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The story of Alexander before he became “the Great.”

Finished with schooling, Alexandros is appointed regent of Makedon while his father is away on campaign. He thrives with his new authority—this is the role he was born for—yet it creates conflict with his mother and Hephaistion. And when his soldiers, whom he leads with unexpected skill, start to call him “The Little King,” his father is less than delighted.

Tensions escalate between Alexandros and his father, and between Makedon and the city-states of southern Greece. As the drums of war sound, king and crown prince quarrel during their march to meet the Greeks in combat. Among other things, his father wants to know he can produce heirs, and thinks he should take a mistress, an idea Alexandros resists.

After the south is pacified, friction remains between Alexandros and the king. Hostilities explode at festivities for his father’s latest wedding, forcing Alexandros to flee in the middle of the night with his mother and Hephaistion. The rigors of exile strain his relationships, but the path to the throne will be his biggest challenge yet: a face-off for power between the talented young cub and the seasoned old lion.

350 pages, ebook

First published October 21, 2019

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About the author

Jeanne Reames

4 books58 followers
Mother, writer, history professor, Homer fangirl and Alexander the Great geek.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 43 reviews
Profile Image for Ozymandias.
417 reviews119 followers
November 7, 2019
A charming account of Alexander’s rise to power and his love for his closest friend, Hephaestion

Anyone who enjoyed the first book will likely love this one, which feels more like a completed story than that did. To recap, the last one’s arc was entirely character-driven and took us from Alexander and Hephaestion’s meeting to their eventual romance. There’s more going on, but that is the spine. This time the book’s main storyline is the conflict between him and Philip during the leadup to Philip’s invasion of Persia. Anyone who knows anything about the two can guess where the book ends.

With the book moving beyond Alexander’s childhood into the much broader range of adulthood, it’s interesting to see what does and does not get focused on. There aren’t really any surprises actually. The book is still focusing on character and setting. Alexander’s personality gets a little more drawn out and he’s starting to seem a bit more like I imagine him. The pride, the stubbornness, the unending, unquenchable, relentless lust for glory. It’s all here.

His relationship with Hephaestion is still a highpoint, with the two opposites providing exactly what the other needs. It’s got to be hard being a prince and dealing with all the endless sycophants struggling to get near you. But Hephaestion loves the man, he finds the prince rather a nuisance. You can see why emotionally needy Alexander would go crazy for that. The other key relationship is between Alexander and his father. This one really breaks my heart. The two are absolutely poison to each other. One is too proud to admit his emotions, the other incapable of not doing so. And both are too stubborn to back down.

Another element that is handled very well is the loving depiction of everyday Macedonian life and society. Religion continues to be strongly presented as does the love of literature and other cultural allusions. Sexuality really kicks into overdrive. Now that Alex and Phaestas are a couple they’re screwing like rabbits. It actually gets uncomfortably explicit sometimes. What’s more interesting (at least to me; other views may vary) are the mores that come with the act. Some of which are quite bizarre. Phaestas and Al are a lot like a modern gay couple compared to the strict pederasty of the time. It’s sweet, but emotionally devastating for them to come to terms with.

What continue to get very little attention are some of the elements you might expect to see more of in Alexander’s adulthood. Elements like warfare. We do get some of course, since it would be impossible to avoid. We even get a whole chapter on Chaeroneia. But the buildup to the battle (both political and military) is hardly setting the scene for the importance of the match. And the battle itself seems detached and emotionally distant. We mainly follow Hephaestion as he stumbles around trying to hold off a single warrior. The aftermath is rather more memorable than the event. Politics is also a little sidelined, although again we do get some. Most of what we see are of the family politics variety, where the interaction between marriages and the highland/lowland clans are well handled. But of foreign affairs or the alliances between Macedon and the Greek states we’re left pretty vague.

The book’s interests are not too far from my own when reading historical fiction (people who write great battle scenes or good political maneuvering often struggle to write anything else) so this is mainly there to give fair warning to people expecting this account of one of history’s greatest conquerors to include a lot of, well, conquering. If there are future books (and I certainly hope there are!) we may get a bit of that. For now, Al is still struggling to get on top.

