unprouncable words that few people know about in any real detail. The slave girl Juarheh is probably the best fleshed-out character in the book, and it a shame more of the characters were not developed better. Most of the time you've just figured out how to pronounce a character's name when they get cut in half with an axe...

In conclusion, if you're looking for an easy and entertaining read, lots of big battle scenes and hack n' slash stuff, then look no further. For something a bit more intellectual, Steven Pressfield and Conn Iggulden are your men.
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on 4 January 2008
I am a keen reader of fiction history, Iggulden et al, and I am very happy to add Oden to the list on the strength of this fictional novel. This book is very readable and not too easy to put down. The characters are well developed and the pace of the book is excellent.
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on 3 December 2011
This book is great fun. The template for the story seems to come from a super hero comic with the main character possesing almost superhuman strength but plagued by guilt and personal doubts while facing his nemesis who dogs him throughout the story. Although some of the characters are superficially drawn and ancient Egypt serves sometimes as a rather two dimensional backdrop it is clear that Mr Oden can write. This is a genuine page turner with some unexpected twists and I enjoyed it right through to the end. This is excellent holiday reading and I will certainly be picking up another Odin book before long.
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on 3 April 2013
i enjoyed the book and recommend it fully. scott oden is now on my 'to read' list if i come across any more of his work.
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on 4 March 2008
I am a big fan of books that are set around ancient Greece etc so when I saw that this book was set in Egypt I thought that it would be a lot more intresting than it was. The story line is simple, with a villain that is clearly the bad guy, unlike most novels of this sort where the enemy are just people on the other side, but not necceserily 'evil'.

The book tends to jump back and forth between storylines which started to get a bit annoying, how many cliff hangers was the author trying to squueze into this book???

All in all there is not too much to knock the book about, I liked the fact that it was set in Egypt, but it does lack a certain something, but the action made up for it. It reminds me a Hollywood action movie, not a great storyline, but deffinatly watchable.
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