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Men of Bronze [Mass Market Paperback]

Scott Oden
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 1 2006
It is 526 B.C. and the empire of the Pharaohs is dying, crushed by the weight of its own antiquity. Decay riddles its cities, infects its aristocracy, and weakens its armies. While across the expanse of Sinai, like jackals drawn to carrion, the forces of the King of Persia watch and wait. Leading the fight to preserve the soul of Egypt is Hasdrabal Barca, Pharaoh’s deadliest killer. Possessed of a rage few men can fathom and fewer can withstand, Barca struggles each day to preserve the last sliver of his humanity. But, when one of Egypt’s most celebrated generals, a Greek mercenary called Phanes, defects to the Persians, it triggers a savage war that will tax Barca’s skills, and his humanity, to the limit. From the political wasteland of Palestine, to the searing deserts east of the Nile, to the streets of ancient Memphis, Barca and Phanes play a desperate game of cat-and-mouse — a game culminating in the bloodiest battle of Egypt’s history. Caught in the midst of this violence is Jauharah, a slave in the House of Life. She is Arabian, dark-haired and proud — a healer with gifts her blood, her station, and her gender overshadow. Though her hands tend to Barca’s countless wounds, it is her spirit that heals and changes him. Once a fearsome demigod of war, Hasdrabal Barca becomes human again. A man now motivated as much by love as anger. Nevertheless honor and duty have bound Barca to the fate of Egypt. A final conflict remains, a reckoning set to unfold in the dusty hills east of Pelusium. There, over the dead of two nations, Hasdrabal Barca will face the same choice as the heroes of old: Death and eternal fame or obscurity and long life.

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Product Description

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.

Review

"Oden's masterful story of bloody battles, political intrigues, betrayal and romance offers a gripping portrait of the collapse of an empire."  —Publishers Weekly
--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars
3.3 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Great characters July 23 2006
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This is a somewhat sad story about soldiers who are fighting a war they know they can't win, but they keep fighting anyway. The best thing about the book was it's characters, for example Barca, Calisthenes and Phanes (technically the "bad guy", but I liked him anyway). They're really well drawn, you like them, want to know what happens to them, and can relate to them. Their thoughts and feelings about what they're doing could be applied to soldiers of any place and time period. I really enjoyed this book. At times the dialogue sounds a bit like a B action movie, but that's the only criticism I have. I look forward to more from Scott Oden in the future.
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5.0 out of 5 stars modern pulp fiction! Nov. 13 2010
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Robert E Howard. If you like him, you will like Scott Oden. After reading the book I thought about it for days, told everyone I know who, and even contacted Oden thanking him for writing such a good book.

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.

Like it?

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.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Surprised it got published Aug. 18 2009
Format:Mass Market Paperback
If you like the Dungeon&Dragons books then you will probably like this.If your taste runs more to Bernard Cornwell you probably want to give it a miss.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.9 out of 5 stars  33 reviews
26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Historic Read! June 4 2005
By Kristi Ahlers - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Mr. Oden has penned a very good historical fiction read. Although a little slow to start it eventually pulled this reader in with his vivid descriptions and details that place me directly into the time period. Mr. Oden has set his book Egypt borderlands in 520 B.C. It goes without say that this is not a time period, or location many choose to set their stories. As a result the fans of historical fiction have something new and fresh to pick up!

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.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great historical novel! Dec 4 2006
By Victor - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
Scott Oden has done a fantastic job describing the climax of the ancient Egyptian civilization writing about the last couple of years of the last independent Pharaohs. Egypt in 6th century BCE was just free from Assyrians while keeping powerful enemies inside and outside using mercenaries, Greeks and so called Medjay (Phoenicians, Libyans and Canaanites). The peace cannot last long. First meddling regiments of Greeks are trying to usurp the power, and then the onset of the powerful Persian Empire endangers the existence of Nile civilization. Oden paints a ruthless picture of changing loyalties, honor and bravery. He intervenes into military story human feeling, rage, love, and betrayal. The book is very fast paced and it is true to its historical destiny. Egypt loses its antique identity and its heroes have to sacrifice everything they adore to complete the honorable death.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fast Paced Tale of War and Love and Intrigue and War March 19 2007
By Water Walker - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I thought this one was great. Read it inside of 3 days, and that's with a lot of distractions. I even got up early one day so I could read more. Barca was excellent as a dark hero who comes to terms with his past through the affection of an intelligent woman named Jauharah, who also has her own demons to face. I wish the author would write another story about him, maybe something earlier in the guys life. I wouldnt call this a romance though, its more Sword & Sandal as another reviewer said, but the romance is a fitting means to further develop the characters and drama. Im not going to write another plot summary, Amazon already provides one that is good enough for those wanting to know what the book is about. Lots of action, betrayals, and plot twists to keep you reading just one page more no matter how late it is. This book isnt dull and isnt written in a dull, dry manner, and because of this it reads quickly which it should since its a story not a textbook. This may not be the kind of ultra-serious and dry historical fiction that the snobs say they like, but it was a great tale and the atmosphere and history came through well.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Spot on setting, but no spark Nov. 26 2005
By B. Dooley - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I picked up "Men of Bronze" at my local library, intrigued by the cover and the jacket synopsis. I've been in love with ancient Egypt and Greece since I was a kid, so I was happy to give Oden's book a try.

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.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bloody novel gives good action, weak on characters and precision Sept. 12 2006
By Scott Schiefelbein - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Scott Oden is a talented young author in love with the ancient world. That much is clear after reading his first novel, "Men of Bronze," a fictional take on the Persian invasion of Egypt in the later 6th century B.C. Oden has a gift both for research and for imagining plausible events to flesh out the ancient narrative.

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.
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