Marcus's Reviews > Persian Fire: The First World Empire and the Battle for the West

Persian Fire by Tom Holland
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's review
Aug 29, 2011

really liked it

I think that merits of this book need to be judged from two rather different perspectives. Seen from purely literary point of view, 'Persian Fire' is an excellent book. Holland's writing style is both rich and engaging. What's maybe even more important, he makes all those historical figures come alive. If the book was a pure work of fiction, I probably wouldn't be able to stop prizing Mr. Holland's amazing gift of story-telling.

The thing is though that this is not work of fiction, but retelling of historical events. What's more important, those events took place long, long time ago and we really don't have a lot of primary, or even secondary sources that tell us what exactly happened. Therein lies a huge problem - the simple fact is that we know very little about the conflict between Persia and Greek city-states. This means that as soon as we move beyond most basic facts, we move into realm of speculation. At the same time, the very secure tone of Tom Holland's prose, his unquestioning and definite presentation of events, thoughts, motivations of both individuals and entire nations can easily give the impression that the picture he paints in 'Persian Fire' is what really happened. This is a rather dangerous way to present historical events.

Nevertheless, even if the story weaved by Mr.Holland consists to a large degree of speculations and educated guesses, it is undeniable that he presents a rather compelling and plausible story. Based on that merit alone, I can heartily recommend 'Persian Fire' to anyone interested in the history of the period.
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