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3.8 out of 5 stars206
3.8 out of 5 stars
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on 6 July 2011
I am an avid reader of historical fiction and don't normally write reviews as nowadays they all seem to follow the same standard.

However after seeing that there was only 1 review for this book, I felt I had to add my two penceworth as people may be missing the opportunity to read an excellent book.

First things first. This book centers itself around a Parthian, however most of the story is set in Italy, during the uprising of the Spartacus slave revolt. We learn about Spartacus (and Crixus), and how a slave gladiator took on the heart of Rome itself. It is also refreshing to see Rome depicted as the aggressors and that Roman armies, although conquering the known world back then, are not always invincible! Note: This is not a rip off of the tv series!

I would recommend this book to all who love their historical fiction, but especially those who have recently had enough of the bombardment of pro-Roman historical fiction lately!
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on 4 June 2012
Im a fairly avid reader and tend the buy a series where one is available. The Parthian was on my wish list for a while, and so I downloaded the kindle version and settled in to read it on the train to London. The long intro to this review is because I'm struggling to say much that's positive about the book. I found the writing style to lack fluidity (the only book i've read that was worse for this was literally the only english book in a foreign airport once and it was called 'assassin' or similar) and the absolute killer for me is that the kindle version seems to be full of typographical errors and missed words - an absolute nuisance. Full of eastern promise, but just like Turkish delight, not great. Still trying to get a refund, but how do you do that with a kindle version????
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on 20 July 2011
This isn't a bad idea at bottom - Parthian gets captured and joins Spartacus uprising - but it is riddled with so many technical / historical errors that it is a very frustrating read.

Technical / historical errors - you do not "fire" a bow. You "fire" a musket by applying fire to its priming charge, whence the modern term. You "loose" or "shoot" a bow, because there is no firing involved. A horse archer's bow did not, as frequently asserted here, have a range of five hundred yards. It did not, as watching a lot of Hollywood westerns might lead you to expect, kill on impact, or even very often at all. Horse archers did not dismount to fight single combats on foot. "Cookus" is not a plausible Roman name - I can live with the other dodgy names, but there's no shortage of real Roman names to synthesise one from, and a glance at wikipedia would tell you that K was almost unused in the Roman alphabet. As has been noted by others, it's spelt "Caesarea", not "Ceaserea".

The other irritating feature is the veering of dialogue between the "Gadzooks, my liege" type of thing at one extreme, and the "Yo, sure thing, Spartacus - respeck, muh homie!" anachronistic type at the other. In this effort you get both, quite often on the same page and even the same speech. Similarly, we have the narrator talking about "adrenalin" - had they discovered adrenalin in 73BC? - and Spartacus talking about injury being an "occupational hazard".

This is of a piece with the crowbarring-in of bits of often quite irrelevant historical information to show the writer has done some research. For example, early in the book we get a list of the names of the 18 kingdoms that make up the Parthian empire. All we need to know is that it's a federation and that would have done - the 18 kingdoms are never referred to again, so what was the point?

Characters also spend a lot of time telling each other stuff they already know - "You are a fine horseman, Pacorus" - and failing to know to stuff they should already know. Thus the hero, after supposedly defeating Roman legions and units aplenty, picks up a thrown Roman spear or a Roman cavalry sword and is amazed at its novel features, which are helpfully described to him by another character.

Overall, the book feels like it has been written by someone who's seen a lot of Hollywood sword-and-sandal epics, has perhaps read a few Ospreys to get the hardware right, has maybe even played Rome: Total War (PC) - but hasn't read much ancient history. As a result, he hasn't thought himself into the mindset of ancient characters, and you don't feel you're among such. It is never explained why a Parthian nobleman would instantly accept the authority of a slave general, for example, or why a Roman nobleman would maintain a sort of feud with the narrator. Romans regarded gladiators, slaves, and captured barbarians such as the narrator as the lowest of scum, an attitude a Parthian satrap himself would certainly have shared. It's hard to see a Roman regarding any member of a slave army as worthy of attention, much less anger or dislike; slaves were something you stepped on then scraped off your shoe. Each character, essentially, is just a modern American with a Polish-sounding name wearing "a simple white tunic with leather leggings", etc. It's as though the Kubrick version of Spartacus [DVD] had generated a spin-off movie of which this is the novel.

The book also suffers from the defining flaw of the much-derided historical novel, which is that the plot, instead of being driven by character, is determined by an existing historical narrative template. The characters and their thoughts have to be made to fit around the events, rather than being brought to life as credible personalities whose actions plausibly seem to produce the train of historical events. Another gross example of this is 'Hannibal: Pride Of Carthage', whose timeline is simply the Second Punic War, and thus starts, proceeds and ends as the war does even though the main characters' lives are unresolved.