If nothing else, I have to enjoy this book for introducing me to a whole new array of Greek obscenities. Since Liddell-Scott and other dictionaries are products of the rather puritanical 19th century and have only limited English-Greek functionality it’s rather hard to locate such expressions.
Profile Image for Optimist ♰King's Wench♰.
1,759 reviews3,831 followers
February 7, 2020
In college I took a Roman history course. It was a very detailed and in-depth study of Roman society and I LOVED it mostly because the professor sold it. They were into it and brought that energy to the classroom and it was infectious. I was actually excited to go to class, a rarity indeed during undergrad.

In my opinion, this book needs the author to tell it in person. It needs life and vitality and more fiction in this historical fiction. Alexander and Hephaistion are historical figures and while it's clear the author knows them inside and out I don't feel like I know them. Maybe it's due to an over reliance on the presumption that they are famous historical figures and therefore known but I would've liked to know Reames' version of them. Perhaps that's anathema or verboten but there it is.

What's clear is Alexander and Hephaistion care for, trust and love each other but they never achieved fully realized status in my mind, mostly owing to an abundance of head hopping. There were so many different POVs that not only pulled me out of the story time and time again but more importantly stymied my connection to them. Their chemistry as lovers never gelled. Best friends and confidantes, yes. Soulmates, erm?

Another hurdle was the ridiculous number of names dropped throughout this novel that came across as pedantic filler. It didn't advance the story and became tiresome. Case in point:

Those who'd awaited Alexandros hailed largely from the south or midlands: Ptolemaios and Marsyas or Eordaia, Harpalos and Derdas of Elimeia, and Attalos Andromenous from Tymphaia. Hephaistion, Nearkhos, and Erigyios didn't count. Yet both Krateros and Perdikkas of Orestis soon joined them, as well as Leonnatos of Lynkestis, Lysimakhos of Thessaly, and Hector, Parmenion's son.

If there were a test I would fail, BECAUSE I. DON'T. CARE.

In this same vein, too much time was spent stringing historical events together and incorporating a multitude of secondary characters all of which served to drain this story of its lifeblood. Capitalizing on Alexander and Hephaistion's inchoate connection would've given this story a soul but sadly that connection was only briefly touched on in erratic fits and starts. Even Alexander's relationship with his father Philip skirted something that could've been brilliant. Flawed characters offer a wealth of opportunities but unfortunately none of these onions were peeled.

Yet, something compelled me to finish it and that counts for something. Reames clearly has the intellectual chops and passion for this genre as well as an affinity language; translating all that passion into an engaging tale with characters that captivate and enchant me is where this novel fell short.

However, my opinions are my own and YMMV.

A copy was provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for John.
35 reviews2 followers
April 27, 2021
The second half of Reames’s novel about Alexander’s youth knocks it out of the park for me. Dancing with the Lion (both halves) emerges as an excellent retelling of Alexander’s youth, easily on a par with (if different from) Renault’s Fire from Heaven, and exceeding Annabel Lyon’s The Golden Mean, never mind Valerio Manfredi’s Child of a Dream.

She captures human complexity, and in her hands, everyone seems multifaceted. Her characters do not behave in trite ways, and her dialogue is rarely pedestrian. Her Alexandros felt genuine in a way hard to generate for a semi-mythic historical figure, and her Hephaistion is simply the best version I’ve yet encountered (although Jo Graham’s Stealing Fire is a close second). Even secondary characters emerge as layered and distinct.

For me, the stand-out secondary character was Amyntor, Hephaistion’s father, as a contrast to Philip. But characters usually given short shift in Alexander novels (Philip and Olympias) are treated fairly. They’re far from perfect, but Philip is not an incompetent drunk and Olympias is not a crazy bitch (thank God). In fact, I rather liked her Philippos, and one can see how he and Alexandros would strike sparks without turning him into a monster.

Similarly, I was struck by her portrayal of Pausanias, Philip’s assassin. On the one hand, it’s clear he’s a jerk. But it’s made equally clear that being a jerk doesn’t excuse what happened to him. Is justice due for all, or only those “deserving”?

I will say that readers who prefer a more “heroic” Alexander, ala Mary Renault, or who want more romance between Alexander and Hephaistion may be disappointed. The books were marketed as romance by the publisher, but really aren’t (which is fine with me, but YMMV).

Several religious ceremonies/events continue a flirtation with fantastical elements. It’s not historical fantasy like Graham’s but walks the edge of magical realism. Readers are left to wonder what, exactly, Alexandros is seeing. Or if he’s a little batty.

