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Title: Last of the Amazons
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About this title
In or around 1250 BC, so Plutarch tells us, Theseus, king of Athens and slayer of the Minotaur, set sail on a journey that brought him to the land of 'tal Kyrte', the 'Free People', a nation of fiercely proud and passionate warrior women whom the Greeks called 'Amazons'. Bound to each other as lovers as well as fighters and owing allegiance to no man, the Amazons distrusted the Greeks with their boastful talk of cities and civilization. And when their illustrious war queen Antiope fell in love with Theseus and fled to Athens with the king and his followers, so denying her people, the Amazon tribes were outraged. Seeking revenge, they raised a vast army and marched on Athens. History tells us they could not win, but for a brief and glorious moment the Amazons held the Attic world in thrall before vanishing into the immortal realms of myth and legend. Resounding to the sound of brutal, bloody battles fought hand-to-hand and peopled with wonderfully realised flesh and blood characters - from the unforgettable warrior Selene, whose surrender to the Greeks does nothing to tame her, and her lover, Damon, an Athenian soldier who comes to understand and cherish the ways of the Amazon, to the great and tragic figure of Theseus, and Antiope, the noble queen who betrayed her people for love - here is Steven Pressfield's most thrillingly imagined novel yet. In this dazzling and profoundly moving tale of love and war, honour and revenge, he brings the ancient world to brilliant life as never before to recount the extraordinary, near-forgotten story of the last of the Amazons...Review:
With an epic scope and keen sense of detail, Steven Pressfield has created an entertaining and vital reimagining of the Amazon legend with his historical novel, Last of the Amazons. Combining myth with history, Pressfield offers a conjectural account of the legendary female warrior tribe as it may have existed in the years leading up to its extinction. Following the Athenian-Amazon war in the fifth century B.C., Amazon warrior Selene is taken captive and placed as an unlikely governess to the two daughters of a high-ranking Greek. The three form a lasting bond, and when Selene eventually escapes to return to Amazonia, eldest daughter Europa follows her. The Athenians, including King Theseus, assemble a group to find them, eventually traveling to Amazonia. Here, those involved relate the story of the Amazon war to the men, and the book's action really begins. Narrators tell of Theseus's earlier voyage to Amazonia, where his weakened crew was given shelter by the Amazons; the love affair between Theseus and Amazon queen Antiope; and the terrible consequences of the queen's defection and the Amazonian invasion of Athens that it inspired.
Throughout, Pressfield instills Amazons with a grandiose sensibility, firmly modeling it after the Homeric epics of its time. Pressfield relishes in describing these events and their heroes with a divinely consequential spirit:
Antiope advanced...Clearly no few of the foe took her for a goddess, with such splendor did her armor gleam and by such brilliance did her aspect exceed the common measure of humanity. The hour was still early, the west-facing slope deep in shadow, so that the Amazon, seen from the besiegers’ lines, advanced from gloom into flares of blinding dazzle.
Some clumsy dialogue and clichéd interactions hamper the book’s emotional resonance, but the level of intricacy and constant action on display here keep the pages moving along. Amazon is ultimately an impressive, fun read that renders history spectacular in its speculation. --Ross Doll
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