It is 526 B.C. and the empire of the Pharaohs is dying, crushed by the weight of its own antiquity. Decay riddles its cities, infects its aristocracy, and weakens its armies. While across the expanse of Sinai, like jackals drawn to carrion, the forces of the King of Persia watch and wait. Leading the fight to preserve the soul of Egypt is Hasdrabal Barca, Pharaoh’s deadliest killer. Possessed of a rage few men can fathom and fewer can withstand, Barca struggles each day to preserve the last sliver of his humanity. But, when one of Egypt’s most celebrated generals, a Greek mercenary called Phanes, defects to the Persians, it triggers a savage war that will tax Barca’s skills, and his humanity, to the limit. From the political wasteland of Palestine, to the searing deserts east of the Nile, to the streets of ancient Memphis, Barca and Phanes play a desperate game of cat-and-mouse — a game culminating in the bloodiest battle of Egypt’s history. Caught in the midst of this violence is Jauharah, a slave in the House of Life. She is Arabian, dark-haired and proud — a healer with gifts her blood, her station, and her gender overshadow. Though her hands tend to Barca’s countless wounds, it is her spirit that heals and changes him. Once a fearsome demigod of war, Hasdrabal Barca becomes human again. A man now motivated as much by love as anger. Nevertheless honor and duty have bound Barca to the fate of Egypt. A final conflict remains, a reckoning set to unfold in the dusty hills east of Pelusium. There, over the dead of two nations, Hasdrabal Barca will face the same choice as the heroes of old: Death and eternal fame or obscurity and long life.
Scott Oden is a bestselling author of historical fantasy and sword-and-sorcery. Since his debut in 2005, his books have received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist; he has been an Amazon Editor’s Pick and has been nominated for a Gemmell Award. His work has been endorsed by such preeminent authors as Steven Pressfield, David Anthony Durham, and John Gwynne.
Scott lives in the foothills of the Appalachians with his lovely wife, Shannon, and a variety of dogs -- all of them neurotic and prone to dancing like no one’s watching.
Before turning his hand to writing, Scott worked the usual slate of odd jobs, from delivering pizza to stocking shelves at a local grocery. In his spare time, he likes table-top roleplaying games, reading, and making the occasional bracelet from old stone beads. He dreams of running away from reality and living in a Hobbit hole . . .
If you want to know more, please visit Scott’s website at https://scottoden.wordpress.com/, where you can follow his blog and be there when he finally takes the plunge and creates a mailing list.
Read this book in 2007, and its a standalone book about Egypt and its Late 26th Dynasty.
Set between the years 526-525 BC in Egypt, and its there where we find our main protagonist, Hasdrubal Barca, ruthless killer and protector of the Pharaoh.
Across the Sinai and the deserts the Persians are waiting to overrun Egypt, for they know that this Egypt is dying and walking on last legs.
Especially when one of the greatest Generals of Egypt, the Greek mercenary Phanes, defects to the Persians all seems lost for Egypt.
But Egypt has not reckoned with the leadership and fighting courage of Hasdrubal Barca, and it will him that will Egypt on its feet and fight to the death and eternal fame or obscurity and long life.
What is to follow is an amazing historical adventure set in ancient Egypt an that will bring and take you along as if you're there yourself, and all this brought to us by an author producing wonderful descriptions of Egypt and deadly battles to perfection, from start to finish.
Highly recommended, for this is a tremendous ancient Egypt historical adventure, and that's why I like to call this great book: "A Marvellous Historical Debut Novel"!
This is actually marketed as historical fiction but I don't have that label in my list. Besides, the book reminds me quite a bit of the historical fiction that Robert E. Howard wrote, and there isn't a large leap from that to Howard's more fantasy tales of Conan and Kull.
Oden does do a great job with the history here, though, and he has a real feel for the age of the pharaohs. His hero, Barca, is as tough a hombre as you're likely to meet anywhere in historical fiction or heroic fantasy.
Men of Bronze was highly entertaining for me because of the intense brutal action...but also because it depicted a fictional representation of life for Egyptians, Phoenicians, Persians, and Greeks during the 5th century B.C.-something not depicted often enough in today's Roman-bloated historical fiction market. ;)
The pace of the story was a little strange with intense action during the first half, followed by a long plateau setting up events for more intense action at the end. Quite enjoyable throughout with some memorable characters. Some of the names were a little confusing but got easier to pronounce as the story progressed.
Hasdrabal Barca the Phoenician is a commander of Pharaoh's Medjay, his elite (if somewhat disreputable) mercenary fighting force in the 6th century BCE. (n.b. -- I first encounted the term "Medjay" in the 1999 Brendan Fraser Mummy movie, but thought it was a mispronunciation of "Magi" that they had just made up for the movie; only years later did I learn that the Medjay were a real thing, even if their primary duties were less concerned with mummy-suppression than the film led me to believe.) While on the eastern border, he finds himself enmeshed in court intrigues, treachery by some of Pharaoh's other foreign fighters, and an incipient Persian invasion that he has to try to thwart. Oh, and there's also somebody who wants revenge on Barca specifically for some unfortunate things he did in his younger days.