The form can still work, just about, but not done like this. Robert Graves' Count Belisarius (Penguin Classics) is a great example of how to work real historical personages plausibly into a novel's narrative and make it work. Alfred Duggan's Winter Quarters is a similar achievement - it's a beautifully-contrived account of how one Gaul could manage to end up in Crassus' army at Carrhae. It is perhaps easier to bring this off if your hero is a minor player rather than a central character in the historical events described, like Jack Aubrey in the Patrick O'Brian novels.

When I initially reviewed this book I hadn't finished it, but predicted the end would be that, after Crassus defeats Spartacus, the protagonist's son (or the protagonist himself, if he doesn't get a son) will be the one who defeats Crassus at Carrhae (Plutarch's Lives: Life of Crassus [Illustrated]) twenty years later. The book doesn't actually go that far along the timeline, but you can sort of see where an opening for just such a sequel has been left.

If you are in search of a really skilled novelised account of the Spartacus uprising, I warmly recommend the classic Spartacus (Polyg9on Lewis Grassic Gibbon), which does a much better job of humanising the participants. There is a classic scene in which an arrogant Roman centurion's offer to the slave army is along the lines of "Excrement: surrender now and you will all be mercifully stabbed to death, but put me to the inconvenience of defeating you, and the cross awaits you." This is an altogether more plausible account of the ancient mentality than we get here. I finished the book because the era is absorbing and it is at least readable, but it could be done so much better, and often has been.
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on 17 March 2012
Typos all over the place and to be honest I got bored part way through and started skipping pages.

I will not recommend this nor will I purchase the follow on
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on 26 October 2014
I wasn't sure at first whether to download this book or not, I had never heard of the author before and I wasn't convinced that the story would captivate me enough to read it through. What finally turned me, if I'm honest was the price, I thought I had nothing to lose. I am glad to say that my decision to read the book was one of the best decisions I have made in a while.

The book is written from the perspective of a commander in the slave army of Spartacus and it lays out a whole new side to the story. Although the basic story of Spartacus is known, there is a distinct lack of detailed knowledge as the Romans tried to strike all word of the man from the history books. The author has clearly used a lot of poetic licence to fill in some of the knowledge gaps and in the most part, he has made it a credible and believable version of events.

The book is definitely rough about the edges, there are a lot of spelling mistakes and the grammar is a bit suspect at times but the story is so good and so well written that I was happy to see beyond these shortcomings.

I have read countless books set in the time of the roman empire and any books touching on Spartacus were written from the roman side but it was refreshing to see the story unfold from the other side. The book has also finished in a fashion that hints at a whole serious of books continuing the story of king Pacorus and his wife Galliano.

I couldn't put this book down and I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone who like me, reads a lot from this period of history. I have already downloaded the next book in the series and look forward to the story continuing.
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THE PARTHIAN Peter Darman Kindle Edition

Virtually everything that can be said about this novel has already been covered by other reviewers and so I will not repeat a précis of the storyline which is actually very good, well researched with just enough poetic licence to allow the fictional elements to be slotted into the historical framework. Mr. Darmans writing style is generally light and readable although looses pace sometimes and has a tendency towards being repetitive, but is overall an entertaining read.

My big complaint - whilst it is an understandable trap that many writers of historical fiction fall into, the narrative and particularly the dialogue tends to waver between passable period idiom and unmistakable modern speech, perhaps something that experience with writing fiction will be corrected in a later edition or future books. My personal pet hate - when will authors of historical works learn that bows and cross bows are NOT fired, this is a description which can only be applied to FIREarms, from the expression to 'give fire' or 'make fire'. For me this very basic error should not appear in any historical work where an editor has read the proof.

Otherwise, I did enjoy the story and will buy the next volume in the hope that Mr Darman has worked out his style issues.

