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The Last King of Lydia

(Series #1)

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  234 ratings  ·  43 reviews
A defeated king stands on top of a pyre. His conqueror, the Persian ruler Cyrus, signals to his guards; they step forward and touch flaming torches to the dry wood. Croesus, once the wealthiest man of the ancient world, is to be burned alive. As he watches the flames catch, Croesus thinks back over his life. He remembers the time he asked the old Athenian philosopher, Solo ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published April 1st 2013 by Atlantic Books (first published 2013)
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really liked it Average rating 4.00  · 
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I was excited when I found out there was a book written about Croesus. He’s such a fascinating figure at the boundary between history and myth. Herodotus and other Greek authors recounted a lot of myths that built up around him and threw some of their own in for good measure. Larger-than-life stories of quests and prophecies and inconceivable wealth. A veritable golden age with a tragic king at the head. Trying to find some sort of historical truth in all that and making it feel believable is go ...more
Judith Starkston
Apr 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
Rich as Croesus
The Last King of Lydia is a thoughtful, philosophical novel. Engaging things happen, but it is clear that the events are less important than what those events mean or how they can be interpreted.

Tim Leach has taken the Greek legend of Croesus, the extravagantly rich king of Lydia whose river, the Pactolus, flowed with gold, and retold it in a smart, meaning-laden manner that I enjoyed. This is a book that pursues the big questions, “What is the meaning of life?” “What makes a man

I almost feel guilty about the rating I’ve given this book. It’s a debut novel that the author clearly worked very hard on, it covers a little-explored figure of history and legend, and I can positively see the pride and ambition oozing from the pages in the philosophical themes… but it fell flat for me. I give it points for being decently written, for the interesting choice of Croesus as subject matter, and for having the determination to try and be a deep, thought-provoking book – I just didn’
Keith Currie
To base a novel on the life of Croesus king of Lydia might appear to be easier, I suggest, than it actually is. As a study on the nature of hubris and the cultivation of humility there is plenty of raw material in the pages of Herodotus, as well as in other moralistic writers of the ancient world. But that presents problems. How far should the novel follow Herodotus' story and where should it diverge? If Herodotus' details are accepted and used, then is the novel simply some sort of modern homag ...more
Jun 19, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5pts rounded up to 4 Stars as it got better as it went & really grew on me & you can't ask for more than that from a story!

First of all thanks to Goodreads as I received this Free as part of a Giveaway.

On picking this up I thought great, Greco-Persian wars, battles, politics, Woo-Hoo! And so I began to read, the opening chapter called The Pyre - Its a flashback style, thats ok! All good & then we have the Philosopher & its about the King of Lydia & his musings about his life, about being a Kin
My good friend Andy recommended this book to me.

I found it a little hard to get into, mostly because Croesus is an unlikeable sod. However, I persevered and ultimately became caught up in the story.

I know the story of Croesus from my reading of Herodotus, so nothing that happened in the story came as a real surprise.

What I liked about the book was the philosophical themes of it. Hubris. Freedom vs slavery. The nature of slavery. The nature of freedom. All of which combined to make "The Last King
Apr 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
he year is 558BC and King Croesus is at the height of his powers. He rules over an empire unrivaled in power and wealth and myths and rumours abound about the vast treasuries he has constructed in his palace.

When the Athenian philosopher Solon visits his court, Croesus has an opportunity to ask him anything he likes. The question he asks is thus: ‘Who is the happiest person you have ever met?’ Solon’s answer leaves Croesus perplexed. ‘You can only measure a man’s happiness when he is dead.’

How c
Beautifully and poetically written novel about the 6th century B.C. King Croesus, the "last king of [the country of] Lydia". In his war with Persia he is defeated and reprieved from being burnt to death on a pyre. Before the war, we first see him speaking with a philosopher, Solon of Athens. What is the purpose of life? What is the meaning of happiness? These questions occupy his mind all through his life. He becomes a slave and advisor to Cyrus, the Persian king. The author never gives these qu ...more
This is probably the best historical fiction I've read so far. It's intelligently written, often poetic, compelling and even though I knew the story of Croesus, it was full of surprises. It is so thoughtfully written. Important events are seen from the perspective of unexpected characters which gives the book so much more depth. All of the main characters are multidimensional, easy to relate to and to empathise with, and historical fact is woven seamlessly into the storyline. I really enjoyed th ...more
Mar 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An exceptional historical novel, a brilliant and fascinating retelling of the life of the fabled king Croiseus of Lydia, the richest man of the ancient world, and a study on the meaning of happiness.
Jun 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
I received this book free as part of a Goodreads Giveaway. I will only discuss general aspects of the book rather than specific plot points and therefore consider it a spoiler-free review.