One thing I appreciated more in Rise than Becoming were more scenes in the women’s quarters. Kleopatra is a wonderful character, and the women have their own plot thread. Don’t want to say too much, but Kleopatra shows she’s her mother’s (clever) daughter. I did get a laugh out of the elder sister, Kynane, showing up in armor with a sword to move the new wife's loom. That's some serious overkill!

Her treatment of Alexander and Hephaistion’s sexual relationship is frank, but she avoids modernizing it. As a result, we get a fairly nuanced look at why it would have been considered a little transgressive…but not for any of the reasons it would be today. It’s all about status and who’s active and who’s passive, which is bound up with some pretty serious Greek misogyny and fear of (male) penetration. In a scene near the end, Hephaistion manages a magnificent reversal on how he thinks about it, which takes Alexandros by surprise and cements my affection for Hephaistion's character.

In fact, while Alexander would seem the obvious protagonist, sympathetic and likeable if occasionally annoying, Hephaistion emerges as the novels’ true hero. Outwardly, he appears cynical, prickly, sarcastic, and judgmental, but in truth, he’s kind, honest, fundamentally strong, and emotionally stable. He’s exactly what Alexander needs.


Two deaths are gut-wrenching; you WILL need tissues. The battlefield casualty of Hephaistion’s horse was bad enough. But the death of Amyntor? Hephaistion lost his brothers, his beloved horse, then his father. He just keeps getting hit emotionally, and that he’s still standing by the end of the novel is a testament to his strength. That Alexandros withheld the truth about Amyntor's condition when they went into exile made sense for his fears in the moment, but it was a jack@ss choice. And it’s not excused, which I appreciated
Profile Image for potniathiron.
4 reviews18 followers
January 28, 2020
Once upon a time, I used to not be able to read any fiction on Alexander the Great because of how off the characterization would seem to me. Now, I feel like I'm too spoiled; how can anything top the delight that was the Dancing with the Lion duology? This second part was a thrilling read, fast-paced and steeped in Macedonian political intrigue. In story that's been being told for millenia now, it's amazing how the author came up with such exciting twists and spins while staying close to the truth of the era. For me, two things stood out in particular. First, it's very clear to me that the author is truly familiar with greek culture and the actual places she's describing, not just as abstract ideas or concepts (which is a big pet peeve of mine when it comes to stories set in Ancient Greece). Second, she knows her characters very well and makes you invested in them. Alekos and Hephaistion in this novel stay completely true to how they were described in the first installment of the series and that's great, because it's an interpretation of their characters I'm all for. This book even got me invested in the relationship between Philippos and Alekos in a way I never thought I would. It's a definite must read for anyone interested in the time period or good historical fiction in general and I'D LOVE to see a continuation dealing with Alex's persian campaing. Until then, I'm going to use all the excitement this book caused me to overcome my procrastinating habbits and actually finish that seminar essay on Alexander the Great I have to write myself.
Profile Image for Charlotte.
663 reviews50 followers
September 2, 2019
my review will be posted on my blog Sep 21, 2019

This was a great continuation of the Dancing With the Lion series. This book brings the author back to the world of Alexandros as he is coming into his own as a leader, a man, and a partner. It’s so difficult to read a book like this and then come up with a succinct summary. Reames is a great writer, using detail when it’s appropriate and simply letting her main characters speak through their actions.

This book is just as much about family and friendship as it is about the general military history of Alexander the Great. There are a lot of differences between Alexandros and his best friend and sometime lover Hephaistion. The most pointed difference in my mind is the way they were raised. Hephaistion’s father was loving, familiar, stern when he had to be… and offered his son advice when he thought it warranted. As the son of a king, Alexandros had a distant relationship with his father. The King has politics and ruling forefront in his mind and his familial bond with Alexandros is fragile. Like Reames, I have no doubt that Philippos loved his son, he just seemed incapable of parenting a son rather than raising an heir. I’m simplifying this greatly in light of the wonderful way that Reames has written the complicated bonds between fathers and sons in this book.

What is clear in the book is that the relationships Alexandros has with all the people in his life are what shapes him into the leader he will become. While his father challenges him at every turn, Alexandros receives more gentle parenting from Hephaistion’s father, Amyntor. And again, Hephaistion… he is Alexandros’ best friend, his brother-in-arms, his lover and in many ways his teacher. The bond between these two characters is beautiful and complex. There are moments that are poignant without being over-the-top…. and I loved that. The bonding ceremony between Alexandros and Hephaistion is beautiful and symbolic of much of the depth of their relationship.

