The Sacred Band of Thebes lives on, a world away, in this mythic novel of love in war in ancient times. In 338 BCE, during the Battle of Chaeronea that results in the massacre of the Sacred Band of Thebes, the legendary Tempus and his stepson cavalry rescue 23 pairs of Theban Sacred Banders, paired lovers and friends, to fight on other days. These 46 Thebans, whose bones will never lie in the mass grave that holds their 254 brothers, join with the immortalized Tempus and his Sacred Band of Stepsons, consummate ancient cavalry fighters, to make new lives in a faraway land and fight the battle of their dreams where gods walk the Earth, ghosts take the field, and the angry Fates demand their due.
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Epic Fantasy Tale
- Carmen C
A Great Story
The Sacred Band by Janet Morris and Chris Morris is an epic story of love in war that begins at the historical Battle of Chaeronea in 338 BC and ends with a battle for the hearts and souls of Tempus' Sacred Band.
The story is narrated by one of the two co-authors, which makes it ery special. Who knows the hearts of characters better than their writers? Chris Morris' cultured voice is always low, gritty, and controlled, because the soldiers of the Sacred Bands feel they are failing if the lose control of their tempers or their voices. In an accent that might be British or American, this skilled narrator takes you inside the minds of the ensemble cast of lovers and warriors, where the real action is. He makes you feel the suspense, the struggle, and the passion of each character. And the story is full of suspense and action as young recruits in their teens and pairs of male lovers prepare for the battles of tehir lives. Wonderfully written, in a style reminiscent of Homeric myth, these characters love and hate, grieve and triumph with such clarity that you feel you are there beside them.
You can smell the grass, the sweating horses, the blood as the twenty-three pairs of male lovers from the 300-strong Sacred Band of Thebes are saved by Tempus' forces using magical means. You can taste the Thebans' bitter remorse at having lived while their brothers were massacred, their confusion when Tempus, a demigod, takes them to a town full of thieves and murders to train for an undisclosed mission. Although The Sacred Band is the triumphant capstone to the Sacred Band of Stepsons series, which itself began iwith stories for million-selling Thieves' World, this Heroic Fantasy novel can be read and enjoyed without having read any of the earlier books. I know, because that's how I came to this book, with no knowledge of its extensive pedigree.
This story is so gripping, so completely unlike any other, than when I was done I wanted to get the earlier books to reconnect with the Stepsons' world. In a time when sex between men was common, and sex between humans and gods was accepted, this book is never salacious, but gives us a view of ancient Greek sexuality, and sexuality earlier still, all the way back to Akkadian times. Whether you're male or female, if you don't fall in love with Niko, Tempus' partner, I'll be surprised: even the gods fight over his affections. And when the Sacred Band fights, gods fight for them and against them, sorcerers walk with the earth, elementals play their parts, as this magnificent epic plays out. Which brings me back to Chris Morris' stunning narrative: never overwrought, always tuned to the nature of each character in turn, the narrative paces you, draws you in, immerses you in a world of heroes and villains, magic and mystery, that you won't want to leave.
Audible audiobooks have a wonderful feature which lets you vary the speed of your listening without changing the pitch of the narrator. At no time was I tempted to slow down or even speed up the narration. I thought the pacing of this story perfect, unadorned with cheap sound effects or funny voices as it is -- an honest story of extraordinary events told as if the narrator had lived them. Which, since Morris was the co-author, he may have. Listening to The Sacred Band, you hear a Homeric, dark tale that exciting, frightening, passionate, and probing, making you be proud to be human, making you want to be a hero. So what are you waiting for? The Sacred Band will loan you a war horse when you listen to the first page. Swing astride, and have a great ride.
- Al-Khemet Book Club