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Gordon breaks his own record
on 22 May 2012
I'll state for the record that Gordon emerged from the same writing-feedback site as I (and a few others), and have since come to know him through Twitter too. But this fact in no way influences the following review, as nepotism does not float my boat. Feel free to simply disregard it if you must, but you do so at your peril.
I gave Gordon's first book 5 stars. I honestly thought it was that good. Reading it just made me jealous over the relative quality of my own work. Now that I've read Strategos, I wish I'd given it 4 stars, as this book is significantly better and I can't reflect that in the ratings, so there you go. Both fab books, but this is better.
Strategos seems to be the work where Gordon's writing has matured into a solid style that is easily the challenge of most established Histfic authors. I feel you will find it hard to tell that this is not a traditionally published novel. Even the shaky editing and typos that are a regrettable feature of self-published work are suspiciously absent. I think I found three or four typos in the whole book, which is a number I expect to find in any work. And the editing? Well it's tight and on-track all the way through.
The story is complex and deep, involving a twisting tale of intrigue and revenge that entwines the protagonist's path all against the background of a great and tumultuous time of desperate military actions to preserve a dying empire. What impressed me particularly is that there is no Good guy/Bad guy black-and-white attitude in Strategos. It is hard not to find likeable and appreciable traits in the bad guys. Not all the good guys are that good. Indeed the main antagonists are ostensibly on the same side as the hero.
The story had a plausible tale of personal growth and overcoming the most outrageous obstacles, the unit cameraderie a reader tends to seek in any military histfic, scenes of horror and glory, but pulls no punches and at times leaves the reader feeling a little hollow and angered at events.
For those of you who like the Byzantine era, I'm sure you'll like this. Gordon's done a great deal of research and it shows (I'm not knowledgable enough on the subject to find any errors if there are any, so I can't tell if it's mistake free. You'll have to do that yourself and comment appropriately). What I CAN say is that if, like me, you have a deep love of the Roman era or the Medieval/Crusading era, you should find this fascinating, as it is an era that is a definite crossover. To have a man who is the descendant of the Roman legionary, armoured in a late-Roman fashion, facing an enemy that would not seem out of place fighting the crusaders in Outremer is a fascinating thing.
There is also an overtone of spirituality and strangeness that threads throughout the story, pointing at a greater destiny that must become apparent in a future book.
If I have a criticism (and it's really hard to find one) it was that the ending was a little abrupt. I was expecting a sort of wind-down epilogue, but the plot wrapped up and the story ended with a sharp stop. In the grand scheme of things I hardly think this is a reason to put anyone off, so go ahead and read the book and see for yourself. And, since indie authors are oft accused of promoting one another blindly, please do comment on this review if you think I've been fair and on-the-ball.