As these two young men mature and grow, their relationship morphs. They are lovers on occasion, friends always and unfailingly dedicated to one another. Hephaistion teaches Alexandros about weakness and true strength, the bonds of love and ultimately, the way to lead.

This series was a fantastic read. Yes, it’s historical, but Reames brings Alexander the Great back to life. I thoroughly enjoyed both of these books, 4 stars from me!
2 reviews1 follower
October 28, 2019
If I'm going to dub this the definitive Alexander fictionalization, (which I am) I'm subheading the second part of the series "The Definitive Hephaistion fictionalization".
Holy wow.
I mean, this and part one are CLEARLY one novel, as this book just hits you with emotional payoff after emotional payoff for the things set up in part one. And I'm freaking impressed at the fact that its turned out to be an anti-war novel about a guy who is best known for being EXCEPTIONALLY GOOD AT WAR that DOESN'T demonize any character. That's a feat of subtlety right there!!
I'm actually most excited about seeing a visibly demisexual character in this iteration of Hephaistion. You don't get to see demi representation very often.....and never outside of VERY LGBT+ pander-y situations. But having him up and say he can't experience attraction without connection with those historically and culturally significant words meant a lot to me and I'm sure to a lot of people of similar experience.
I have only one critique:
(It was perfect. I'm in PAIN.)
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Christine.
57 reviews2 followers
October 22, 2019
As much as I enjoyed the first book in the series("Becoming") I really LOVED the second book of "Dancing with the lion: Rise". It continues the story of Alexandros of Macedon, from the time of being regent at the age of 16 to his ascension to the throne four years later. It includes quite a few well known historical events, but with the author's own clever interpretations which explain some of the puzzles historians have been trying to solve for centuries. Reames's academic background comes through the finest at those moments. Comparing to "Becoming", "Rise" is more plot driven and faster paced. There isn't a dull moment.

Nonetheless all the twists and turns are not at the expense of character development and emotional depth. Alexandros and Hephaistion both come alive vividly, through joy and pain and devotion, each with his own set of virtues and faults. Their relationship is complex due to their different social standings, upbringing and personalities. One cannot help but feel deeply invested in their lives and quests for excellence(in the Aristotelian sense). As the book progresses, the intensity of events and emotions rises steadily until the final crescendo, which definitely leaves readers to crave for more.

As in the first book, the supporting cast gets much love. But the father/son dynamics have generated much emotional turmoil, with stark contrast between Philippos and Amyntor, each loving his son in his own way. There are a few new characters as well. The women get stronger voices - from royals to slaves. None is perfect, all with dignity. 

Reames is an excellent writer, not just an excellent writer for a historian. The plots are well constructed, the characters well developed, the historical details authentic. While the first book may feel unfinished, the second one stands well on its own even if one skips the first. But there are some amazing parallels between the two that might take a couple reads to get. Like olives - the Greek favorite - the longer you savor, the more you'll enjoy. 
Profile Image for Jeanne.
Author 4 books58 followers
February 21, 2021


For those who enjoyed the novels (book 1 Becoming and book 2 Rise), and would like more from the boys, I have several cut scenes on my website, as well as 3 others that occur between the books.

These 3 include "Moth & Flame," a bit of romantic floof, "Two Scorpions," Olympias takes on Hephaistion in a one-on-one confrontation, and finally, the novelette "For the Love of Geometry," which shows the boys from the point of view of the adults, plus a bet between King Philippos and Aristoteles.

Just click on the link above to go straight to that page on my website. They're available in both PDF and HTML formats, depending on which you prefer to read, and what device you're reading them on. While on the site, take time to explore a little. There are a number of extras, including hearing their names, a brief glossary, and even video blogs of the Macedonian countryside showing places mentioned in the books.

Hope you enjoy these titbits!
Profile Image for Joyfully Jay.
7,294 reviews412 followers
October 21, 2019
A Joyfully Jay review.

4.25 stars

Rise is the second in the Dancing with the Lion series and, at least for now, the last. The author mentions she plans on writing more about Alexandros and Hephaistion in the future, but there’s no book currently on the horizon. And that makes Rise slightly problematic. It is a very much an “in-between” novel. Alot of things happened in the first book, Becoming, and Rise ends with a pivotal event in the life of Alexander the Great. Which leaves the bulk of Rise dealing with the in between. There are things happening to be sure ,but it almost reads as filler, taking up the space between Becoming and whatever happens after Rise. And if there were another book in the series, I think it would be fine. It would make sense and have a purpose. But as the “end” of a series, it comes up short. The pacing is more scattered and events occur during leaps of time; weeks and months will pass between chapters. So it’s harder to measure continuity in Rise and, because of that, when the end comes it feels abrupt and jarring.

