by Noble Smith
Published by Thomas Dunne Books/Saint Martins Press 2013
The God Of Death was in the stadium that blistering summer day. He was among the forty thousand impatient men stomping their feet, calling for the pankration championship to begin That is what warriors would say years later – during the endless war between Athens and Sparta — when they talked about seeing the ill-omened match between the new fighters known as the bull and the Centaur. – Papyrus fragment from the “Lost History” of the Peloponnesian War by the “Exiled Scribe”
Welcome back to Greece, 431 BC. This is the first book in the Warrior Trilogy by Noble Smith. Its the beginning of the war between Sparta and Athens for the ultimate control of Greece, and caught in the middle is the city-state of Plataea. Beautiful Plataea home of the young warrior Nikias and his grandfather, General Menesarkus.
Nikias is the perfect hero for this story. He’s young, impulsive, quick to act, passionate and hot headed. Dreaming of Olympic glory, he trains hard for pankration (no holds barred fighting); but more than glory he’d love to have the proud eye of his grandfather upon him. Nikias does, however have the eye of his beloved and beautiful Kallisto. While the two share an intimate moment, they find themselves interrupted by Kallisto’s brothers seeking revenge on Nikias for defiling their sister. When, Kallisto’s brother Lysander dies from an accidental injury; Nikias is arrested and faces exile for murder. As if this is not enough, a traitorous act leaves Plataea open to a violent attack.
This novel heats up, as the Plataean’s forced to fight for their lives in a battle that will set the tone of the impending war between Athen’s and Sparta, deal with betrayal from one of their own. Nikias must now grow up and be the man he’s been stuggling to become, and instead of battling in an arena, he is now in a battle to save his city, his family, and the woman he loves. Even his own life is at stake.
This one is an absolute ten on all sides. After having read “The One Armed Warrior” which is the prequel to this novel, my expectations were high for this novel. Smith carried through with the same force of writing on this novel as in the prequel and left me craving the next in the trilogy.
Nikias, our hero the perfect mix of boy becoming a man. Struggling against his own youth to become his own man, wanting so much to prove himself in the eyes of his grandfather, and at his darkest moments his heroism truly shines. Equally impressive in this piece is Menesarkus, hero of the Persian war, the “Bull Of Plataea”, now getting on years, fighting his own demons as his body no longer allows him to live as he’s accustomed; and during a skirmish with Nikias that he comes to this realization
Menesarkus realized, with a sinking in his gut, that he was afraid of his grandson. He did not want to fight him anymore today. He did not want to be beaten.
The relationship between these two will be a hit to fathers and sons the world over, its that classic struggle of the young man to gain his independence, while still needing that approval, all tied up with the impetuousness of youth. Its also the story of the older man, wanting to remain strong and fearless in the eyes of his family, fighting a body that age has taken its toll, and while the mind is young and fearless, the bones and muscle are aged and weak.
This one heats up, as the battle for Plataea comes to life. Smith delivers a thrilling battle, and pulls no punches when it comes to the brutality of war in ancient Greece. The scenes are gritty, strong, sometimes grotesque and paint a vivid picture of what it would have been like to be trapped within your own walls, with no way out except through the enemy who holds the gate. One truly feels that these characters are in a battle to save their home and lives. Risking certain death to overcome their enemies; betrayed by one of their own.
The writing in this piece is bold, the characters are strong, and even in the midst of a violent battle, you are drawn into the romance between Nikias and Kallisto, the relationship between Nikias and his grandfather, and many more. Smith’s characters are real, in that they all carry their own fears, frustrations, secrets, plots plans and agendas. And not to give the tale away, but one even finds the most traitorous of them all can pull a little compassion from the reader as the story unfolds.
Brilliantly written, it is one that could be read as a stand-alone novel, or as part of the trilogy. Smith has developed in its pages sufficient story lines to easily carry over into a second piece, while giving the one time reader everything they need to thoroughly enjoy this as a stand alone piece. That said, if you aren’t chomping the bit for the 2nd book by the end of this one, this reader would be more than surprised.
Ruins of Plataea. (image from http://www.militaryhistoryonline.com/ancient/plataea/ )
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Top notch! Loved it! Very anxious to read the second novel. This one will be a pleasure to read for anyone with an interest in Ancient Greece. Definitely has a home in my library and is on the list for re-read! I will be reading the full trilogy as they hit the bookstores, so let me know your thoughts on this one when you’ve read it,
Noble Smith is an award winning playwright, a documentary-film executive producer, and the media director of an international human rights foundation. Other works by Noble Smith include Stolen from Gypsies and Wisdom of the Shire, A Short guide to a Long and Happy Life. Smith Lives in the Pacific Northwest with his wife and children. Want to know more about Noble and the Warrior Trilogy? Check out http://www.thewarriortrilogy.com/