Chelsea's Reviews > Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae

Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield
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's review
Aug 12, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: history, military, reviewed, own, favorites, war
Read from March 23 to August 10, 2012

Gates of Fire is an awesome book, and let me tell you why.

I bought this book over a year ago on a recommendation from one of the best professors I have had to date after we finished our two-class coverage of the Greco-Persian War. Having loved the movie 300, I made a note to look it up the next time I stopped into Barnes & Noble.

I started it three times, and only on the third time did I force myself to keep reading. This isn't because the book is bad, it's just a lot of work. Actually, that's an understatement. Pressfield does an amazing job crafting a feeling, and the imagery kind of falls to the wayside. It was a major change of pace from my normal leisure reading, which I prefer to be extremely fast-paced and vivid. Xeones' first-person narrative is informative and interesting, but--in comparison to what I like--slow, almost horrifically so, and that was my only tiny objection.

Everything else? Loved it.

Spartan culture was insane. 300 really didn't cover the extent of it. Pressfield digs into the psyche of both the trainers and the trainees, and the role played by every man in a Spartan phalanx. The strict nose-/face-/everything-to-the-grindstone regimen that the soldiers go through isn't just for the soldier--it's for the everyman, as we find out through the narrator, Xeones. He's an outsider who volunteered his way into the inside at a very young age to be hardened and streamlined into Spartan culture as a squire.

I must admit that the eloquence of the narrator surprised me, especially after learning his background. Part of me thanks Pressfield for further insight into ancient Greek as a whole (the little I know about it fascinates me), but the other part doesn't know how to handle the insane diversity of language in just under 400 pages. It's all generally incredible, of course, and it was hard to believe this is fiction.

There isn't much else I can say that hasn't already been said. Hats off to Steven Pressfield for writing a book that made me both dread finishing it and cheer when I actually did arrive at the end. The characters were more than just two-dimensional people on a page--there was a depth to the story that, when added to every other factor that made me love this book, seriously impresses me. Gates of Fire is a solid story I'd recommend to any student of history or a lover of fantastic war stories. And, if you liked this one, I'd highly suggest reading Eaters of the Dead by Michael Crichton, which is a historical retelling of Beowulf.

Now excuse me while I go change my major from English to Linguistics.

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Reading Progress

07/06/2012 page 105
27.0% "Pressfield is a genius. There is no reason why I shouldn't be reading this book faster."
07/11/2012 page 154
40.0% ""[...] Bruxieus had once quoted to Diomache and me: that other cities produce monuments and poetry, Sparta produces men.""
07/20/2012 page 209
54.0% "I'm stuck in this horrible realm of pain and understanding. Spartan culture is insane."
08/01/2012 page 245
64.0% ""To call it aphobia, fearlessness, is without meaning. This is just a name, thesis expressed as an antithesis. To call the opposite of fear fearlessness is to say nothing. I want to know its true obverse, as day of night and heaven of earth.""
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