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428 pages, Hardcover
First published August 18, 2015
“A pair of strong, tanned legs stands before her, leading up to the broad, commanding form of her oldest friend. The boy Kat has known longer and better, it sometimes seems, than she has known herself. A boy who, until recently, was equal parts playmate and pest. Now, he has grown taller and handsomer and somehow resists falling into either category the way he used to.”
“You can’t go,” she says quickly. “They’ll kill you. You’re only seventeen. Some of the contestants are Olympic athletes, professional wrestlers, and soldiers.”
“...she removes the long iron pin from her shoulder... She holds it between them. “Take it. To protect you in the games.”
“Aristotle taught us to always look for the common denominator in any problem,” he says. “Mathematical. Scientific. Political. Social. And it would seem that here the common denominator is…”
“I believe Father Zeus sent a bolt of lightning. It happens from time to time when he is displeased.”
“If you don’t tell me right now what it is, I’ll—” she raises a playful, faux-threatening hand. He grabs her wrist.
“You’ll what?” he whispers.
The Blood Tournament is a single free-for-all held in a large arena with a simulated landscape made to increase difficulty, featuring added natural challenges like quicksand or cliffs. It is hot, bloody, and chaotic, with fighting taking place all over the stadium until the crowd—and the king—approve a single victor.
‘‘The question of Alexander’s sexuality–his predominant sexual orientation–has enlivened, or bedeviled, much Alexander scholarship. That he loved at least two men there can be little doubt. The first was the Macedonian noble Hephaestion, a friend from boyhood, whom he looked on–and may actually have referred to–as his alter ego. The Persian queen mother, it was said, once mistook the taller Hephaestion for Alexander, who graciously excused her blushes by murmuring that ‘he too is Alexander’. Whether Alexander’s relationship with the slightly older Hephaestion was ever of the sort that once dared not speak its name is not certain, but it is likely enough that it was. At any rate, Macedonian and Greek mores would have favored an actively sexual component rather than inhibiting or censoring it. Like hunting, homosexuality was thought to foster masculine, especially martial, bravery.”
“He has other plans, plans his father doesn’t know about. And if he succeeds, he’ll be the greatest leader this world has ever known.”
“She has waited ten years for this moment. Ten years. It is more than just an eclipse—iit signals the end of an era, the completion of another thousand-year cycle. According to the old priests and priestesses of the north, the Age of the Gods is coming to an end… Many philosophers predict that during these great shifts, fates can be altered, curses lifted, and unthinkable feats achieved.”
If you have known me for a while then you'll have no trouble recalling that I am a total nerd when it comes to Ancient History. It started when I was five years old with Xena, which I used to watch with my grandparents at all hours of the night, and then the fascination progressed when we studied Egypt, Rome, and Greece in school. And then it became a full blown obsession when I watched Spartacus back in 2011, which then eventually led me to study Classical Civilisations as a hobby in my free time and gain a qualification in it. The point of this story? Well, Alexander the Great was one of my modules, and ever since I started reading more about him I decided that he's one of the most interesting people of Ancient Greece and I needed to know everything. So when Legacy of Kings popped up on my radar, I had to get it.
I'm sure you can all see where this is going. I didn't like the book. This is partly because I'm an Alexander stan (it's a thing) and partly because I just didn't like the book itself, historical inaccuracies and injustices aside. I'll talk about the book stuff first without all of the other stuff because I feel like it'll be best to get the bits that I'm least passionate about out of the way first.
My biggest two issues with this book were the multitude of points of view and the writing style. Firstly, there were... seven? I think? points of view in this book and it was too much for a 380 page book. If you're going to have that many points of view, then your book needs to be longer. You need to do a George R. R. Martin. And your writing had better flow and it had better not be boring as hell. Herman really didn't accomplish any of those things with Legacy of Kings. I was bored through most of it, and the constant changes of viewpoints were jarring at best. Not only that, but I signed up for a book about Alexander, not about a million other side characters who will probably be more relevant later on in the series but as of right now I don't give a shit about any of them. At all.
And now I've got that off my chest, let me tell you about how Legacy of Kings completely ignores all historians and facts and proof that Alexander the Great was anything other than straight. And yes, this is a young adult book, and so perhaps Alexander just hasn't realised how not-straight he is just yet, but there should have been at least some HINTS. That's all I ask. You see, it's pretty much universally accepted by everyone that Alexander was either bisexual/pansexual/gay. Unless you talk to people who are in complete and utter DENIAL, who try to say that Alexander's kiss with a eunuch dancer was nothing and his relationship with Hephaestion was PLATONIC, even though Alexander compared them to friggin' ACHILLES AND PATROCLUS, THE TWO GAYEST MEN IN CLASSIC FICTION. Ehem.
I could go into an essay about how, as the classical world started to crumble, our modern world started to veer towards homophobia and thus suppressed all mentions of homosexuality and tried to erase it from history, but I don't think this is the time or the place for that right now.
So there was no Alexander/Hephaestion and I was distraught. There were also "games" (think a mild version of the Hunger Games) in an "arena", which weren't really a thing in Ancient Greece because those guys thought they were too good for bloody fights and such caveman ways (the Romans should probably have taken note...), and there was also a Macedonian character called Jacob. Yes, I get that it's just a name and I suppose people were called all sorts of things, but that form of the name "Jacob" is Hebrew. Why not go with the Greek form? It was odd. Also, how were all of these female characters not married already? Herman makes it seem like women in Ancient Greece had a choice and were able to stay single until they were twenty. Ha.
I skimmed the ending because I really wasn't enjoying this book in the slightest. As you can see, I had a lot of issues with it that I just couldn't look past, and I didn't even go into the romantic tropes and pairings that were so dull and lacking in chemistry that I was hoping someone would get stabbed with a sword to make those scenes more interesting.
The only way I would carry on with this series would be if Herman decided to do a 180 and actually do Alexander the Great and the LGBTQ+ community some justice and have the character come to realise that he's not 1000000% straight. Because I would read a boring book for a better depiction of Alexander. But I don't see that happening.