Fast-paced, grim, bloody and with a great sense of place -- very much in the tradition of some of Robert E. Howard's historical adventure fiction, which I regard as high praise indeed.
This action-packed historical fiction book is about Barca, a rage-filled mercenary working in the service of the Pharaoh and entrusted with protecting Egypt from encroaching Greeks and Persians. It reads a great deal like the swashbuckling historicals of Robert E. Howard and Harold Lamb, so fans of the action pulp tradition will find a lot to like here.
Characters are sketched in broad strokes, but the main ones are given enough nuance to keep them from seeming shallow. The pacing is brisk throughout, and the ancient Egyptian setting adds flavor without getting bogged down in minutiae.
While fans of Robert E. Howard or ancient battle action in general are likely to enjoy this book, the ending seemed ridiculously abrupt to me. The climactic battle itself was vivid and exciting, but it would have been nice if a little more time was spent on the conclusion to Barca's tale and the aftermath. The ending isn't bad, per se, just rushed. That being said, I'd be happy to read other books by the author.
Fascinating book about this time period, 26th Dynasty of Egypt, 500s BC. Interesting story involving Egyptians, their Greek mercenaries and a "border patrol" of mercenaries led by the Phoenician protagonist, Hasdrabal Barca, against Bedouins and then Persians, the latter aided by the treacherous Greek mercenaries. There were many battle scenes, much treachery, double-dealing, and bloodshed. I felt another important part of the story was the character development of the protagonist. Barca, twenty years before, had found his wife and lover 'in flagrante'. Since that time, thoughts of revenge and hatred had possessed him. Through the love and wisdom of a good woman, he learned humanity, compassion, and self-forgiveness. The ending was left open-ended the way it was written, but I think people could figure out the probable outcome...
My main reason to pick this book was the setting which is Egypt, a rare occurrence in Historical Fiction. However it fails to save this book from falling into a cliche filled plot with predictable twists and altogether unconvincing writing.
Plot Set in the ancient Egypt, Men of Bronze focuses on the conflict between Egypt and it's neighbours Greece and Persia. Barca the Phoenician leader of the most elite Mercenary the Pharoh has at his disposal serves as the protagonist for a very forgettable story. I have read that the book is meticulously researched. I do not know if that is true for this book certainly did not inspire me to learn more about it or Egypt for that matter. Honestly cannot think of any positive elements to this story. Even the setting of Egypt really doesn't differentiate this from any other generic battle centric HF
Characters The characters are poor imitations at best and caricatures at worst. Instead of actual characters what you have is roles that are needed to further the plot along. Barca can be better described as unstoppable angry warrior because that is what he is and that is how he functions. Same with so many other characters. So many of them feel like roles rather than actual characters. Although things change later in the story, it still feels like a change of role than a change in the character.
Narration This perhaps is the weakest link. The story telling is entirely unconvincing and full of needlework, by that I mean scenes are crudely stitched together to create a semblance of story and emotions spelt out for the benefit of the glancer rather than the reader. The relationships between the characters are narrated as if on cue and one can pretty easily predict what will happen next as the book does not bother to distinguish itself from others books in the genre
A rather splendid setting wasted on a poorly crafted story. Either that or I've been watching too many Video Essays.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The setting was well-researched, the descriptions were imaginative, and I was greatly interested in the character's fate. The best aspect, though, was the action. The action in this book comes frequently and unflinchingly, and in a wide variety: individual duels, prison tortures, street brawls, small skirmishes, large scale battles. This book has all the sword-and-shield fighting one could want, and it never felt stale or repetitive. Another thing I appreciated is Oden established early that any and all characters could die at any time. Several characters that I thought were just about to become important were slaughtered without lead-up. Sometimes, this can come off as annoying, but in this book I liked it because it kept me on my toes as a reader. Not a perfect book, no, but very enjoyable.
One of my favorite military historical novels as it really gets at how war can warp the soul, but offers the possibility of redemption, as well. Plus it's set in the Archaic Age (not the Classical) which is a time period we hear less about. Oden has done his homework, too, and writes about ethnicities that we tend to hear less about, and from angles not often treated (he does the same thing in MEMNON).
Great historical epic, rich in details from daily life to battlefield carnage. Setups and payoffs work well from the opening skirmish, through the political intrigue through to the crescendo of the final battle.
This book will always be special to me, as it was one of the very first that got me into historical fiction. In Barca, Scott has created a character that is immediately likeable, and as the story develops and you learn more of his past and what drives him, you root for him more and more. It’s been 12 years or so since I first read this book, and I still have a strong mental image of Barca, can still find an edge to his voice. Scott is a real master at setting the scene, once he has finished guiding you round ancient Egypt you will feel as though you were there yourself! Highly recommend. Every fan of historical fiction should read this.