I haven't read historical fiction for a while, although I would call myself a fan from a distance. This was really a great book to get me back into the genre. It is tremendously well researched, readable and compelling. It follows the life of Croesus, the titular Last King of Lydia, and how he deals with life
B. Rule
Jul 03, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thought this was a really wonderful modern retelling of Herodotus' account of Croesus, written in a simple but beautiful style that maintains a suitably classical feel while also importing some modern touches. The novel is largely concerned with the ancient philosophical problems of human flourishing. The adventure of Croesus is a heroic quest for the meaning of happiness, and along the way he considers the nature of fate, freedom vs. slavery, and what constitutes good political order. Croesus ...more
Nov 07, 2013 rated it liked it
A retelling of Herodotus' story about one king's search for happiness.

Is it wealth?
Is it a having strong, intelligent, capable male heir?
Is it an unconquerable empire?

On the brink of what would be an awful way to die in the hand of an enemy, Croesus realized it is none of those.

Having "known" how the story line would progress beforehand, I found the early part of the plot to be quite bland and unexciting. I also feel that the language is quite light; I found myself going from page to page quite
Jun 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I just loved this book from the first page to the last. Croesus has built his empire on his vast wealth, and it is with his riches that he equates happiness; indeed, he must surely be the happiest man alive? But his swift downfall at the hands of Cyrus takes away everything. As fate would have it, his life is spared and he becomes a slave to Cyrus, changing the way he views his life. Yes, it's an historical novel, but so much more - it asks the fundamental question that perplexes us all at one t ...more
Graham Crawford
Jun 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
A really interesting book. It hovers between being a well researched Historical Fiction and a book that explores philosophies of life & what makes us happy. It was a stroke of genius to set this in the time and place of the invention of currency, putting an interesting spin on the old story "does wealth make you happy".

The prose is quite simple but there are some really beautiful and poetic descriptions of life that lift it above the ordinary.
Aug 30, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2015, modern-lit
An impressive debut novel centred on the famously rich king Croesus of Lydia. On one level a page-turning romp through the ancient world, on another it is a moving reflective human story full of ideas on the nature of happiness, fulfilment and life itself. I can't claim any expert knowledge on the historical accuracy and I suspect Leach occasionally allows a few modern perspectives to infiltrate the minds of his characters, but for me that is forgivable.
Rob Wickings
Jun 03, 2013 rated it it was ok
Beautifully written and solidly researched but painfully slow. I very nearly gave up on it a couple of times. Some reviewers have expressed astonishment that this is a debut novel - for me it had all the flaws common to the neophyte writer. Characterisation was sparse, and the story unengaging. Disappointing, considering the praise it's been getting from sources I know and trust.
charlotte, (½ of readsrainbow)
actual rating: 2.5
you know those books that objectively you're aware are good, but you just don't enjoy them, either because you're not in the right mood or it's not your kind of book? that's how i feel about this one, which is a shame because i think i would have liked it in the right mood.
Readers who revel in the material details of period costume, weapons and mores may be disappointed in this fabulistic treatment of the ancient king whose name became synonymous with wealth. However, Leach's tale offers a moving answer to the question, "Who is the happiest person on earth?" Leach's characters are believable and the historical context feels real. Although I do appreciate the costume-pageantry details of Colleen McCullough's "Masters of Rome" series or the grit of Robert Harris' Ci ...more
Gibin Mathew
Nice read!

More of a Philosophical novel.It is very thoughtful and provocative and a journey in search of happiness and happy life from the eyes of king who lost his kingdom and serve as slave to his conqueror. The king turned slave finally discovers truth of happiness . Though written in a historical background,I am not sure about the authenticity of this story. More over the characters seems much modern and liberal in the outlook.

