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)
However, the story is a highly intriguing one, unfolding in two parts... the first part being the betrayal of Phanes of Halicarnassus, leader of the Greek garrison of Memphis, planning to turn over the city to the Persians, and assist in undermining the Pharaoh. This ultimately fails as one of the Medjay (the mercenaries fighting for the Pharaoh) alerts the Pharaoh and he amasses an army to deal with them. They succeed, and the second part has Persia taking the direct approach, and invading Egypt with an army.
Any follower of even the most basic history will know that Persia succeeds, as Persia acquires Egypt, becoming an essential part of the Empire.
Some of the characters are underdeveloped, but for me the most interesting and best fleshed-out would be Phanes of Halicarnassus. He starts as an arrogant man, hateful towards the Egyptians, and seeking to undermine them at every attempt, even seducing their noble maidens. As the story progresses, he becomes more power hungry, little by little, and devolves into utter madness by the end.
Then comes the main character, the Phoenician Medjay leader Hasdrabal Barca...
From the beginning, I absolutely despised the character. There was virtually nothing likeable in him, as he was ever the embodiment of the cliche' loner badass who goes into battle first, kills dozens, and doesn't ever get much more than a scratch on himself. For solidly 2/3rds of the book, he plays this stupid role, using the typical loner badass history of "my wife cheated on me, so I killed her and her lover when I walked in on them" and utilizing his rage, called his "Beast" to make him an invincible fighter, and to hell with others of great fighting skill or experience or numbers.
Then gradually the Arabian slave girl Jauhara stirs in Barca his humanity, and suddenly the easily despisable cliche' known as Hasdrabal Barca becomes a man, with emotions, fear, rage, love, hate, and mercy.
Other compelling characters include Urahorresjet, the father of Barca's murdered wife, and Callisthenes, the fat Greek trader who becomes an honorable soldier fighting for Egypt.
The action scenes are no Pressfield, but they come close, and the story, sluggish at first, quickly becomes compelling and a fast, lush read.
One reviewer used the description of the writing as "Comic Book-like"; in the sense that the characters were larger than life, I would have to agree. But the story of Barca the Phoenician (Scott Oden's anti-hero/hero) is an archetypal story. Oden uses the metaphor of the "Beast" to describe the katoleptic, killing rage that Barca uses to defeat his enemies. There is no other way to write a piece like this without making it somewhat larger than life. Most people have experienced and been shocked by their own "beast" within and readers can relate to the feelings that well up from some seemingly otherworldy source during times of extreme stress(hopefully we don't hack people to pieces with a bronze scimitar...but you get my meaning).
The message that we can change; that our lives are not out of control is an imporant one for our times. Barca has been damaged by love betrayed and paradoxically saved by love as well. Although this is an extremely violent book that pulls no punches in its descriptions of personal combat and brutal battles, ultimately the story is about the peace that can be found within.
I loved this book and will be sure to read Memnon by Scott Oden. Hopefully this writer will continue to turn out exciting historical fiction for many more years.