Men of Bronze Mass Market Paperback – Jul 1 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. In 526 B.C., the kingdom of Egypt is decaying, threatened by treachery from within and by a massive Persian invasion from without. Hasdrubal Barca, a Phoenician mercenary in service to the pharaoh, has sworn to protect Egypt's eastern border from Bedouin marauders and foreign invaders. Fueled by a secret, personal tragedy, Barca is merciless and cunning in battle, feared by enemies and his own men alike. But he's steadfastly loyal to the pharaoh, so when he discovers that a powerful Greek mercenary garrison is plotting to betray him to the Persians, Barca must act to save Egypt from invasion. The traitorous Greek commander, Phanes, learns that Barca knows of the plot, so he sets his plan in motion early. As Barca and Phanes maneuver to thwart each other, the Persians draw closer, and an Egyptian priest, Ujahorresnet, conspires to exact revenge for a 20-year-old grudge. Pharaoh is weak, with a few loyal subjects competing with traitors and assassins for his trust. Amid this court intrigue, an educated slave girl, Jauharah, emerges to help Barca protect the pharaoh and save Egypt. Barca and Jauharah fall in love, which results in profound and tragic changes for both. Oden's masterful story of bloody battles, political intrigues, betrayal and romance offers a gripping portrait of the collapse of an empire. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top Customer Reviews
Men of Bronze follows Barca the Phonenician, a man filled with rage, as he and his Medjay guard the eastern Egyptian boarder for Persians and Greeks.
Pros- reads like a cross between Howard and Steven Pressfield. ALOT of action.
Cons- no sequel, I want more.
check out Odens other books. Memnon, Lion of Cairo, and the (forthcoming, 2011) Serpent of Hellas.
and/or Steven Pressfield, Michael Curtis Ford, and Nicholas Nicastro.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Barca the Phonenician he is the leader of the Medjay who are the guardians of the Egyptian Frontier. Barca is a product of his past. Years earlier he caught his wife being unfaithful. His rage was such that in one moment he managed to kill both his wife and her lover. He is still gripped by this tragic event. As a result he is an unstoppable force on the battlefield. Will this hold him in good stead and offer Egypt the warrior that she needs, or will the love of a good woman tame that beast that rages within?
Mr. Oden is a talented author and is a shining jewel in the Medallion Press crown. This book touched on all my emotions. Mr. Oden has a gift for storytelling and I truly felt transported back in time. I look forward to reading Mr. Oden in the future and I highly recommend "Men of Bronze." You won't look at historical fiction the same at the end of the read.
I loved the attention to detail, i.e. the names of the lesser-known gods and descriptions of the places. There are three or four sex scenes in the book, but they're done tastefully and for the most part they enhance the plot. Barca is a likeable character and Phanes is a decent adversary for him.
The glossary in the back of the book is extremely helpful, but some description in the story itself could've been helpful. There was little context to help guess some of the terms, so I had to stop where I was in the story, mark my place on the page, and search for the definition in the back. That process severely hampers the flow of the story.
My biggest problem with the book is Barca's relationship with Jauharah. Both Barca and Jauharah are fleshed-out characters with histories, motivations and distinct personalities. I find them believable. However, I cannot believe that they were as deeply in love as Oden wants us to believe. The synopsis on the jacket points to Jauharah as Barca's love interest, and 3/4 of the way through the book, the consumate that relationship. However, there was very little chemistry between them until that point. Then suddenly, instant love.
Read this book for the history, the detail and the intrigue. Don't read it for any illusions of a love story.
Unfortunately, "Men of Bronze" does not ascend the heights of great historical fiction, for all its promise. The characters are shallow, the dialogue is jarringly ordinary, and virtually all disputes are solved by bloodshed. "Men of Bronze" has one of the highest body-counts of any novel I've ever read!
The story focuses on Hasdrubal Barca, the Phoenician, commander of the Egyptian frontier forces, the Medjay. Barca discovers that the Persians mean to launch a massive invasion of Egypt with the collusion of Phanes of Hallicarnasus, trusted Greek commander of the Pharoah's Greek forces. It is an interesting twist on the usual pro-Western attitudes of historical fiction that the Greeks play the bad guys. However, this twist is not explored to its fullest degree, and most of the Greeks have the same character development as anonymous Stormtroopers in the Star Wars movies.
The lone exception to this is the dastardly Phanes, a villain so tritely evil that all he lacks is an oiled mustache to twirl. Phanes, an "evil Achilles," is an a-moral narcissist with a very post-modern take on honor and virtue. It is only natural that he and Barca play foil to each other, as Barca is the stereotypical killer with a good heart, seeking death on the battlefield to extinguish the pain of his distant past. It is also only natural that Phanes use the typical villain arrogance to fail to kill Barca when he has the chance . . . such cliches abound in "Men of Bronze."
A love story that is more declaimed than felt somewhat elevates the novel's closing chapters, and the final titanic battle of Pelusium has several nice scenes of carnage. However, there is little in the way of humor, style or wit that would place Oden's novel into the pantheon of the works of Bernard Cornwell or Patrick O'Brian, much less Mary Renault of even Cecelia Holland.
What was also surprising in this novel was the lack of attention to basic detail. I'm hardly a linguistic prude, but on two separate occasions the novel uses "it's" when the possessive "its" was required. Also, the novel switches from referring to Ahuramazda with one word or two. Oden's editors failed him on numerous such occasions. That's just not acceptable for a serious work.
Here's to hoping that Oden's work will continue to improve - based on the merits of "Men of Bronze," he deserves several more chances. Shakespeare, after all, started with "Titus Andronicus"! I'd gladly see some deeper characters at the expense of a few buckets of blood.