maricar's Reviews > The Virtues of War: A Novel of Alexander the Great

The Virtues of War by Steven Pressfield
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's review
Feb 25, 09

really liked it
bookshelves: historical-fiction

An imagination of dazzling and epic scope.

With “Steven Pressfield” on the cover, it took less than a heartbeat for me to grab this book—after Gates of Fire, I was more than eager to be caught up again in the author’s enthralling prose of storytelling.

Even with the author’s Note on the Reader expressly stating this as a work of fiction, I soon found myself actually believing that it really was Alexander speaking his own thoughts—as he tasted the first of his numerous victories, received the adoration of his men, and found himself later possessed of an empire that demanded too much for the price of an ambition.

For that alone, I stand in awe yet again of this author’s skill.

Every chapter is vivid with imagery and every conflict a real human drama. The king’s moments of anguish were brutal, eerily honest, and, sometimes, understandable, as he becomes torn between love for his army and the desire to conquer the world beyond India. Indeed, Alexander was thrown in a surreal mix of otherworldliness for his exceptional military prowess and glaring human frailty for succumbing to the snare of arrogance and pride.

There were times when Pressfield’s narration seemed like it was being apologetic of Alexander’s actions towards his men and their growing disquiet, but then I suddenly remember that this book ostensibly echoed only Alexander’s voice; so I suppose it couldn’t help but have that biased feel.

I only wished the book imagined a little bit more outside of the battlefield. Like his relations with his mother during his youth, with his wives (or even just with Roxanne), and with the other soldiers (besides his “dear mates”) who trekked with him across the plains of Asia. There were some parts as well that felt hurried, while others felt too protracted. And, in some instances I was on the verge of becoming almost bored whenever the book took the tone of becoming more of a manual for warfare, what with the winded accounts of the number of infantry, cavalry, archers, etc. But, I suppose you really cannot get to being an exalted commander without being anal about these things...

All-in-all, The Virtues of War is still a highly-recommended read—epic, artistic, and an honest-to-goodness page-turner...
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Quotes maricar Liked

Steven Pressfield
“A cavalryman's horse should be smarter than he is. But the horse must never be allowed to know this.”
Steven Pressfield, The Virtues of War: A Novel of Alexander the Great

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