"We are of opinion that instead of letting books grow moldy behind an iron grating, far from the vulgar gaze, it is better to let them wear out by being read." - Jules Verne
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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae by Steven Pressfield

I know I have little or nothing to add that has not already been said...

...but I'll try.

First and foremost - Gates of Fire is a top-notch bit of writing. It is one of the better books that I have read and is a fantastic example of the value of historical fiction. Pressfield takes the Spartans and makes them real. He takes their struggle for independence against a world-shaking power and makes it not just an academic enterprise, but something the reader becomes invested in. He takes these names from history and makes them flesh and blood for the reader. Is that the way they really were? No. Most likely not. But, no history book can do that definitively either.

This is Steven Pressfield's most popular book for a reason. He makes the Spartans and the battle between the 300 Spartans (and a few hundred other semi-professional Greek soldiers) against the Persians at the Battle of Thermopylae come to life. This battle was most recently featured in the cartoonish (but still great) movie 300, which is not based on this book but, of course, shares many of the same characters and themes.

Steven Pressfield
Pressfield drags you into the story and makes you feel like you are there - in an ancient battle - in the maelstrom of death and destruction and blood and confusion. Pressfield takes a spare skeleton of a story passed down to us in our modern age and makes it do more than just come alive - you almost feel like you were there and that you know these characters personally. That is a true gift.

I have but one quibble - the map in the front of the book is a big help, but it would have been better if it had been more detailed. I wish that it would have included all of the city-states mentioned in the book as well as have included the roads that the main characters (and the armies) take multiple times.

This book can be found on Amazon.com here: Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae

I rate this book 5 stars out of 5.

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