Wednesday 19 April 2017

A Discovering Diamonds review of LEONIDAS OF SPARTA: A BOY OF THE AGOGE by Helena P Schrader

 Amazon UK £3.65    £12.99
Amazon US $4.56  $15.32
Amazon CA  $11.75

Adventure/ Military / Coming of Age / Family Saga
Late 6th Century BC
Sparta - Greece

Book #1 of a trilogy

The death of Leonidas now stands alongside those of many other heroes of the past, yet the life of this man is not well documented. Helena Schrader attempts to put this right with her Leonidas of Sparta trilogy, of which this is the first volume.

It covers the period from when Leonidas is seven years old and taken to the Agoge (or school) until he eventually graduates to become a citizen fourteen years later. We follow his adventures, trials, successes and failures for each of these years, seeing how he grows up and deals with the harsh – though not so severe as we might imagine – upbringing in the Agoge and the Spartan way of life. Leonidas is the youngest son of the king and rather down-trodden by his brothers and half-brothers – even his slightly older-by-minutes twin, Brotus, looks down on him. But he has friends, the arrogant Prokles and the shy, stuttering weakling Alkander.

Whilst a good story - I cannot fault the research and the detail with which the author describes events - but we start off with a rather long prologue where Leonidas seems to be preparing for Thermopylae and from thereon in, the book is littered with words and phrases either in parentheses or within quotation marks, or both, when more appropriate writing might have removed these distractions. I also felt that so much of the history – and therefore the depth of research – was told in the narrative rather than shown by the characters in dialogue or action and narrative. There were only one or two typographical or spacing errors, but for a British reader I wonder if the 'Americanisms' (i.e ‘Fall’ not ‘Autumn’) and a spattering of anachronisms might jar a little? e.g. I doubt Spartan soldiers would have 'gone AWOL'?

All in all, I enjoyed the story, the subject is a fascinating one and should be told, plus the author knows her subject very well, so for readers who prefer historical detail over imaginative fiction this is ideal.

© Richard Tearle

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