3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: The Lost Army (Hardcover)
I am an avid reader of ancient history and a fan of Valerio Massimo Manfredi hence the purchase of The Lost Army. The story begins at an even pace, describing the procurement of a Greek mercenary army (by forces unknown) and their advance deep into enemy territory with the hope of removing Artaxerxes from the throne of the great Persian Empire.
Without giving too much of the story line away, the defeat of the Ten Thousand (and their Persian allies) at Cunaxa leads to an agonisisng and painful withdrawal out of hostile territory that consumes two thirds of the book. As a result, the pace of the story is quite slow and the constant enemy attacks on the column is quite repetitive.
To break this monotony, Manfredi has intertwined a love story involving Xeno and a young Syrian girl by the name of Abira. This manages in parts to provide some light relief from the depressing mood of the book. As the Ten Thousand inch ever closer to safety and head out of modern day Armenia to the shores of the Euxine (Black) Sea, it is here that the book becomes dis-jointed.
After the tedium of never ending withdrawal under attack, in a little over 100 pages the conspiracy surrounding the expedition has been solved, the column has reached relative safety on the Black Sea and is now fast approaching the end. It is here that confusion reigns regarding both Xeno and Manfredi. Where do the survivors go and how does the author finish the story?
I must say at this point I didnt really care, I just wanted to finish the book. After such trials and tribulations for the Ten Thousand, i was expecting a much grander conclusion. After the battle at Cunaxa, the storyline was focused entirely on the Ten Thousand returning home, and when the end finally came it was an anti-climax.
However, portraying the expedition through the eyes of Abira, who thus provides an insight into not only the toil of the fighting men but also the women of the baggage train is not without merit. By doing this, Manfredi provides depth to what could have been a very linear storyline.
On the whole, Manfredi deserves credit for attempting to re-create such a renowned historical event when so little factual information can be gathered. However the uneven pace and lack of structure results in a book that will not last long in the memory of it's readers.