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The Isle of Stone: A Novel of Ancient Sparta

3.36  ·  Rating details ·  267 ratings  ·  30 reviews
With vivid prose and unswerving attention to historical detail, the author of Empire of Ashes spins a tale of two brothers who rise through Spartan society and meet their fate--surrounded by the Athenian navy on the barren island of Sphacteria. Original.
Paperback, 384 pages
Published December 6th 2005 by Signet (first published 2005)
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Aug 10, 2013 rated it liked it
On the whole, I enjoyed this novel, despite what I consider flaws. The last sentence is a zinger!

The story concerns two Spartan brothers, Antalcidas and Epitadas, their births and education in the Rearing [agoge] where the former earns the nickname "Stone", as he shows himself to be a past master at throwing them accurately. In the Peloponnesian War, the brothers serve together on the Island of Sphacteria, survive its blockade and siege, finally surrendering to the Athenians with their men. Thi
Dec 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
I loved the fierce mother right out of the violent gate, but she shows her limitations later.

Her two boys, with different fathers, natures, and opportunities, navigate Spartan life and politics from infancy to adulthood, both arriving as soldiers at the battle of Sphacteria.

This is perhaps the most detailed and vivid illustration of Sparta's layers of social and political structure I've read, clearly a result of exacting research. I definitely like to get educated in the form of a story.
Dec 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
An excellent historical novel set in the time of the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta in ancient Greece. The story focuses on two brothers who are part of a Spartan force which becomes trapped on the island of Sphacteria by the Athenian Navy. The story centers on the siege, as the Spartans prepare to make their last stand. Spartans would never surrender, would they??
Aug 24, 2009 rated it really liked it
Entertaining book about the siege of Sphacteria, which takes place approximately 50 years after Thermopylae.

The book focuses on two brothers, Epitadas and Antalcidas, who are rivals from childhood (in no small part due to their conniving mother's machinations). The two grow up in the way of Spartiate men, experiencing the difficulties of the agoge, war, etc., and eventually are in a garrison on the island of Sphacteria when the Athenians decide to lay siege.

The historical research in this book
kostas  vamvoukakis
Feb 15, 2019 rated it liked it
ο εκπαιδευτικος χαρακτηρας του βιβλιου υπερισχυει του λογοτεχνικου κατι που για μενα το κανει βαρετο δυστηχως...δεν ειναι κακο αλλα μεχρι εκει
Dec 19, 2007 rated it liked it
Unfortunately I don't think Nicastro really presents us with anything new. If he does, it is in the interactions between Spartans and helots, which are largely undocumented and, where examples exist, bias casts a strong shadow. The affection bewteen Antalcidas and Doulos was nice, as well as the moral issues presented when the Messenians tried to liberate some of their fellow countrymen on the island, mistakenly killing them in the process. My real gripe with Nicastro is that he didn't show us a ...more
Feb 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
The Battle of Sphacteria serves as as the perfect counterpoint to the oft-mythologized battle of Thermopylae.

I appreciate Nicastro's even-handed take on the Spartans. He doesn't effusively gush about the glories of ancient Sparta à la Pressfield (Gates of Fire) but he is not entirely unsympathetic to them either.

