Imagine a time when the gods turn a blind eye to the agony of men, when the last of the hellions roam the plains and evil stirs beyond the edges of the map. A time when cities burn, and in their ashes, empires rise.
Alexander, Macedonia’s sixteen-year-old heir, is on the brink of discovering his fated role in conquering the known world but finds himself drawn to newcomer Katerina, who must navigate the dark secrets of court life while hiding her own mission: kill the Queen. But Kat’s first love, Jacob, will go to unthinkable lengths to win her, even if it means competing for her heart with Hephaestion, a murderer sheltered by the prince. And far across the sea, Zofia, a Persian princess and Alexander’s unmet fiancée, wants to alter her destiny by seeking the famed and deadly Spirit Eaters.
Weaving fantasy with the salacious and fascinating details of real history, New York Times bestselling author Eleanor Herman reimagines the greatest emperor the world has ever known: Alexander the Great, in the first book of the Blood of Gods and Royals series.
There’s a certain rivalry between English and History majors . . .
The university I attended required its students to attend a weekly convocation. Several times a year, rather than all of the students meeting formally, we would have interdepartmental gatherings, and once a semester the English and History majors would stuff themselves into the largest classroom in our main building for a *coughs* friendly game of College Bowl.
The outcome of this game determined who got to look down their long noses at the others for the rest of the semester.
Yes, I know. I’m a huge nerd. #cantstopwontstop
The point is there’s quite a bit of crossover between the two majors that gives both sides a deeper understanding of their counterparts, and in the same way Herodotus in his HISTORIES ridicules Homer’s accounts of “historical” events, I’m inclined to think LEGACY OF KINGS is what happens when a historian writes fantastical fiction.
I think Herman did a far better job at bridging the gap from history to fiction, than Herodotus thought of Homer’s attempt at the opposite. Although . . . I’m not sure how concerned Homer was about preserving historical accuracy, and Herodotus definitely got a few things wrong himself. Whatever. Admittedly, there are problems with this analogy, first and foremost that my opinion ranks with Herodotus’ and Herman ranks with Homer, but, hopefully, you get what I’m saying.
(ALL of) That being said, Herman’s background is clearly evident in LEGACY OF KINGS . . . mostly in good ways . . . but not always.
Time for a list.
I’m going with the cons first, b/c I liked this book and I don’t want to end my review focusing on the handful of things that kept it from being perfect. Capisce?
1. Sometimes the facts are crammed into the fiction, like Herman just couldn’t help herself, rather than being smoothly interwoven:
The most obvious example is the references to Aristotle, who tutored Alexander-the-boy. Each of the five sections begin with an Aristotle quote, but there are numerous other mentions, some of them feeling almost like Alexander is name-dropping:
“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…”
In the same vein, some of the cultural elements feel a little bit over the top. Like Phillip II of Macedon carrying around the skull of the man who shot out his eye as a drinking goblet. YEP. The skull of his enemy . . . covered in silver with amethysts for eyes . . . Then again, maybe there’s some primary document that supports the claim and my internet search couldn’t find it . . .
2. Third person, present tense.
I don’t like it. It’s distracting. The only POV I like less is first person, present tense.
However . . . after a while, I acclimated. That may not sound like a big deal, but it is. I rarely make it through a book told from this POV, but not only did I finish LEGACY OF KINGS, I enjoyed it.
3. ALL the boys love Katerina.
In fairness, one of the boys simply feels an instant connection to her that is explained by the end of the book, and Kat’s desirability isn’t a major plot point. But the fact remains . . . all the boys love Katerina.
4. A six-year-old girl is killed in a completely manufactured situation.
This is a personal peeve, but it’s one I’m sure many of you share—if you’re going to kill a child, there had better be a darn good reason, and it had better be believably unavoidable.
View Spoiler »No matter how I spin it, I do not believe a six-year-old child, I don’t care that she’s a princess, is either going to have the authority to command her nurse to go traipsing out of the palace sans guards and/or entourage or would a nurse mentally deficient enough to follow such a command be allowed the charge of said princess.
It was stupid—believable, but stupid—for Zo to naively think she could travel twenty miles by herself, unmolested. But Zo is a teenager. Sixteen or seventeen, I think, and tempestuous and impulsive like many a girl her age. She also disguised herself as a boy in order to escape unnoticed.
Nurse is an adult. An adult trusted with the care of a royal child. Neither were disguised. Yet both of them managed to not only walk out of the palace, but to follow Zo for several miles, at such a distance that illegal slavers saw and attacked Zo, never noticing Nurse and Kiddo trailing in their wake.
Nope. Not buying it.
The death is meant to act as a catalyst, making it impossible for Zo to go home, giving her no alternative but to seek out the spirit eaters and try to change her fate.
BUT. Zo is a determined young woman. It would have been an easy thing to use that determination as a goad rather than the shame of indirectly causing her sister’s death.
It must be said that based on the history, there is a slight possibility that the girl isn’t dead. But to all appearances, this is one of the few side plots that isn’t based on the facts. SO. As it stands, a child was killed in manufactured situation. « Hide Spoiler
1. If you love both ancient civilizations and fantasy, you are almost guaranteed to love this book.
Herman’s integration of history and fiction is downright remarkable. She embellishes what is known so that it (almost always) meshes seamlessly with her story. When Katerina landed in Halicarnassus and first saw the mausoleum, I googled it, not remembering what it looked like:
I then got side-tracked by the history (for like an hour), b/c it had indeed been built by Queen Artemisia for her husband King Mausolus, who had indeed been her brother (ICK), which made me curious about exactly how much of this thing was based on fact. The short answer is: a LOT.
2. Herman not only captured the history, she captured the culture.
YES. There is a difference. If you disagree, I dare you to say so to an anthropologist. *stands back and watches* *is gleeful*
It’s the difference between the aforementioned mausoleum and having a religious man explain a torch inexplicably exploding and incinerating its bearer by saying:
“I believe Father Zeus sent a bolt of lightning. It happens from time to time when he is displeased.”
3. Herman also has a flare for subtly capturing strong emotions.
As much as I loathe the version of PRIDE & PREJUDICE that features Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet, there’s this one scene where Darcy (Matthew Macfadyen) helps Lizzie into a carriage. When he turns and walks away, the camera zooms in on his gloved hand that is trying to shake off the effects of touching Elizabeth for the first time. It’s brilliant. I’m swooning a little bit just remembering it.
Herman uses equally small gestures, thoughts, feelings, etc. to communicate the burgeoning love between Kat and Jacob, the transition from childhood friends to something infinitely more dear:
“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.
SO. Despite a few issues, LEGACY OF KINGS is a fantastic first installment of Eleanor Herman’s BLOOD OF GODS AND ROYALS series, and I can’t wait to see what happens next. Will wretched Olympias be stoned by the surviving families of those she made suffer like her historical counterpart? What did Helen’s vision really mean? Will Zo succeed in escaping her fate? I’ll be (im)patiently waiting for the next installment. Highly recommended.
Blood of Gods and Royals:
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My name is Jessica and I live in Chattanooga, Tennessee. I’m trying my hand at writing, but mostly I read. My favorite genres are Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, Science Fiction, Urban Fantasy, and the YA versions of those genres, but if there is a book of a different color getting lots of buzz, I’ll read it too, just to be informed. If I’m not reading or writing, I’m probably on Goodreads or Pinterest or baking blueberry pies because I love them.