THE ASSYRIAN by Nicholas Guild
Kirkus Star


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Guild, previously a crafter of sturdy political thrillers (Chain Reaction, The Berlin Warning, The Linz Tatoo), here switches genres to surpass himself in a stunning historical epic--the life and loves of a young Assyrian prince--that teems with violence, sex, and period detail. Narrated by its hero, Tiglath Ashur, Guild's turbulent tale revolves around a triangle: between Tiglath, son of the Assyrian King and a Greek captive; his half-brother and best friend Esarhaddon; and their half-sister Esharhamat, slated to marry whoever succeeds to the throne. From age five, when the story begins in characteristically bloody fashion with Tiglath escaping a eunuch's fate by slashing his would-be castrator, Tiglath and Esharhamat are in love. But Esarhaddon stands between Tiglath and the throne--and Esharhamat's hand. As the three principals age, Esarhaddon grows into a callow man, Esharhamat into a great beauty; while Tiglath, forged in a kiln of bloody battles against the Elamites, Scythians, and Aryans, becomes a great warrior. Guild doesn't sugarcoat his hero. Tiglath is just and courageous, but as brutal and bloodthirsty as his civilization; it's with cold pride that he relates in clinical detail the beheading, impaling, or flaying alive of his enemies. Guild drenches his story with plenty of such shocking violence, and with deviant sex, too, including incest (Tiglath eventually starts a dangerous affair with Esharhamat, and beds full-sister Shaditu, too) and S&M (Tiglath descends to whipping--literally--a lover into sexual frenzy). As Tiglath attains glory and wealth, he rises to be the King's and people's choice for the crown. But the gods, via omens, decree Esarhaddon the heir apparent. He weds Esharhamat, and, when the King dies, takes the crown, imprisoning and finally banishing Tiglath forever. Tiglath makes a splendid centerpiece for Guild's rich rendering of Assyrian life. All in all: an exciting, full-blooded epic peopled with dozens of memorable characters.

Pub Date: June 30th, 1987
Publisher: Atheneum