Herman, best known for nonfiction about what royalty get up to in (and out of) the bedroom (Sex with Kings, 2004, etc.), changes direction to enter the teen-crossover field with straight-up historical fantasy.
Drawing on Alexander of Macedon and throwing in some additional magic and mayhem, Herman has created an ensemble cast of teens poised to conquer or be conquered: historical figures Alexander, Hephaestion, and Cynane, original characters Katerina, Jacob, and Zofia. Unsurprisingly, things start slowly, with a large number of people to put in place and a world to build, but once most characters are in Alexander’s Pella (other than Persian Zofia), the plot starts crackling: Alexander’s mother, Queen Olympias, is evil; his half sister Cynane is not much better, seducing Heph to break up a friendship and cast a spell of power. Country girl Katerina has unexpected power and strength, and country boy Jacob finds himself allied with the egalitarian, zealous, and thoroughly unpleasant Aesarian lords, Macedon’s most immediate enemy. Mixed with the plot and counterplot are genuinely sexy (although graphically tame) scenes, plenty of historical-fact–dropping (only occasionally obvious), and hints that magic is waking up in the world after a long dormancy.
Both thoroughly researched and absolutely modern, this harkens back to the slightly soapy but still reasonably intelligent mass-market historicals of an earlier era, updated just right for today’s audience. (author’s note, author Q-and-A, discussion questions) (Historical fantasy. 14 & up)