LION OF MACEDON by David Gemmell
Del Rey, 2006, 516 pages, 0-345-48535-1, Mass Market Paperback, $7.99
Genre: Historical Fantasy/Heroic Fantasy
As I was reading this book, a friend warned me that Gemmell’s Greek series wasn’t the best example of his writing. Having finished the novel, I now understand why he would say that: while the story was interesting, and I liked the characters well enough, I sometimes felt as though I was plodding through a series of never-ending events.
Now, I’ve read my share of novels that follow one character’s life, and I’ve read a number of historical novels as well, so it isn’t as though this storytelling style is foreign to me. However, the book failed to keep a pace that held my interest. The plot seemed continually distracted by mundane events and, though I understand that the progression of the main character’s life and the overarching supernatural plotline were supposed to be interwoven, they sometimes felt at odds.
Lion of Macedon begins in Sparta and follows the life of the half-Spartan, half-Macedonian boy Parmenion. Unbeknownst to him, his path is being manipulated by the seeress Tamis. In her visions of the future, she sees Parmenion become a great warrior capable of preventing the birth and rise of a Dark God who will destroy the world. She attempts to guide him toward that future through any means necessary, and, as time passes, Parmenion grows into an infamous fighter and strategist. However, the threads of his life don’t tie together in exactly the way that Tamis expects, and, in the end, she wonders if she hasn’t done more harm than good.
The plotlines in this novel interested me more when I viewed them as seperate entitties. For instance, I enjoyed the story of Parmenion as a boy, always tormented by the other Spartan children due to his mixed heritage. Reading about the decisions that he made and the relationships that he formed as a result of his childhood experiences was one of the most entertaining aspects of the book. Likewise, his interaction with Philip of Macedon also intrigued me. Philip’s introduction in Thebes promised an interesting relationship between the two men in the future, and the later chapters that include him are some of my favorites.
It was the middle of the book that felt overly-long and unfocused, and, for the most part, I found the sections involving Tamis to be somewhat dull and heavy-handed. Of course, this may be a direct reflection of my feelings toward the character–she was, easily, my least favorite of the entire cast. I simply felt that her presence was, at times, interfering with other portions of the story, and her constant obsession with preventing the birth of the Dark God become somewhat obnoxious.
Granted, if I were in her place, I’d probably be obsessed about it, too.
Still, the supernatural arch didn’t much hold my attention until the end, when the characters were finally able to come together (more or less). Only then did I feel that this thread gained cohesion and momentum.
Of course, this is also where the novel ends. But, from what I understand, Dark Prince (the second book in this duology) contains more of these mystical elements. With the background out of the way, I expect the story will move at a quicker pace.
Despite my issues with Lion of Macedon, I’m still quite curious to read the continuation of Parmenion’s journey (though I’m unlikely to run out and purchase the next book today). Overall there are enjoyable elements to this novel, and those who like historical settings and battle scenes will no doubt appreciate it. Nevertheless, keep in mind that the time will pass at a walk and not a run.
Ironically, as I finish this review, TNT is beginning to air 300.