Historical fiction and Egypt! I'm so so so excited! I don't typically read books that aren't in some way being currently discussed or is just plain old mainstream, but hey, I could find my new favorite book (ex: The China Garden). Let's go!
This is Men of Bronze by Scott Oden and the synopsis is provided by Goodreads:
It is 526 B.C. and the empire of the Pharaohs is dying, crushed by the weight of its own antiquity. Decay riddles its cities, infects its aristocracy, and weakens its armies. While across the expanse of Sinai, like jackals drawn to carrion, the forces of the King of Persia watch and wait. Leading the fight to preserve the soul of Egypt is Hasdrabal Barca, Pharaoh’s deadliest killer. Possessed of a rage few men can fathom and fewer can withstand, Barca struggles each day to preserve the last sliver of his humanity. But, when one of Egypt’s most celebrated generals, a Greek mercenary called Phanes, defects to the Persians, it triggers a savage war that will tax Barca’s skills, and his humanity, to the limit. From the political wasteland of Palestine, to the searing deserts east of the Nile, to the streets of ancient Memphis, Barca and Phanes play a desperate game of cat-and-mouse — a game culminating in the bloodiest battle of Egypt’s history. Caught in the midst of this violence is Jauharah, a slave in the House of Life. She is Arabian, dark-haired and proud — a healer with gifts her blood, her station, and her gender overshadow. Though her hands tend to Barca’s countless wounds, it is her spirit that heals and changes him. Once a fearsome demigod of war, Hasdrabal Barca becomes human again. A man now motivated as much by love as anger. Nevertheless honor and duty have bound Barca to the fate of Egypt. A final conflict remains, a reckoning set to unfold in the dusty hills east of Pelusium. There, over the dead of two nations, Hasdrabal Barca will face the same choice as the heroes of old: Death and eternal fame or obscurity and long life.
Yeah so I was watching The Mummy with Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz (one of my all time favorite movie series) and I thought I hadn't read any Egyptian historical fiction yet and so I just googled any books like that, and this one sounded the most interesting out of all the ones I found.
(safe for those who haven't read this book)
This was a nice surprise, I didn't know how'd I feel about this book. What really pulled me was the language, Oden's descriptions might have seemed a little too flowery at times but it's what made this world sound more colorful. Though I will argue that at first I felt the language felt a little too modern for the time it was meant to be set in (526BC), it was easy to get used to and then it wasn't as distracting.
Probably the only element I felt was lacking was the world-building. While I wasn't completely in the dark, I felt more of my concentration spent trying to remember who was who (I'll talk about next) and trying to remember who was on what side, the Egyptians or the Greeks? I was excited for this historical fiction particularly since it was in ancient Egypt, and I was curious to see how Oden would depict the culture and the people. I felt he set the culture up, but I wished that he grew more from it. Even if it made the story a little longer, I want to be invested in the story from every point of view.
Because we have so many sides and very off names (ex: Hasdrabal Barca, Ujahorresnet, Ankhkaenre Psammetuchus to name a few...), there were moments I was more concerned who was scheming against who. Even though a lot of characters come and go, I think that Oden did a good job of characterizing the main characters. However, I felt that because the POV changes from Barca to other main characters it was a bit distracting and not really about Barca's story but all of the other characters-- which wouldn't be a problem but I felt this story was too short to alternate characters. I think he should've left that space to world-building.
In fact, this lack of world building but with political betrayals and massive cast of characters reminded me a lot of A Game of Thrones. However, Martin excelled in the character department (characterization and development), but I do think that Oden did a good job.
I don't really like fight scenes in book, this is a personal opinion, I just can't picture them. Ooo he lunged and arced the sword blade and it stopped in the enemy's chest (that isn't what he puts but I think you get the point). That's probably what made The Last Olympian so hard for me to enjoy, most of the book was fight scenes and I can't picture them. While this was inevitable in a book entitled Men of Bronze, fighting and battles were bound to happen, I only wished that maybe Oden would have maybe designed the battles in a new color and would have let me follow it more. This isn't the only book I find battles/fight scenes hard to read, others I've read are in Eon, The Last Olympian, The Mortal Instrument books and yes, The Lord of the Rings.
While I felt the end was a little predictable, I still enjoyed it nonetheless. And there was a moment I felt that he was making it end to have a sequel, but no, this is a stand-alone novel. And this makes me happy. :)
I think I've been overloading on book reviews, and I can tell I feel my content hasn't been as informative as I want them to be, so until further notice, this may be my last review for a while.
I give this book 4/5 stars.
"Why do we have this urge to see what lies over the next hill, as if it might be better than the valley we are in?"
—Nebmaatra, Scott Oden, Men of Bronze
—Nebmaatra, Scott Oden, Men of Bronze
Next To Read:
The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
River Song's Spoilers:
(unsafe for those who haven't read this book yet, so don't read this section)
Jauharah going after Barca in the end was a little immature for me. I only feel this way because if this were a young adult book, that's what the main female lead would do after disobeying the boyfriend. And then Barca dying-- yeah reminded me a lot of Achilles.
Everyone dying made me sad, but I didn't feel close with anyone (except Callisthenes since he lived more than 50 pages like all the others who died) and yes, reminded me again of A Game of Thrones.
I felt that the Greek gods were more prominent in this culture than the Egyptian gods which made me a little more critical. I was excited to see if they would come to life and make this more fantastic, but the gods weren't mentioned much.
Until Next Time,