A hero comes into his own in Kachel’s debut work of historical fiction.
Alexander the Great is dead, his empire in chaos. Following his death, former allies fight to gain control of Alexander’s realm, which is divided among his heirs. Andrikos is a young man growing up in Ilandra during this time of violence and political turmoil. Though he admires the courage of Alexander’s military, Andrikos whiles away with ill-advised friendships and skirts the edge of a criminal existence. The young man is forced to leave his hometown following a violent encounter and the painful death of a friend. He seeks refuge with the army in hopes that he will grow into a strong, courageous man who can someday return home. His training and initiation are brutal, yet Andrikos proves himself to his colleagues and superiors. He’s recruited to assist a mysterious organization called the King’s Hand, a shadowy group dedicated to protecting Alexander’s rightful heirs. With the help of his mentor, Vettias, Andrikos soon learns the arts of coercion and espionage, skills requiring a kind of finesse far different from the brute force essential on the battlefront. Accompanied by the beautiful prostitute Mara, the two men travel on a far-flung mission to infiltrate the highest levels of a royal court and to ensure that the rightful heir to Alexander comes out victorious. Kachel’s novel, the first in a planned series, is a thoroughly researched addition to the genre. The accounts of daily life in the Greek army are far from glorified; rather, Kachel presents a realistic portrayal of the violence inherent to the life of a soldier. Though the plot drags at times—specifically during battle scenes—once Andrikos is engaged by Vettias and the King’s Hand, the narrative takes off. Kachel does a wonderful job portraying the development of Andrikos from awkward, immature youth to confident and skilled operative. Kachel brings to life a huge cast of characters and does an admirable job fleshing them out, particularly Andrikos and the complicated Vettias. Thanks to evocative writing and impressive research, the world of the ancient Greeks feels closer than ever.
An educational yet adventurous novel that will leave readers eagerly anticipating the next installment.