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4.3 out of 5 stars
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Historical fiction is often seen as a poorer cousin to fiction; a land of hearty heroes, lovely ladies, villainous villains and frequent use of words like "lambent". We go there for the historical subject not necessarily the deathless prose. In the hands of a master like Gore Vidal the two genres join together again, and I believe that it is to these heights that Tim Leach aspires.

In this risky endeavour he takes as his subject King Croesus of Lydia whose fate serves to remind us all of the fickle nature of fame and power. To better illustrate this he permits Croesus to live beyond that (previously fatal in many versions) pyre as a slave. His Croesus is a thinker, the kind that become kings by inheritance not by their strong right arm. As such he allows an examination of the nature of kingship and slavery since he, alone, has experienced both. Does it work? Well there's a way to go to reach Graves and Vidal, yet he has o'erleaped the standard fare handily. Croesus is an unsympathetic character in many ways, and Leach wisely does not admire him, but examines him.
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Being familiar with Solon's writings, and knowing the story of Croesus from Herodotus, and being familiar with Cyrus of Persia and the fall of Lydia, I wondered before starting this book whether that previous knowledge would be a help or a hindrance to enjoying this book. I'm really glad that I have read this because even if you know the stories beforehand or not, the stories themselves are so worth knowing, and the writing of this book is so wonderful that it is a joy and delight from beginning to end.

The author has taken familiar stories, familiar names and circumstances that are probably familiar to many of us (to be as rich as Croesus, the fall of Babylon, the story of Atys and Adrastus) and woven them into a narrative that is as fresh as the stories of Herodotus must have been so long ago, to his audience. This is a rare talent, to take long-established stories and myths and legends and offer them a freshness and a newness that makes them shine all over again.

This is a great book; a great historical novel, a great retelling of some familiar stories, a tale that offers the search for what constituted happiness in the ancient world; if, as Solon would have it, the sum of a man's happiness cannot be known until he is dead and his life weighed up to that moment, then maybe Croesus' life, tragic as it seems, offered him his own road to a form of happiness that he never thought to find.

Absolutely fantastic; utterly wonderful and a beautiful and brilliant novel. I hope the author has more books up his sleeve, I look forward to reading them.
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on 18 April 2014
I have just finished reading this book and how I wish there was more…….I truly did not want it to end. This is an incredible book, a story of redemption but also acceptance of human frailty. A sad and tragic tale without being morbid, it encourages the reader to ponder fate and the choices we make in life. It provokes thought and questions our motives. Croesus is a lonely figure,a complacent King but seeking the happiness not found in his riches. He looks for salvation in later years and finally understands it lies in his own hands. The other characters are interesting, I particularly found Cyrus fascinating and quite compelling. Isocrates is a gentle soul,a shadow behind Croesus who provides his conscience and has his own sad story. Overall, this book will leave the reader with a poignant sense of loss, a beautiful and tantalising story which clings on like the wisp of a dream we try to recall. You will be the richer for reading The Last King of Lydia.
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on 16 January 2014
I've recommended this novel to many people, and I always describe as an "intelligent adventure." Leach obviously loves moral puzzles and political conundrums more than he does gory battles. That's not to say that there isn't a satisfying amount of blood here as well, though, including an unforgettable scene where the streets literally flow with it. The novel centers on two wonderfully nuanced and fully realized characters--a king and his slave--and a single all-important question: how is one to measure his own happiness?

(By the way, I've read an advance copy of the sequel to this novel, due out in 2014, and it's fantastic, maybe even better than Part One--higher body count and, since this is the ancient world we're talking about, that means thousands.)
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on 29 April 2015
The Last King of Lydia deals with a period of time about which many novels have been written, but using an interesting narrative style. We read about the fall of King Croesus, and as narrated here the author puts a quite different spin on the famous figure from ancient history. I particularly liked the way various key figures were given time to lead the narration. The use of different voices helped maintain yet vary the pace and provide diverse perspectives - nice. I enjoyed the section set in Babylon; a novel actually using Babylon as a key setting (in the latter stages of the book) was a first in my limited readings of historical novels.
Whilst war and battles, as always in such historical novels, loom large throughout this tale, there are moments of quiet reflection and thoughtful conversations. The main and minor characters all felt real to me, and had pertinent views and opinions to offer; we are given plausible insight into the lives of slaves, officials, kings, and courtiers.
Croesus defintely became a king, a man, a husband, a father, and a person for me, not simply someone from ancient times. It's not a vast tome but the story has plenty of 'meat'.
I know wars will feature in such novels, but I do tire of them. I wonder if it is possible to write a war-, battle-, skirmish-free novel set in ancient Greece, Lydia, Persia, Mesopotamia, and surrounding states and countries...quibble, quibble. Defintely worth buying, reading and keeping to re-read in a couple of years.
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VINE VOICEon 14 May 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
When King Croesus is defeated by King Cyrus of Persia, he is sentenced to die, burned at the stake. As the flames begin to rise, Croesus reflects on his life and the fascinating encounters and episodes he endured to bring him to this moment.

