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For the modern reader, looking to gain insight to ancient military science without a lifetime of study (and on a recreational timeline), I can recommend no better work than "The Virtues of War." The combination of strategy and spectacle, tactics and entertainment found in this novel have few equals in the genre of historical fiction.
Furthermore, never has there been a more romanticized historical character than Alexander of Macedon, recreated in so many works of fiction which range from slanderous to sycophantic, it becomes impossible to single out where the historical accuracy truly lies. This novel creates an Alexander, that for the first time in all the works involving this historical paradigm of a person that I've read, in which I actually believed the character could have achieved what the real man actually did.
Pressfield is a prodigy of historical insight, constantly lusting to relive these ancient moments himself, that he brings the reader along for a ride so palpable each of us feels like a veteran just off campaign once we put the book down. I've been a Pressfield fan for years now, and I thoroughly enjoyed both The Gates of Fire, as well as the less popular Tides of War, but I can say without conviction that "Virtues" is Pressfield's masterpiece. There are vast campaign details which may frustrate the reader interested purely in the fiction. But for others like myself, looking to combine the historical account with insight and tangibility only possible in fiction, I can recommend no better work than "The Virtues of War."
17 of 17 people found this review helpful
I cannot say enough about this book. Pressfield is excellent. If you like historical fiction, if you like detailed battle descriptions that do not depend on gore, if you like the feel like you are actually in the culture and time of the characters, this is a book to get.
12 of 12 people found this review helpful
I have listened to this book over and over and over again....magnificent!
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
(I give a good book 3 stars out of 5, so 4 out of 5 means very good!)
This book isn't quite what I expected, but it is still well worth a listen.
What it's not is historical fiction in the more traditional format - the narrative moves around quite a bit, and unless you are already familiar with Alexander's battles and wider story, you'll struggle to keep pace.
But I don't think it's trying to be that type of historical fiction. What it is - and does very well - is re-create the main battles that he fought and won. Each account lasts well over an hour, really drawing the listener in to the action. The rest of the book is more like a first person diary of key moments in Alexander's life, and why he made the decisions he did. There are several speeches included - I'm not sure how closely they resemble what we already know, but they certainly felt atmospheric.
A very minor criticism would be that the narrator - whilst giving good pace to the story and keeping the listener engaged throughout - pronounced one or two names very differently to the recognised format. Perhaps there's no way of knowing how these should sound! But it did throw me a bit....
Overall, it's excellent at re-creating the military aspects of Alexander's conquests, and explaining what drove him ever further forward. Highly recommended if you are already familiar with the Alexander story.
2 of 3 people found this review helpful