The story revolves around the Lydian king "Croesus" who was defea
Oct 02, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I have made several attempts on this book. I just cannot get the rhythm of the narrative or the characters.
Feb 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have had this book by my bed for years and never read it until now, I am so glad I did because it was brilliant and evocative. Off to read the next!
Perry Whitford
The tragic story of King Croesus, the man who thought himself to be the happiest of all men because he commanded the vastest stores of wealth and treasure, yet ended up heirless and dethroned, an adviser-slave at the mercy of his Persian conqueror, Cyrus.

Early in his life, Croesus's father Alyattes, who popularized coinage, taught him to believe that wealth was more valuable then anything else in life, more precious than love:

"With these riches, what is there to do but go to war?"

A story of the
Jo Barton
Mar 05, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This interesting historical novel takes the mythological story of King Croesus, who after his defeat by the Persians in the 6th century B.C, faces death by execution. Reprieved at the last minute by Cyrus, the Persian King, to whom Croesus becomes a slave, allows a glimpse into a mythological world which abounds with treachery and deceit on a grand scale.

Lyrical and poetical, the narrative is peppered with fine observations, and the reworking of the tale of Herodotus about the search for true ha
Aug 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Tim Leach tells the story of Croesus, the "last king of Lydia" starting at the point of Croesus's defeat by the Persian ruler, Cyrus, and then going back and forth in time so we find out about events leading up to the defeat and Croesus's fate afterwards. The novel covered a new period of history for me and I liked the way Tim Leach depicted the relationships between the various characters, especially between Croesus and Cyrus. Croesus's character is explored in all its dimensions - at times he ...more
Aug 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
A very good retelling of Herodotus' story of Croesus. It covers a number of well known stories - Croesus' wealth, Cyrus' hidden childhood, the fall of Babylon. It includes all the expected bits: the ambiguous delphic prophecy, the pyre and his 11th hour rescue etc. and has a cast of well known names Solon, Cyrus, Gyges the mute son and many other half-familiar names. The story is fleshed out & given more substance by the addition of Isocrates and Maia:two of Croesus' former slaves who become his ...more
Vestal McIntyre
Jan 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've recommended this novel to many people, and I always describe as an "intelligent adventure." Leach obviously loves moral puzzles and political conundrums more than he does gory battles. That’s not to say that there isn’t a satisfying amount of blood here as well, though, including an unforgettable scene where the streets literally flow with it. The novel centers on two wonderfully nuanced and fully realized characters—a king and his slave—and a single all-important question: how is one to me ...more
Apr 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
"A defeated king stands on top of a pyre. His conqueror, the Persian ruler Cyrus, signals to his guards; they step forward and touch flaming torches to the dry wood. Croesus, once the wealthiest man of the ancient world, is to be burned alive. As he watches the flames catch, Croesus thinks back over his life." And so begins a fascinating and riproaring read. Now I must admit my Persian history isn't really up to speed, but I'll be rectifying that after reading this. It's well written with charac ...more
Apr 19, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2015
I loved this book! I was hooked very quickly, and loved the writing and the descriptions of the times, the places and the characters. I found it so thought-provoking that it actually took me quite a long time to read because it kept sending me off into my own thoughts about the ideas and issues it was raising. And yet, at the same time, all the philosophising didn't get in the way of either the descriptions or the pace of the story.

I was lucky enough to see the author talk about the book, which
Jaime Mozo Dutton
How do you get inside the head of a man who lived thousands of years ago, who started as a king and ended as a slave.... The answer in this book is you don't. So modern in style and characters behaviour, their is even reference to the "biggest city of ancient times" even though the then of the book would not be ancient times but modern times for them. All this could be forgiven if it wasn't such a boring read and if the central character wasn't such a boring one dimensional card board cut out.
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Writer, climber, whisky drinker, chess dabbler and general purpose layabout. London exile currently encamped in the North and loving it. I've studied and taught creative writing at the University of Warwick and worked in bookshops in London and Greece.

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Series (2 books)
  • The King and the Slave

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