The historical aspect is still stellar. The author does an amazing job of building a credible and realistic world around Alexandros and his compatriots.

Read Sue’s review in its entirety here.

18 reviews
November 13, 2019
A beautifully written sequel to 'Becoming', the story of Alexander's boyhood. The novel bursts with information about Macedonia and Ancient Greece and, despite the author's admitted inventions and historical acrobatics, gives a believable picture of Alexander's life and loves, friends and enemies, during the period of his adolescence, immediately prior to the start of his Asian adventure. His father, Phillippos II, is finely drawn, and shows a man, a king, a ruler, an unstable drunkard and a hero, with a love/hate relationship with his son. Alexander's boyhood friend and lover, Hephaistion, is exquisitely rendered as a sensitive, thoughtful and mature man who falls deeply in love with his xtraordinary prince and companion. Alexander is the complex young man, who by rank, nature and personality, will become Alexander the Great. A lovely book, which must be followed by Alexander's conquest of Asia.
Profile Image for Catherine Richmond.
Author 6 books112 followers
January 9, 2020
Excellent in every respect!

Alexander and Hephaistion travel the rocky road of love, growing closer yet frightened by their need for the other, learning to trust yet accept their differences, discovering ways to guard bodies and hearts during problems with their fathers.

Hephaistion thought, "Men fought wars and played politics; women suffered the results of both." The women in this story handle the drama men cause, including new wives, arranged marriages, and exile. Please tell me there's a Book Three!

Be sure to check out the author's extras, including videos of the setting: https://jeannereames.net/Dancing_with...
Profile Image for Christina.
80 reviews29 followers
March 26, 2020
I wish there were more books in the series, especially during this time of turmoil. I found myself picking up these books as a release from my worries about the pandemic.

We get a lot of insight on various characters in this book. There are some beautiful moments between Hephaistion and Alexandros and some tumultuous moments, the book ends for them tenderly. I would have liked more of those moments. They didn’t have to be romantic, but something to show the reader why they are such iconic soul mates to the point that real historical Alexander the Great went to such extremes upon Hephaistion’s death. I’m thinking along the lines of Wuthering Heights. That book is not romantic, Cathy and Heathcliff are a train wreck but they have an unbreakable bond that carries on past death (“If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger.” Cathy about Heathcliff). If this book gave us a bit more of the bond between Hephaistion and Alexandros, it would have been a full five stars.

Alexander the great is what this series is about but Hephaistion is my favorite. I could read a whole separate series just about Hephaistion. I would have loved to have seen more of his time with his mother and baby brother and his time with Kampaspē. He started out having a jealous hatred for her. I don't want to give spoilers but during his time with her he could have gotten even more bitter and cruel towards her or used her in other ways instead they became friends. This moment really solidified my love for him as a character:
“Thank you,” he said, face grave, “for helping my mother these past months.” She stared. One didn’t thank the slaves. “You’re welcome.” She stood on the bottom landing, looking up after him. The deep-down natures of men were revealed in small things.

Honestly, I’d love a novella just about Kampaspē.

We all know how the real story ends but I still hope there is eventually more to this series especially from Hephaistion's voice.
March 8, 2020
The continuation of the story of Alexander and Hephaistion before Alexander became king. Beautiful telling of their love for each other and its complexities in a world which allowed it, yet still had rules. I found the characterizations to be finely drawn and not continuing stereotypes of who they have been portrayed. The various viewpoints add to the story. I thoroughly love Amyntor. Jeanne Reames has written my favorite Alexander and Hephaistion novels. LOVE THEM BOTH.
Profile Image for ReadingTentacles.
25 reviews29 followers
June 24, 2022
I need a third volume. I really, really do.
Thank you Jeanne Reames, you truly brought joy to my routine with these two books.
Profile Image for Saimi Korhonen.
766 reviews47 followers
February 29, 2020
“I know you didn’t want Hephaistion to come to Pella, but I think he might have saved my life. That’s not hyperbole. I had nobody, not really. Then he showed up. He cared about me, not the prince. I’ll love him forever for that.”

