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on 16 November 2008
Love and War are two classic themes which are skilfully woven into Manfredi's take on the journey of 10,000 Greek mercenaries whose ancestors were the 300 who defended the Fiery Gates under Leonidas . These are the infamous Red Cloaks who fight to win a battle in 401 BC with consequences they could not foresee.

Abira is a beautiful, young village girl, who is literally swept off her feet by the soldier scout and army chronologist Xeno. She knows he is her ticket out of the Village of the Belt where she could marry a boy chosen by her family & remember with regret this stranger or she could seize her chance ...

So how does this girl cover thousands of kilometres with the Red Cloaks, across extreme terrains, become a pivotal part in this herd of soldiers return only to be stoned & left of dead?

I was given this book as a gift & what an enlightening gift this proved to be. For whatever reason, historic tales have never featured much in my reading lists - however this book may change that! In my naivety, I didn't realise this was story grounded in real events, it matches any Hollywood sword and scandal epic & makes the story all the more enthralling.

Take this book away with you on holiday if you`re crossing difficult terrains or need to immerse yourself in a different battle from your daily commute and let its pace engulf you.
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VINE VOICEon 23 November 2008
Ostensibly narrated by a female camp follower, this book portrays the katàbasis (return) of the Greek mercenaries of Xenophon's famed 'Anabasis' ('Journey Up-country'). The Ten Thousand was not a single homogeneous uniform community, and Manfredi addresses the fact that life in the Greek army was mainly formed by a collection of groups, e.g., the informal companionship of the suskenia (mess) is contrasted with the military unit and loyalties of the lochos (company) and realistically informs the narrative text. But, oh dear! Manfredi does dwell on the casualties and cruelties of battle, and then some ... However, it is notable the writing style - or, to be accurate, translated writing style - has improved somewhat since the earliest novels, although an impression persists that the reader is perusing a 'film treatment' rather than a novel per se. Some sections of the novel are almost Homeric in their descriptive power, but the dialogue between the characters does not live up to these. Manfredi has also invented an imaginary scenario / hypothesis that Sparta meant the 10,000 to either win or disappear which, given the reputation of the Spartans, is not entirely beyond the bounds of possibility. In the context of The Lost Army he also frequently refers back to the ultimately useless sacrifice of the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae, as if for some reason the triumph of the 10,000 was revenge for the past.

Ultimately the straggling army reached the shores of the Black (Euxine) Sea, hailing it in a famed shout of joy: 'thalatta, thalatta' (the sea, the sea!), where they erected a trophy monument to their achievement. However, if you want to know the 'real' Xenophon, go to the original 'Anabasis': apart from the surprisingly easy-to-read original Greek for classics students, there are several excellent translations on the market.
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THE LOST ARMY Valerio Massimo Manfredi 1st edn. 2008 Hardcover

Dr. Valerio Massimo Manfredi, a very eminent Italian historian and the Professor of Classical Archaeology at the University of Bocconi and the author of some dozen or so very successful historical novels, several of which have been used as the basis for screenplays.

THE LOST ARMY was first published in English in 2008 although it had previously been a best seller in Italy under the title `L'Armata Perduta in 2007 and I originally read the original Italian version that year. My Italian really is not that good, but I struggled through with lessons from my wife, and enjoyed the story and so resolved to obtain the English edition when it was published.

The story follows the fortunes of the Greek mercenaries of Xenophon's Ten Thousand, the famed 'Anabasis' to the shores of the Black Sea, as witnessed by a young female camp follower. The tale is good one, but is a bit like the march through hilly country, with ups and downs in the storytelling, and the whole book is rather poorly translated into English, the dialogue in particular being a bit stilted.

I am a great fan of Dr. Manfredi but this English translation is not up to his expected standard, a bit of a bumpy ride for the reader, although the usual highly researched and meticulously accurate historical background gives a fascinating window into a rarely touched upon subject.

I have just re-read this book and I may revisit the original version again, my Italian may have improved marginally and I feel that I enjoyed it more than the English translation.
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on 16 March 2015
An unusual approach to a different telling of 'The Ten Thousand' which has cropped up in various guises. I enjoyed the different perspective this brought and the romance added, rather than detracted, from the story. Good, strong, characters and a very well developed plot line. I almost got frostbite reading some sections! Very well worth reading.
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VINE VOICEon 13 January 2009
This book is exactly the reason I find Manfredi novels frustrating. His books are so up and down in quality for me. The story itself is excellent, and written this time from a totally different angle. He has decided to write this from the perspective of a woman in the army's entourage rather than from the main characters perspective, which gives a unique look at this historic event. Unfortunately however the translation is poor (sorry Mrs Manfredi) which can make the reading at time very painful, almost like a badly dubbed B movie in places. Living in a non native English speaking country, some of the 'mistakes' are glaring errors where a literal translation does not work and sound like bad acting (at typical example might be something like "Xeno said 'Hello' and then Sophos said 'Hello' back to him"). Finally a silly pet hate for me on this novel is that the battle of Thermopylae (or Hot Gates) is constantly referred to as the Fiery Gates for some reason, something I think a different translator would have noticed. So in summary: good idea and interestingly about a historical event that is not often written about, however a very frustrating read.
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on 17 February 2010
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.
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on 13 January 2015
Every writer should know who he's writing for. On the back of this book it says 'Will appeal to Conn Iggulden fans, but the female protagonist will attract a wider audience,' Sorry, but no.
The opening scene when the women returning to her Syrian village is stoned certainly grabs the attention, but once the story settles into her narrative, the voice is so amateurishly inconsistent that all interest is quickly lost. The author seems to forget who the narrator is, giving information she couldn't know, a perspective that may interest a historian but not an ignorant village girl, and referring to the man she lives with as 'the writer' rather than by his name or 'my lover' as any woman would.
This appears to be a slash and burn story of man's aggression wrapped in a thin veneer of woman's sensibility. Unfortunately the veneer begins to peel away quickly after the opening and I gave up reading after six chapters.
Manfredi has had great success writing third person accounts of ancient wars. He should stick to what he knows best, embrace his masculine appeal, and forget the 'wider audience'.
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on 12 February 2009
I have not read any of the author's other books but wanted a change. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, yes the translation is a bit hit and miss at times, it drags in places and hurries in others...but is perfect escapism, every time I picked it up I was transported from the doom & gloom of recession and awful weather to a story rich in romance, history(however loosely based) and a gripping tale of triumph over adversity.
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on 16 February 2009
Bought as a present for my husband who loved it, said he couldn't put it down.
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on 18 May 2010
If I were being generous I'd say Manfredi was let down by his translator, but I suspect the book is a turkey in any language. I found the characters unbelievable aand the sub-plot very dodgy when put against the historical record.

And then there is the translation-the Great kings heralds are put into a 'stupor' by a display of military might by the 10,000. A slave girl is 'depleted'at the end of the day rather than exhausted. I could go on but it gets tedious. certainly no-where near as good as his Alexander books.
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