I had high hopes for this book but found myself losing interest toward the end of part one, before I even got to the first big battle. The character development just wasn't enough for me to feel invested in the rest of the book and it couldn't hold my attention at all. I didn't get a feel for the Egyptian/Greek/Persian setting either, it almost read like it could have been set anywhere in the ancient world.
But if you are a fan of epic battles and good writing, I can still recommend it. It just wasn't for me.
Scott Oden is one of the best of the current crop of historical novelists today. MEN OF BRONZE starts out with action and continues right on never flagging in interest. He has a mix of historical accuracy combined with an old fashioned pulp sense of action. Set during the eve of the Persian invasion of Egypt and the intrigues and then battles, you hope the hero will triumph. This book leaves you wanting more.
This was surprisingly engaging for me-I say that because usually books centered around war and violence aren't my usual thing but I had a hard time putting this down. There was a lot of violence and gore-this is set in Ancient Egypt during the Persian era of supremacy (think Cyrus and Darius)- but the characters (especially the mercenary general Barca and the Greek merchant Callisthenes) were so engaging and the political intrigue was captivating. I loved reading the excerpts after the story that revealed how much research the author did to make this account of the Persian conquest of Egypt as accurate as possible.
This book is a pretty good book, its historical / fictional meshing make it a fun read for those who enjoy both like myself. Although I think the author obsessed a little to much on the sexual exploits in the book, true it is no secret during this time moral values were not strong, the author only achieves belittling himself in his desire for over description in sex. Over all a fun read.
Didn't finish it. Libraries are great; I check out piles of books and then I don't bother finishing the ones that don't grab me. I can tell if a book is worth finishing within the first several dozen pages.
I liked the history and the depictions of battles. The historical atmosphere was so-so for things that didn't involve fighting and I didn't quite warm to the characters, especially the sole female character. But the story was interesting and the book was engaging overall.
I’ve read a lot of historical fiction in my time, Bernard Cornwell, Ben Kane and Mathew Harffy amongst many. I can safely say that Scott Oden is up there with the best of them. Men of Bronze is a cracking read that will appeal to many fans of historical fiction.
The second Scott Oden book I've read. Men of Bronze is set in Egypt and Palestine. I'm not really the greatest fan of historical fiction, but this was a really good book. I had a hard time putting it away.
Perfectly fine book. Thanks to Rick Riordan's Kane series, I had some understanding of Egyptian terminology, which was helpful as I had no frame of reference at all for this part of Egyptian history. Plot driven rather than character driven.
bought this book in 2010, I think. I started reading it but abandoned it. I always intended to get back to it, one day. It took awhile, though. What spurred me was the fact that I decided to rebuy it in epub, to replace the pdf copy I bought in 2010. And I am glad I did. One word can describe this book: Epic. At times, it felt almost like I was reading fantasy novel, with minium of magic. This isn't fantasy, but Historical fiction. This isn't my favorite genre, since it often involves bloody, gorefilled battles.. ( I know, I have probably read the wrong books). But this book were different. Oh, there were battles in it. What made me love this were the vivid settings, and the human characters. The settings made me feel as if I were walking through Memphis, standing on the ship on the way to Gaza, feeling the wind tussling my hair. My heart ached everytime Barca lost one of his friends. The ache tenfolded when I realised the source of The Beast. At the start of the book he was almost a murdering machine. He live for battle. Yet through the book, he change. He starts to feel compassion. That change stems from Jauharah and her patience. Jauharah... I wept for her. For her loss, for the pain she had suffered, and for the choices she had to make. And Callianestes...I admired him for daring to what was right. Heck, I admired all the characters for their honor and courage.
The combination of the characters and the setting created a riveting tale, that I just couldn't put down. But, as I read it, I was reminded that history goes in circles, and that no civilisation last forever.
What I didn't like. I'll admit it. I wish there was a happy ending, since is Hasdrabal Barca and Jauharah had earned it. Yet, that would make it a romance, which this isn't. Still, I'll definitely read more by Scott Oden in the future.
It is 526 B.C. and the Egyptian Empire is under attack not only from foreign Persian aggressors, but from treachery within its own borders as well. When Hasdrubal Barca, a mercenary in service to the pharaoh, learns of a treasonous plot, he uses his years of military experience and expertise in an attempt to save Egypt from invasion.
Political strife, riveting battle scenes, haunting regrets, betrayal, love and revenge…this historical fiction encompasses them all. The battle scenes were so well depicted that I could see the action unfolding in my mind. There are a lot of characters so it would be wise to make note of the names and relations they have with one another (I found myself constantly flipping back trying to figure out who was who). Other than that, it was an enjoyable read.