Synopsis: In 480 B.C., two million Persian invaders come to the mountain pass of Thermopylae in eastern Greece, where they are met by 300 of Sparta’s finest warriors. The Greek loyalists battle for six days in a prelude to their ultimate victory. “Pressfield brings the battle of Thermopylae to brilliant life, and he does for that war what Charles Frazier did for the Civil War in “Cold Mountain.””–Pat Conroy.
Review:Go tell the Spartans, stranger passing by, that here obedient to their laws we lie.Thus reads an ancient stone at Thermopylae in northern Greece, the site of one of the world’s greatest battles for freedom. Here, in 480 B.C., on a narrow mountain pass above the crystalline Aegean, 300 Spartan knights and their allies faced the massive forces of Xerxes, King of Persia. From the start, there was no question but that the Spartans would perish. In Gates of Fire, however, Steven Pressfield makes their courageous defense–and eventual extinction–unbearably suspenseful.In the tradition of Mary Renault, this historical novel unfolds in flashback. Xeo, the sole Spartan survivor of Thermopylae, has been captured by the Persians, and Xerxes himself presses his young captive to reveal how his tiny cohort kept more than 100,000 Persians at bay for a week. Xeo, however, begins at the beginning, when his childhood home in northern Greece was overrun and he escaped to Sparta. There he is drafted into the elite Spartan guard and rigorously schooled in the art of war–an education brutal enough to destroy half the students, but (oddly enough) not without humor: “The more miserable the conditions, the more convulsing the jokes became, or at least that’s how it seems,” Xeo recalls. His companions in arms are Alexandros, a gentle boy who turns out to be the most courageous of all, and Rooster, an angry, half-Messenian youth.Pressfield’s descriptions of war are breathtaking in their immediacy. They are also meticulously assembled out of physical detail and crisp, uncluttered metaphor:
The forerank of the enemy collapsed immediately as the first shock hit it; the body-length shields seemed to implode rearward, their anchoring spikes rooted slinging from the earth like tent pins in a gale. The forerank archers were literally bowled off their feet, their wall-like shields caving in upon them like fortress redoubts under the assault of the ram…. The valor of the individual Medes was beyond question, but their light hacking blades were harmless as toys; against the massed wall of Spartan armor, they might as well have been defending themselves with reeds or fennel stalks.
Alas, even this human barrier was bound to collapse, as we knew all along it would. “War is work, not mystery,” Xeo laments. But Pressfield’s epic seems to make the opposite argument: courage on this scale is not merely inspiring but ultimately mysterious. –Marianne Painter
Review: “…GATES OF FIRE could not be mistaken for fine literature, but it has other qualities….As a narrator, above all, the author is highly skilful.”
New Year’s Day, 1906. A family celebrates, skating on the ice of a vast lake, far north in Russia. Cousins of the Romanov Tsars, this is the Rumovsky family – Prince Pyotr, his wife Princess Sofia, their son Ivan and twins Yelena and Alexander, and their young Irish governess,
Miss Harriet. With them is the patriarch of the family, old Prince Mikhail, a strange, towering figure, a man from another century, with his fabulous Boyars’ court at the castle, a Tamburlaine of the snows…Behind the Rumovsky family and their mediaeval island castle lie 300 years of autocratic but peaceful rule. Ahead of them, the old Prince expects the same for his descendants. It is not to be. Firesong is the story of the Rumovskies – their lives, deaths and hazardous escapes in the nightmarish new Russia that soon engulfs them: a land stricken by famine, pestilence, war and death. A story both intimate and epic, reminiscent of Dr Zhivago, this is a dramatic saga of men and women who fight for their destiny, in love and peace, against all the odds of war and dissolution.
An epic story of passion, courage and adventure in ancient Sparta, by the author of the ALEXANDER trilogy. Herodotus tells us that not all of the three hundred Spartan warriors died at the hands of Xerxes, King of the Persians, in the battle of the Thermopylae: two were saved
bringing a life-saving message back to the city…This is the saga of a Spartan family, torn apart by a cruel law that forces them to abandon one of their two sons – born lame – to the elements. The elder son, Brithos, is raised in the caste of the warriors, while the other, Talos, is spared a cruel death and is raised by a Helot shepherd, among the peasants. They live out their story in a world dominated by the clash between the Persian empire and the city-states of Greece – a ferocious, relentless conflict – until the voice of their blood and of human solidarity unites them in a thrilling, singular enterprise.
