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4.4 out of 5 stars48
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 14 March 2015
Like one other reviewer, I hesitated to read this book because there have been so many other portrayals of Alexander, and the facts of his story can hold no surprises for anyone. My agreeable surprise was to find how original and compelling Christian Cameron's take on the story was, making this - for my money - the best of all his classical-age novels. The key to success is his choice of Ptolemy as the story-teller: someone not only authoritative and close to Alexander, but - unlike Cameron's other hero-narrators - also a wealthy aristocrat with no serious misgivings about his own worth. Further, as an officer frequently responsible for the logistics of Alexander's campaigns, Ptolemy's viewpoint reveals not only a wealth of fascinating practical detail about classical warfare, but also the true craziness of many of Alexander's own decisions.
Indeed, Cameron tried so hard to be different from previous authors - from Renault to Pressfield - who idolized Alexander, that his portrayal of the great man's weaknesses borders on the unconvincing. Since he himself stresses the disloyalty and anarchy ingrained in Macedonian politics, would such turbulent followers have remained loyal for so long for someone whom they as often had to cover up for as to follow? At least, Ptolemy's own internal conflicts over how to view Alexander are fascinating, all the way through to a powerful final twist.
For Cameron's regular readers, another pleasure of the book is how smoothly it locks in with the volumes of the 'Tyrant' series, and how many gaps it fills in the story of Kineas the Athenian and his friends.
One beef: why are Cameron's books so poorly text-edited? Like the others, this has annoying spelling mistakes especially but not only in proper names. At two points, significant deaths are reported of persons whom I simply could not place from the previous narrative. Whether the author actually made a mistake here, or failed to ensure his reader could keep up with the flock of characters, this is the kind of thing a good editor should eliminate at a stroke.
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They that say every man has their own version of Alexander (if they didn't say that then they ought to have done) and this is Mr Cameron's. It's not too close to my idea of the Macedonian, but it's an enjoyable version all the same :-)

Told from the viewpoint of Ptolemy it covers Alexander's life from childhood to death, in greater or lesser detail as appropriate. It's fairly violent book,with lots descriptive power used to give a `real' feel to a swords and shields battlefield. (Not that anyone alive to-day has any real idea of what one of those was like but I'd lay odds that Mr Cameron's view is pretty close as it reads along the same lines as James Norman Hall's descriptions of the battles he was in in WW1 and they are some of the best I've ever read in 40 odd years of reading about warfare). There is also lots of casual violence meted out to all and sundry.

One may, or may not, appreciate the violence but overall I cannot stress enough that this is a good read with strong characters well drawn and in believable situations. The story does end somewhat in space with the death of Alexander and it would have been nice to have had a little more on Ptolemy's move to Egypt, but then the book is about Alexander so I shouldn't grumble.

The `exception' on the character front, if exception is not to strong a word, is the character given to Alexander himself. As he comes across to me I can't see anyone following him across the room let alone across continents!

