The Falcon of Sparta by Conn Iggulden

Review published on August 8, 2018.

This is an epic tale of fact and fictional events that occurred back in 401 when Persian Kings ruled the empire from the Aagaen to North India.

When Cyrus, brother to the Great King of Persia, attempts to overthrow his reckless sibling, he employs a Greek mercenary army of 10,000 soldiers. When this army becomes stranded as a result of the unexpected death of Cyrus, and then witnesses the treacherous murder of its entire officer corps, the soldiers and people are stranded miles from Greece and must make a determined effort to travel back home whilst under attack.

It is in part a chronicle of war taken from Xenathon’s actual accounts, detailed with events and human encounters from Iggulden’s phenomenal imagination. From it, I have an increased respect for the Spartans as well as those other soldiers that traversed hostile terrains, extreme mountainous temperatures and tests of personal strength and determination in the face of slow starvation, exhaustion and terror. The Persians perhaps didn’t get as much of the respect they probably also deserve – but for the book you do need to be on somebody’s side.

The writing and characterisation are compelling. Each of the few main characters is firmly embedded in the reader’s imagination. The thought processes behind personal and tactical decisions, as well as the responsibility for such large armies, are clearly conveyed. The dialogue is modest but effective, the imagery is indelible. There are great battles, of which the scale for me was hard to imagine given sheer numbers involved. Feeding such numbers, covering such large distances at pace, struck me as a horrifying challenge in itself. Whilst I loved this take, it may also be hard for some readers to enjoy as it was more about the physical journey on a large scale than detailed character development. Having said that, I hated having to put the book down, so consider it to be another Iggulden awesome read for me.

Sara Garland 5/2

The Falcon of Sparta by Conn Iggulden
Michael Joseph 9780718181468 hbk May 2018

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