Bullied at school for his suspiciously dark skin and lack of a father, Hart soon learns to fight — and win. At eighteen, his world is shaken by his mother’s revelation that his anonymous father is willing to give him a vast inheritance — provided he can prove himself worthy of the prize as an officer in the King’s Dragoon Guards. At a time when racism and prejudice are rife in Victorian society, Hart struggles to come to terms with his identity. Forced to leave the army, he decides to head to South Africa, and a fresh start. But George Hart has soldiering in his blood, and once in Africa the urge to serve again is strong. Yet now he is caught between two fierce and unyielding forces as Britain drives towards war with the Zulus. Hart must make a choice — and fight for his life.
In his latest adventure Hector Lynch follows his quest for the young Spanish woman, Maria, with whom he has fallen in love. His search takes him and his friends on a nightmare passage around Cape Horn where they come across a small warship entombed on an icefloe, her only crew two skeletons – the captain frozen to death in his cabin and a dog. The corpse is the long-missing brother of a local Spanish governor in Peru. In gratitude for learning his brother’s fate, the governor tells Hector that Maria has moved to the Ladrones, the Thief Islands, on the far side of the Pacific.On the way there, Hector’s ship picks up an emaciated native fisherman adrift on a sinking boat. He dupes his rescuers into thinking that his home is rich in gold. But his poverty-stricken island proves to be the jealousy guarded by a Japanese warlord who treats the visitors as trespassers. Only when Jezreel, the ex-prize fighter, defeats the Japanese swordsman in a duel can they escape. Reaching the Thief Islands, Hector allies with the native people, the Chamorro, to launch a night raid on the Spanish fort and is finally reunited with Maria. But will the young couple ever be able to settle down? As a known sea robber, Hector will only be safe where the law cannot touch him so their journey continues..
Every politician has a secret. And when the daughter of a politically connected family is kidnapped abroad, America’s new president will agree to anything, even a deadly and ill-advised rescue plan in order to keep his secret hidden. But when covert counter-terrorism operative Scot Harvath is assigned to infiltrate one of the world’s most notorious prisons and free the man the kidnappers demand as ransom, he quickly learns that there is much more to the operation than anyone dares to admit. As the subterfuge is laid bare, Harvath must examine his own career of ruthlessly hunting down and killing terrorists and decide if he has what it takes to help one of the world’s worst go free.
This is a debut novel by Indian author Aravind Adiga, providing the details of India’s class struggle in a globalized world. Told though the retrospective narration from the character Balram Halwai, it shed insights on issues of religion, caste, loyalty, corruption and poverty in India. Dark yet amusing, the story slowly unfolds and explains how the character Balram transcend his sweet-maker caste and becomes a successful entrepreneur, after murdering his master.
First published in 2008, and won the 40th Man Booker Prize in the same year.
In 1982, having sold his jazz bar to devote himself to writing, Murakami began running to keep fit. A year later, he’d completed a solo course from Athens to Marathon, and now, after dozens of such races, he reflects upon the influence the sport has had on his life and on his writing.
Equal parts travelogue, training log, and reminiscence, this revealing memoir covers his four-month preparation for the 2005 New York City Marathon and settings ranging from Tokyo’s Jingu Gaien gardens, where he once shared the course with an Olympian, to the Charles River in Boston.
By turns funny and sobering, playful and philosophical, this is a must-read for fans of this masterful yet private writer as well as for the exploding population of athletes who find similar satisfaction in distance running.
This book is filled with powerful short essays about Chinese culture, written for Chinese people and previously published in Chinese newspaper. The author does not pretend to be an expert, but discovers, as the reader does, what it means to be Chinese in a changing world. Also it explains some of the roots of the Chinese beliefs and upbringings. An interesting book for anyone who is curious about the Chinese.
Blomkvist arrives at Hedeby Island on January 3rd. Henrik gives him a tour and points out some of the major suspects in the disappearance of Harriet Vanger all those years ago. Harald Vanger is Henrik’s 92-year-old brother, a hermit and lifelong member of the Nazi party. Henrik doesn’t speak to him. Isabella Vanger is 75 years old, and the mother of Harriet. She was a hands-off mother with few parenting skills. Cecilia Vanger is 56, which means she was 20 when Harriet disappeared. She’s Harald’s daughter but has nothing to do with the guy. Henrik likes her. Her sister, Anita, lives in London.