Antalcidas, our main character, whose secret history as the son of a helot (a kind of slave), introduces a welcome measure of ambiguity to the story. He is secretly suspicious and crit
Oct 04, 2015 rated it it was ok
Σίγουρα ένα ενδιαφέρον βιβλίο, από τη στιγμή που αναφέρεται σε μια από τις πιο μαύρες σελίδες της ελληνικής ιστορίας, και περιγράφει ένα γεγονός όχι ιδιαίτερα γνωστό στο ευρύ κοινό. Ο συγγραφέας έχει κάνει έρευνα σε βάθος, και καταφέρνει να σκιαγραφήσει με μεγάλη αποτελεσματικότητα την ζωή των ανθρώπων εκείνης της εποχής, ειδικά δε την κοινωνία της Σπάρτης. Ωστόσο, η διήγησή του παρουσιάζει σε πολλά σημεία κοιλιά, ενώ και η ιστορία δεν εξελίσσεται τόσο ενδιαφέρουσα, και πολλές φορές η γραφή είνα ...more
Aug 31, 2013 rated it liked it
More interesting in the first half than the second- about the structure of Spartan life, the phases and rituals of growing from childhood to full male maturity.The build up to the climactic battle is rather boring as is the battle itself.However the strict, harsh life of men is detailed vividly.Expectations of women's roles are visited but less thoroughly. Much emphasis on a class society with helots, slaves, at the bottom rung used as sport for hunting, sexual exploitation, fair game.An enterta ...more
Mar 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this story of two brothers in ancient Sparta.One brother is more highly favored than the other and it was rather interesting to see how the spoiled brother would turn out.I loved the details in this such as the festivals and the young brothers going through the so called rearing.I also liked the twist in the end, just when you thought things might not turn out, Spartan honor saves the day or I guess I should say book.
Apr 03, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone who enjoyed _The 300_
Vaguely historical fiction about ancient Sparta. Set about 50 years after _The 300_, the events of which it references. Fascinating info about growing up/living in Sparta. No idea if it's historically accurate, but it sounds good... ...more
Jan 28, 2014 rated it did not like it
Historical fiction with frequent asides to the modern day - the writing often gets sidetracked on this vein.
Matt Hasquin
Sep 07, 2017 rated it it was ok
Mundane. Uninteresting in long stretches. Difficult to like the characters. Harmless and easily forgotten.
John Warren
May 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
not bad book about 2 spartian brothers
Kirk Macleod
Jun 19, 2017 rated it liked it
Nicolas Nicastro's 2005 novel The Isle of Stone takes a look at Spartan Society nearly sixty years after the battle of Thermopylae, specifically during the battle of Sphacteria (325 BCE). The novel focuses on two Spartan warriors, Antalcidas and Epitadas, brothers who were raised in two very different, but traditional Spartan styes.

Much like John Gardiner's The Wreckage of Agathon, The Isle of Stone looks at the Spartan Empire with a jaundiced eye. The empire is portrayed as brutal, and neither
Charles Franklin
Aug 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was actually a good book that showed more of what life was like in Sparta during the Peloponnesian war. It was gritty, very detailed from historical point of view, and had an ending that I did not expect but felt like the end of a epic movie. I like the fact that Nicastro is able to weave the classic tale of two brothers trying to do the right thing for their country within the confines of Spartan culture.

Highly recommended if you like reading about Sparta. I learned a little bit more abou
Joshua Pawloski
May 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not my usual read

I truly enjoyed this book and its mastery of making history come alive. I normally don't read books of this nature but will now seek them out after reading this novel.
Feb 18, 2021 rated it it was ok
The book was not without merit. There are some passages that are well written and even quite moving. Unfortunately, overall it's a mess, unfocused and muddled. I kept reading in the hope of some revelation, but all I got was a massive anticlimax. ...more
Jul 07, 2020 rated it liked it
It's probably closer to a 3.5 ...more
Daniel Kelly
Nov 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
great view of ancient sparta
I always enjoy reading stories about this historical era but I think the writer should have tried to excite more people than the average genre readers.
Too many myths about Sparta including the babies being thrown into the pit. And too few likeable characters
Mar 06, 2017 rated it it was ok
This was one my book challenge and it had great potential to be a good read. Book on the wars of Spartans and Greeks but it fell flat, so flat I could even finish it.
Monique Mihalitsianos
Feb 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book up until the ending, which was gut-wrenching. I just can't accept the injustice that Antálcidas--a hero and the most noble Spartan of all--went through at the end, and the subsequent loss of love he suffered from his family and everybody else. It just seemed so sad and unfair.

This book is well-researched and well-written and arguably conveys the Spartan essence very well, but the hero of the story deserved a better treatment than this.

I'm sad about it. Even cried a bit.
Not the best book that I have ever read but it was passingly good. It takes place during an important battle of the Peloponnesian War in 425 B.C. in which the Athenian Navy had succeeded in isolating several hundred Spartan Warriors on the Island of Sphacteria and they were starving them out while the Spartan Army desperately sought to resupply them or rescue them. How did it turn out? The book is pretty historically accurate, so start reading and find out.
Mar 30, 2011 rated it liked it
Ok when compared to Gates of Fire. Read it if you're bored. ...more
Apr 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
Good book on life in Ancient Sparta.
Jan 07, 2015 rated it it was ok
The story of two half brothers who grow up on Sparta. Life of a warrior. They grow up hating each other, go to war, they die!
Rohan Monteiro
rated it it was ok
Jul 02, 2014
rated it really liked it
Jan 14, 2014
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Nicholas Nicastro was born in Astoria, New York in 1963. His education includes a B.A. in English from Cornell University (1985), an M.F.A. in filmmaking from New York University (1991), an M.A. in archaeology and a Ph.D in psychology from Cornell (1996 and 2003). He has also worked as a film critic, a hospital orderly, a newspaper reporter, a library archivist, a college lecturer in anthropology ...more

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