'The Last King of Lydia' is a fantastic historical novel; carefully researched, well written, thought provoking and highly evocative of the history and myths of the period. Characters are well developed and the plot moves at a sound pace.

A thoroughly enjoyable, entertaining and thoughtful read!
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on 1 February 2014
I won this book in a raffle at the Warwick Festival of Writing and actually took it on holiday with me at the beginning of January this year. I was absolutely hooked from the first page. The beginning was strong, the storytelling brilliant and I will look out to buy another book by this author in the future (unless of course I win another one in a raffle!)
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on 19 April 2013
he year is 558BC and King Croesus is at the height of his powers. He rules over an empire unrivaled in power and wealth and myths and rumours abound about the vast treasuries he has constructed in his palace.

When the Athenian philosopher Solon visits his court, Croesus has an opportunity to ask him anything he likes. The question he asks is thus: `Who is the happiest person you have ever met?' Solon's answer leaves Croesus perplexed. `You can only measure a man's happiness when he is dead.'

How can he not be the happiest person he had met? Was he not ruler of a vast and rich empire? Did he not have a loving queen and a strong heir? Dismissing Solon from his mind, Croesus turned his attention to a threat from the east.

The Persian Empire is on the move and Croesus decides he has to confront this threat head on. Leading his army out he comes up against one of histories great conquerors.

King Cyrus of Persia will destroy Croesus hopes and dreams and as he awaits his execution atop a pyre, his city being pillaged, his wealth gone and his wife and son dead. Solon's words will come back to haunt him `You can only measure a man's happiness when he is dead.'

In my alternative life as a book reviewer I am very lucky in getting some great book to review. Regular readers of this blog will know I tend to only review books I have enjoyed and think other people will enjoy as well.

Every now and then I will get a book that is so good that I'm almost too scared to review it in case readers think I have been paid by the author or publisher. The Last King of Lydia is a book that falls into this category.

This is a book without large set piece battles or gallons of blood and core but studies the human psyche and emotions.

The first half of the book deals with Croesus as king and how he deals with ultimate power and the relationships he builds with his family, subjects and slaves alike.

We watch as greed and power lead him to gamble his vast wealth and his very kingship in a confrontation with Persia.

The second half of the book then covers how Croesus handles the humiliation of losing everything he held dear and the loss of status.

I particularly enjoyed the relationship between Croesus and Cyrus, the Conqueror and the conquered in an uneasy alliance. The personalities of the two men couldn't be more different and I think that is a compliment to the writing.

Cyrus is strong, dominate, ruthless and power oozes from him, he make Croesus seem weak and feeble and a bit pathetic. It is a beautiful comparison between someone who believes he is all powerful coming up against a true giant of a man who will make his mark on history.

This is a beautiful re-telling of Herodotus's famous tale and I don't think I can recommend it highly enough.

It may only be April but this astonishing debut book from Tim Leach is without doubt my book of 2013.
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on 21 August 2013
I'd never heard of Tim Leach before and mainly purchasd this book as it was inexpensive and seemed ok. However, once I started I was completely hooked. It's a fantastic historical tale with with some really vivid characters. Mr Leach, I will certainly be on the look out for more of your books when they come out!
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on 8 June 2015
I just loved this book from the first page to the last. Croesus has built his empire on his vast wealth, and it is with his riches that he equates happiness; indeed, he must surely be the happiest man alive? But his swift downfall at the hands of Cyrus takes away everything. As fate would have it, his life is spared and he becomes a slave to Cyrus, changing the way he views his life. Yes, it's an historical novel, but so much more - it asks the fundamental question that perplexes us all at one time or another; what is happiness and how can it be gauged? Is it in the pursuit of power for its own sake, does it lie in wealth, or somewhere else entirely? Do master and slave use different criteria to judge happiness? Whatever the answers, this was a thought-provoking novel, and the sequel is firmly on my to read list.
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