Dancing with the Lion: Rise continues the story of Alexander the Great before he became the legendary conqueror. This book begins as his father, Philippos, makes him the regent of Macedon and starts giving him more and more responsibilities. But, much to his father's annoyance, Alexandros quickly begins to make a name for himself and to earn the love and devotion of his future people, which creates even more friction between father and son. And as Alexandros becomes more and more powerful, his love affair with Hephaistion deepens, which brings its own problems, mainly, how to balance being a king devoted to his people and a young man deeply and passionately in love.

I liked this book a lot and preferred it to the first book in this duology. Rise had a very different feel to it than Becoming - there's much more politics, war, death and drama, which I liked. In the first book it occasionally felt like the story lacked stakes - in Rise, this is not an issue.

Rise focused very much on two things: Alexandros' relationship with Philippos, and his relationship with Hephaistion, both of which were handled very well. Alexandros and Philippos are a fascinating pair - they're very similar in many ways and they love each other in their own messed up way but are both utterly incapable of showing it. I liked how the book explored this and how Philippos wasn't written to be this one-dimensional shitty dad with no redeeming qualities - no, it is made clear that he loves his son, which makes his inability to show this and his abusive tendencies even more horrifying and frustrating. Alexandros and Hephaistion on the other hand were just wonderful. I love the way they trust one another, the way they fit together and how much they adore each other. As it says in the quote above, Hephaistion is the only one who loves Alexandros as he is - he does not want anything from the prince, he just wants to be with him. He tells him the truth as it is and I love the honesty and purity of their relationship (and by pure I mean that they just love each other, there are no ulterior motives between them). I enjoyed following them navigating their relationship at court and figuring out how to stay together when his duties start demanding more and more of Alexandros' time and despite people whispering around them and Alexandros' parents disapproving of them.

Another thing I really liked about Rise was how more time was given to female characters. Kleopatra, Alexandros' sister, got some nice scenes in this book and I liked how Reames explored the unfair position of women in Ancient cultures through her. She is a princess and has a certain amount of power, but she is still just a puppet for her father to marry off to whomever he chooses. She has no agency over her own life. Kleopatra is a nice character and I liked the stuff we got with her, and, like I already did in the first book, I loved her relationship with Alexandros. They were precious. The most notable new female character, Kampaspe, was also a nice addition into the story.

All in all, I really liked this book - and this whole duology. Becoming had some issues, but Rise was a lot better and I enjoyed it a lot. I'm kinda sad there are no more books with these versions of Alexandros, Hephaistion, Ptolemaios and the rest, but I can live with it. And a part of me does like how this duology is focused on Alexandros before he becomes Alexander the Great - they're not books about the wars he fought or the cities he conquered, they're books about his greatest love, his parents, his siblings, his struggles to gain his father's respect and him growing and becoming someone his men will follow anywhere.
Profile Image for Celia.
389 reviews16 followers
August 15, 2022
No me gustó para nada, Alejo me ha caído muy mal. Es caprichoso y egoísta. Me no da mucha pena Hefestion, se ve merecía algo mejor.
184 reviews5 followers
October 16, 2019
This was a great continuation from the first book. Things are starting to heat up politically and there's plenty of problems getting in the way of love. The amount of research that went into this series is phenomenal. Even for those who aren't interested in this period in history, the story carry itself well!
4 reviews
April 21, 2022
This review does not contain spoilers for Dancing with the Lion but does discuss historical events.

I came for the romance but stayed for the fleshed out relationships between the main characters and the supporting cast. Let me explain: before reading Dancing with the Lion, I read Renault’s Alexander Trilogy but came away feeling that certain historical events like the torture of Philotas, the assassination of Parmenion, the death of Cleitus the Black, the death of Hephaestion were imbued with strong emotional significance that wasn’t fleshed out in those novels, so the emotional payoff felt unearned.
In Dancing with the Lion, the relationships between Alexander, Hephaestion, Philotas, Kleitos the Black, Parmenion, and other figures important in Alexander’s later campaigns are portrayed in a detailed, nuanced, and convincing manner. Watching the conflict between Hephaestion and Philotas unfold in Dancing with the Lion while knowing the fate that awaits the later in Asia provided extremely satisfying instances of (perhaps unintentional) dramatic irony. The few scenes between Kleitos and Alexandros in this book drove home the horror and tragedy around his death by Alexander’s hand in a way Fire from Heaven & The Persian Boy weren’t able to achieve.
Reames’ portrayal of Hephaestion and his relationship with Alexander also felt more convincing than Renault’s. The emotional climax of Renault’s “Persian Boy” drew its power from the enormity of Alexander’s grief over Hephaestion’s death and its poetic fulfillment of the Achilles myth, without bothering to flesh out Hephaestion as a character (he is as much as cipher in Persian Boy as he is in Fire from Heaven). In contrast, Reames takes the time to explore Hephaestion and his relationship to Alexander in the context of their social roles, masculinity, polygamy, sexuality, and romantic friendship. By the end of this book, Hephaestion and Alexander feel like the life partners they’d eventually become and remain for the rest of their lives. It is a shame that Dancing with the Lion could not cover the rest of Hephaestion and Alexander’s lives. I would love to read Reames’ version of the events from Alexander’s ascension to the throne to his death in Babylon.

