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Engrossing early life of Parmenion, with a dash of fantasy
on 22 January 2012
I went into David Gemmell's The Lion of Macedon off the back of having read his Troy trilogy, eager for more compelling readable, earthy retellings of history that characterise Gemmell's style. In many ways, I enjoyed The Lion of Macedon as much, if not more, than Gemmell's Trojan trilogy, however, there were a couple of points that I didn't enjoy quite so much, but overall in the big picture I would say this was an enjoyable, worthwhile read, that I am probably going to pick up again at some point in the future.
I really enjoyed Gemmell's writing style in the Trojan trilogy, it came across as solid, consistent, and whilst not exactly epic or high-flown, very earthy and grounded and compulsively readable. I liked the style of writing even more so here. It was less of a tale-by-the-fireside and more of a sweeping epic - and I am usually a sucker for books that present me with a well-written sweepingly epic kind of story. Moreover, the writing really sucked me into the story, and engaged me. I felt immersed in this Hellenistic world, and it felt authentic and realistic.
A lot hinged on the portrayal of Parmenion, and Gemmell really got it right. He's just the right mix of identifiably sensible and empathetically good combined with a nice dash of compellingly dark. His character and personality, for me, really seemed to fit believably with the older Parmenion that shows up in the historical record, and as everyone knows that's one of my big ticks in what I look for in historical fiction. It was also a nice bonus that Gemmell tackled Parmenion's early life in this novel, which historically we know virtually nothing about, and I really enjoyed the experience of "uncovering" that tale of the early years. With the other characters too, Gemmell excels. The wonderful thing about Gemmell's characterisations is that nobody seems to be whitewashed or blacklisted, instead we get various shades of grey, and even seemingly unlikable characters are revealed to have their own understandable (albeit not laudable) psychology and logic behind their actions.
What I didn't enjoy so much was the veering off into fantasy. It was just a bit of a head-scratcher really, because the fantastical elements just weren't necessary to the already engrossing and interesting story - it seemed superfluous. However, in the grand scheme of things, this was a minor point.