Wednesday, December 15, 2021

In Protector, Conn Iggulden continues his saga of the Greco-Persian Wars with the heroic story of Themistocles

In 480 BCE, the Persians are back, more determined than ever to crush Athens. Picking up where The Gates of Athens ended, the story continues exploring how the Athenians and their Spartan allies come together, not without difficulty, to repulse Persian invasion forces on land and sea despite being vastly outnumbered.

Three major battles – first Salamis, then Plataea and Mycale the following year – are skillfully choreographed, giving readers an overarching picture of the many moving parts alongside firsthand perspectives of the military commanders. The starring role belongs to Themistocles, an Athenian statesman and general whose tactical genius is matched by pride in his own abilities, a flaw which irritates his fellow leaders.

Iggulden makes a persuasive case for recognizing Themistocles as Western civilization’s ultimate savior. Being inside this heroic character’s head as he strategizes is a breathtaking experience.

The dialogue feels realistic while offering a sense of the momentous through many quotable lines and stirring oratory, particularly from the politician Aristides. Devotees of the ancient world will relish this exciting historical novel.

Protector was published in November by Pegasus, and it was out in the UK in May from Michael Joseph. I wrote this review for Booklist's Oct. 1 issue.  As with the previous book, The Gates of Athens, this series isn't just for military history fans (a group I don't consider myself part of), although the battle scenes really are sharply done. The characterizations are first-rate, and it was great to have the sense of being there while history was being shaped.

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