From a character building perspective, this series is much better than Renault’s Fire from Heaven, although the later is more artistic and literary.
Profile Image for Lainey.
4 reviews
February 6, 2020
It’s taken me while to review, I’ve been busy with my postgrad stuff and honestly Rise was such a welcome escape from it all!

Whilst there are differences stylistically from Becoming, Reames has improved her narrative voice and we learn more about the characters, what motivates them, etc.

Alexandros and Hephaistion go through it in Rise... But like any relationship there are always going to be trials and Alexandros and Hephaistion come out of it stronger, displaying the depth of their bond.

Kampaspē is such a brilliantly interesting character, I wasn’t too sure about her at first but honestly she’s fantastic. Reames writes some hecking wonderful female characters, (Kampaspē included) such as Kleopatra, Myrtalē, Kyanne, etc. We also get the pleasure of meeting Hephaistion’s mother, who doesn’t get as much page time as I’d have liked, I want to know more about her!

I was devastated by Philippos’ death, which I really didn’t expect to be so moved by, but having read the extra and cut scenes it’s so obvious that Philippos cares about his son. Philippos and Alexandros never get the chance to fix their relationship fully which is heartbreaking.

So much happens in this novel that I couldn’t possibly touch on it all but, the scene with the Theban Band’s oath will probably remain an absolute favourite!

The covers of the novels aren’t great, I feel like there’s a risk of someone avoiding it and going for a book with a pretty cover instead... BUT, remember that old saying, because really don’t judge the Dancing with the Lion books by their covers. I do
think it’s unfortunate that Becoming & Rise were written as one book and then cut into two because I suspect as one book it would have been perfect. As a side note, I’d love for both books to be made into audiobooks at some point!

Personally, I love the Dancing with the Lion books, if you don’t like them don’t read them... I hope Reames finds a way to continue with the series as I’d definitely like to read more!
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Olga.
11 reviews
December 7, 2020
This is the second book in the duology. I think it’s best read back-to-back with the first book, which is easy now that both of them are out. This is actually one novel cut in half for publication, and I think it feels more complete when viewed as a whole.

In this second part, matters get more serious as the boys are growing up (Alexander is 16-20) and start getting involved in war and politics. It’s wonderful to see how their devotion to each other blooms and strengthens, overcoming obstacles which keep getting more serious page after page. I liked that the book doesn’t focus on the relationship itself but rather shows its significance in the context of their lives in general. Just like the first book, the characterization and the details were lovely; and it’s a real page-turner, I got engulfed and swallowed it in a few days, which is really fast for me. I loved it, and would be happy to see the author continuing this story in more books.
Profile Image for Raph.
101 reviews
June 29, 2022
will i ever tire of reading fiction or nonfiction about alexander the great? never

this was SO WELL WRITTEN pls don’t let yourself be put off by the cringe cover, the writing was very eloquent and the tale VERY historically accurate, the author obviously knows her history very well (i did some research and she‘s a university prof so OBVIOUSLY)