The Kindle Edition: Could do with re-editing, lots of silly spelling and homophonic errors which are an irritation
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on 21 December 2012
I'm not sure if I have read the same book as some of the other reviewers. This is one of the best stories I have read for a very long time. It certainly plays loosely with historical fact, but this is fiction, folks, that's the point.
The book is certainly long, but I didn't feel that it was padded; the descriptive passages which some others have criticised really worked for me, and added to the overall enjoyment of what is a truly fascinating story. The main characters are strong, and develop well through the book. As far as I can tell, the author has most of the major historical facts correct, and has simply embroidered his story around them.
Of course, one has to deal with the main problem - the awful technical nature of the e-book. As others have pointed out, it is full of spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, and wrong words in the wrong place. It is very off-putting at first, but you do get used to it ( at least, I did). It is a shame, because I think it will put a lot of people off. It is also the reason I only give four stars, as I have a strict rule about this, because poor editing and proof-reading seem to be endemic in e-books. If it were not for this problem, it would have got five stars.
All in all, a great read; please persevere with the editing problems, and I assure you it is worthwhile. I'm off to get the second instalment, hoping that the criticism of this one means less errors in the second!
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on 15 July 2011
Unfortunately this is one historical novel attempting to join the burgeoning proliferation of the ancient/medieval historical fiction genre that simply doesn't cut it. The book suffers tremendously from a lack of proof-reading. Here are some examples:
a) the Oxford Comma makes a liberal and inaccurate appearance throughout - it's hard to find the word 'and' that doesn't have a comma after it
b) the constant misspelling of "Caesarea" (we have Ceasarea over and over again); we get told about Mount Vesevius (Vesuvius)
c) several typos: "I spared with my father, who invariably humilated me" ('sparred', surely?); Crixus is described as wearing "a thick silver torque" ('torc', surely?); added words: "unfair to start a quarrel with the a dwarf" (It is 'the' or 'a'?)
d) there is grammatical confusion: "Romans are a practical people, that and ruthless". I am still unsure what is being said here
Many notions throughout the first 25% of the Kindle version (I confess I got no further, grinding to a slow halt looking for something better to read) are just plain inaccurate. For example, whilst there is an accuracy with Spartacus' henchmen names matching the historical record, there is glaring historical license: there is no record at all tying a Roman Legion losing its Eagle in Parthia around 73BC. No Aquila is recorded as having been lost until 53BC (Carrhae).
The "archaic and forumlaic" speech of the Mesopotamian priests looks like it came out of popular concepts of European Medieval liturgy: "And bless in particular King Varaz and Queen Mihri, who by your infiinte wisdom have produced their son and your servant, Prince Pacorus". 'Amen' is a term used in Islam, Judaism and Christianity whereas the author has his Mesopotamian priests use it liberally in prayers to Shamash: "Praise be to Shamash, and may He bestow great fortune on those who devote their lives to His service. Amen."
There is repetition of description and action. For example, we have Pacorus and Spartacus repeating word for word the whole "don't call me a lord" speech within pages. Most of Spartacus' army are dressed either in "simple..tunics" or "simple...stola". The depiction of females is repetitive. We are told about their 'shapely figures' - breasts always get a mention - but that they possess a 'strong' or 'proud' characters.
All this aside, my main problem is the protagonist - Prince Pacorus. A prince of Parthia, we follow him as he bloods himself in war, learns how to lead his men, comes to understand humility and then leads a "band of brothers" on a killing spree against Roman Syria. He gets himself and his band captured, enslaved and taken away to Italy. By this point (about 18% into the Kindle) I'd settled down to the technical errors throughout and was cautiously moving along. Then it nose-dived when we reached Italy - Rome in the first century BC is a particular speciality of study for me so I was reading it with a very critical eye - and I stopped. I simply didn't care about Prince Pacorus. This is a major problem with any book that is trying to keep pages primarily turning with use of hooks and anticipation rather than Dickens-esque brilliance of language. Generally the characters comes across as very one-dimensional and whilst I know I should give the book a complete read before being able to assess the whole there is a fundamental disconnect if the reader is not being entertained at all.
So...unfortunately, not a terribly good impression. I'd be reluctant to pick up another unless other reviews managed to convince me effort two was a huge improvement.
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on 28 June 2012
I have just finished The Parthian and decided I should include a review.
Despite some of the reviews giving it 1 or 2 stars I enjoyed the book immensely. I read a lot of historical fiction Bernard Cornwell, Conn Igguldon and the like and have found this book to be up there with these writers.
Yes, there are quite a few typos in the book I can only assume they are there when it was converted to kindle format as it looks as though the letters have been read by a computer then matched to the closest thing.
But that said it didn't detract from a well written story. I would recommend this to anyone who can overlook minor errors and who is after a fast paced action packed read. The characters were well written and after a while I felt as though the main character really developed over time. The story though covered before in various films and books about Spartacus was good as it was told from a different perspective and did not focus too much on Spartacus himself.
In summary it's a deserved 4 stars, let down only by the typos and occasional strange phrase.

My advice is to give it a go and next time it might be you doing the reviewing....
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on 12 June 2012
The review title suggests that I am against the book, but I'm not. I enjoyed the story and the way that the characters developed, even though the author sometimes repeated himself in different chapters. My complaint is about the lack of proof reading. I assume that, although I was reading the Kindle edition, that there is a paperback available and that it has been proofed. It seems to me that it is not the case on the Kindle. I can forgive a single error - maybe - but when the number starts to climb then I become annoyed and it takes the joy away from reading the story. In one short sentence there was a repetition of a word that turned the story on it's head. I knew, as the hero was saying it, exactly what he meant but it is not what he said. A half-decent proof reader would have spotted it. So, a nice book spoilt by too many typo errors. I have enjoyed reading since I was a young boy and I really love my Kindle, but I do not like sloppy work in the books that I read and this version is an example of just that. I do have the second book about the Parthian and I hope for better.
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