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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tides of War: A Novel of Alcibiades and the Peloponnesian War by Steven Pressfield



Accurate, textured historical fiction that just failed to do it for me

Steven Pressfield
Before I get started let me say that I liked The Legend of Bagger Vance absolutely loved Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae. Pressfield is a master of Greek battle scenes, especially from the point of view of the grunt footsoldier in the middle of their deadly scrums.

Pressfield's mastery of battlefield scenes happily continues in Tides of War: A Novel of Alcibiades and the Peloponnesian War. His descriptions of the Athenian campaign against Syracuse was as good as anything in "Gates of Fire".

But, in between there was so much speech-making, reminiscing and quotes from Greek literature that I felt like I was having to slog through it all. On top of it all, the map of "Greece and the Aegean" in the front was insufficient, only listing some of the places mentioned in the book so that one had to guess where they were off to (or look them up in a separate source).

The cover says it is "a novel of Alcibiades and the Peloponnesian War." That is not entirely accurate - I'd say it was just a novel of Alcibiades. If you know nothing of the Peloponnesian War before reading this book, you'll know precious little afterwards, except that there was a plague, a campaign against Syracuse in Sicily, Sparta won, Alcibiades switched sides and the Athenian legal system was fickle (to say the least).

A great companion book to go with this one would be A War Like No Other: How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War by Victor Davis Hanson. It explains the ships, armament and the Athenian plague in great detail. It lacks detail about Alcibiades so they dovetail together nicely.

In short:

While not without merit, this one was not as good as Gates of Fire.

I rate this novel 3 stars out of 5.

This book can be found on Amazon.com here: Tides of War: A Novel of Alcibiades and the Peloponnesian War by Steven Pressfield.

Reviewed on July 30, 2008.

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