here’s a book written by an ACTUAL EXPERT on alexander the great, and its well written and captivating and beautifully told so pls go give it a read i have absolutely LOVED this
May 23, 2020
I read both of the books back to back, and am very happy that I did so. The saga of Alexander the Great is fascinating, well-researched, and exceptionally well-written. It's nice to read such an articulate account of the time and trust the descriptions to be accurate. The characters come alive and you feel as if you are living in the times. I may not get the books back from my nephews but that's fine. I'll buy another copy in a heartbeat.
26 reviews
February 9, 2022
I WANT MORE! I really enjoyed the fresh perspective offered by Reames in this book. I couldn't put it down. She gave so much more depth to Alexander, Hephaestion, Phillip and all the other main characters that I've found in other books. Please write more!
Profile Image for Autumn.
3 reviews
April 26, 2021
All in all, this series was fantastic. I felt very close to the characters by the end of “Becoming” but even more so at the end of “Rise.” Knowing that Hephaistion dies first in real life - and the grief Alexandros shows over his death - pains me more than ever simply because of these books. I definitely gained a better understanding of the world of Ancient Greece as well (who doesn’t love learning that history was gayer than they tell you in school?), and while there were times that the Greek names became something a mouthful, I wholeheartedly enjoyed the incorporation of them and Greek words together.

With all that, I have to admit I am a romance driven reader. I loved reading about the battles and the day-to-day activities and all of the interactions between the characters (especially any with Anyntor), but I wanted more from Alexandros and Hephaistion’s relationship. Their love ran so deep and yet... I feel like they were fighting more than getting along.

While I’m well aware that they both went on to have wives, part of me wishes that Kampaspe was not involved at all in this book. It felt as though her only purpose was for sex scenes with Alexandros, and just served to twist my stomach all wrong. Was it not implied that he wound up finding a deeper meaning and pleasure in having sex with Hephaistion? As a bisexual woman, I’m not mad that there were efforts to show bisexuality, but I think it could’ve been done simply enough with the interaction between Alexandros and Kallixena - he was attracted to her, and in turn women, but in the end it was his desire and love for Hephaistion that seemed to hold out more than just the uncomfortableness of his father picking a woman for him.

Simply put, I craved for more of their relationship. I feel as though the moments of intimacy - sexual, platonic, or romantic - were sparing. I would’ve liked more quiet scenes between Alexandros and Hephaistion, sex or not. I was invested in the story as a whole, but it was the desire for these two to come closer together that drove me on, and wound up with me feeling just the tiniest bit disappointed.

I loved these books, though, don’t get me wrong. I was fascinated by the culture and every dynamic, I just personally would’ve liked more romance. Perhaps the point of the story is not the romance, but from what I’d gathered from the synopsis, I thought romance would be prevalent. Either way, this is definitely a series I’d recommend, and will be talking about for quite some time.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Seolhe.
308 reviews9 followers
July 2, 2021
This book managed to rise (pun intended) above the first part of the series.
Many of the elements that bothered me in the first installment were, thankfully, either entirely absent or drastically downplayed.

The writing felt stronger to me, which is a little surprising since the two books were written as one book, but perhaps it owes to the age of the characters. Where the first book follows Alexandros in his early-mid teens, this follows him at his late teens-early twenties, give or take, and the writing, in turn, felt more mature. The writing is still a little uneven in some areas, but for the most part, I really enjoyed it.

I will also say that I was happy to see that the specific writing quirk that annoyed me so much in the first book - see my review for that one to see what I'm talking about - is used a lot more sparingly here. It did still crop up from time to time, and I did notice it every. Single. Time.
But hey, it was a lot less intrusive in this book, so credit where credit's due.

There's also more plot to this book, and a lot more politics, so we do get away from a lot of the more generic coming of age trappings of the first book. There's still an element of that, but it's nowhere as overpowering as it was in the first installment.

There were some elements that, by no fault of the author, were more difficult for me to enjoy, mostly in terms of the characters. You have to have a lot of patience for very pig-headed men with fragile egos that will fly off the handle at any perceived slight to their honor. This is true of the first book as well, but the levels of machismo bullshit is just through the roof. And I get it. I know this is just part of the values of that time and place, and the author is being true to that. It's just... a lot.

In the end, I still really enjoyed this book, and I do hope we get to see a continuation of the story eventually.
Profile Image for CALVIN REAMES.
15 reviews
January 26, 2020
Great continuation on the period in Alexander's life that most influenced who he was and would become.
64 reviews
July 21, 2022
After reading the author's like explanations in the back of the book, a lot of the things I'd been wondering were cleared up (ex. the writing style, lack of too much complex political events at least in the first book)

I honestly really liked the ending. It did feel a bit abrupt, but I think that's just because I wasn't expecting it to happen here (i think i misinterpreted the events of fire from heaven and i was expecting something slightly different).

i enjoyed tho. so not bad.
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