The Kindle version is formatted well and some 773 pages on my iPad.
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on 27 June 2015
This amazing book by Christian Cameron tells the tale of Alexander the Great, son of King Philip of Macedon, who while living and fighting from boyhood to death he will rise in the eyes of the common people from King to God.
The book has been thoroughly researched by the author, for it gives us a great insight of the life and determination of the man to become invincible, and so fulfilling his dreams and destiny to become the greatest man on earth.
The storytelling is absolutely wonderful and the story itself is narrated by Alexander's boyhood friend Ptolemy, King of Egypt.
The story is a very lifelike tale of an extraordinary man, Alexander the Great, and the story is set as from 344 BC until his death at around 323 BC.
Real characters and great battle scenes are brought to us in a most thrilling way, very much so that they will really keep you captivated from beginning to end.
This is truly an extraordinary effort by the author to bring vivdly to life the heroics, the cruelty and most of all the glory of this exceptional fighting man, Alexander the Great.
Very much recommended, for this is absolutely a massive achievement and certainly a most spectacular effort resulting in this "Magnificent Epic Read"!
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on 4 November 2012
I have always been fascinated about the story of Alexander the Great but never managed to find a book that really brought the story to life. Well I'm pleased to say the wait is over! Christian Cameron tells the story through the eyes of Ptolemy - a boyhood friend and later general in Alexander's army. Despite its nearly 800 pages, the book never flags and makes you feel part of Alexander's "inner circle". How history should be told.
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on 10 January 2013
A very good book, Cameron is fast becoming one of my favorite authors of historical fiction. No one writes an ancient battle scene quite like him.
It gets four, not five stars simply because I am also reading his Long War series and have found the first installments of that slightly better paced and more exciting; I am leaving myself a star to go up for those reviews! Still very highly recommended.
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on 15 February 2012
Written as a narrative of Ptolemy Alexanders leading General and subsequent Pharaoh of Egypt, The story encompasses the early days of Alexander and his rise to power and the great battles fought with Persia and his march to India, carrying the reader to a world where brutality was a way of life, and compassion was not a word,

I loved the Tyrant series and this did not dissapoint,
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on 13 December 2012
Sort of like an ancient james bond movie or a sword and sandals epic delivered in writing with lots of violence, naughty bits and a pretty good attempt at sticking roughly to the historical thread as we understand it with explanations of who, what and why.

I enjoyed it more than I thought I would and it's made me want to revisit 'proper' histories of Alexander's time
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on 17 June 2012
I have a huge respect for Christian Cameron. Firstly, he's an historian and a student of the Classical World with no agenda in his writing. Secondly, he is a blooded, military man. There are historical authors out there who will bleat on about how being a re-enactor means they 'know' what it is like to be in the middle of battle. Well, no. Unless you've served in the military, you can't 'know,' and - like me - are only ever playing at soldiers, guessing and imagining. And that's why I love Cameron's work, because he knows and it bleeds through his work.

Now, I'm not a massive fan of military fiction, reading battle scene after battle scene can become quite tedious. But the plot, the characterization, and political intrigue in this book had me gripped. And I mean Gripped, in a way I've never experienced except for Rosemary Sutcliff's The Eagle of the Ninth.

I think what makes this book special though, is Cameron's refusal to make Alexander heroic. He is flawed, but he's wonderfully human, and sometimes tyrannical. So, if you are looking for you heroes to be heroic, then you are probably better off sticking to Simon Scarrow or Anthony Riches.

I was also very impressed with the way that Cameron has dealt with Alexander's sexuality. Modern writers seem to fall into two camps: I'm not comfortable with this squick, so I'll avoid this subject altogether with a very modern male response; or let me force my own sexual politics onto the Ancient World. Cameron has a deft hand, and great sensitivity to the Classical World.

*I want to also leave a comment about the atrocious amount of errors in my copy [hardback.] It's not the first time I've seen this either, Robert Fabbri's 'Rome's Executioner' was just as bad. So two publishers have now dropped the ball. Please raise your game, guys!
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on 22 February 2012
It takes a little time to learn the characters and the geography of the region but once into this book it fairly sings along at a pace. Wonderfully written and researched with the ability to take you along with the unfolding history so that you think you are there on the battlefield with them.
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on 25 July 2013
As an historical novel this must compare with the best, but it must be remembered that this is a novel, not a history and the author takes many liberties with the facts. For example Alexander is portrayed as an unbalanced psychopath, killing his way accross Asia and not caring one jot for any of his friends or allies. Whilst there may some truth in this picture, I believe that Cameron has taken this to the point of caricature.

The most curious thing I found about the whole book was, the last six years of Alexander's thirteen year reign are 'crammed' into the last hundred or so pages (out of nearly eight hundred); almost as though the author originally intended it to be two books & then changed his mind.
Despite these reservations, it is an absorbing read.
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