(Cover picture courtesy of PRLog.)
The Other Alexander is the first book in the epic trilogy The Bow of Heaven. Alexander, a young Greek philosophy student, is wrenched from a life unlived to submit to the whims of an empire—as a slave of Rome. In a world would without choice, he must use his cunning and wits to gain the trust of one of the most powerful men in the Republic.
Yet no matter how high he climbs, or how deeply he falls in love, Alexander’s life is still bound by the will of another. When his master becomes blinded by revenge, the fates of both owner and owned become slaves to a terrible choice. A choice which will threaten the very life of the empire one has ruled, and the other has been forced to serve.
Perhaps it’s the fact that I prattle on about history constantly, but I can guarantee you that everyone in my family and small circle of friends has heard of Gaius Julius Caesar. How could they not when he is such a cultural phenomenon, even two thousand years later? Yet while Julius Caesar is a household name, very few people have heard of Marcus Licinius Crassus. Even among historians, he is dismissed as the weak third member of the First Triumvirate, nothing more than the man who bankrolled the wars of Pompey the Great and Julius Caesar. But in The Other Alexander, I believe Andrew Levkoff has done for Crassus what Pauline Gedge did for Kamose Tao or what Robert Graves did for Claudius.
In a style reminiscent of Wilbur Smith’s Egyptian novels, Andrew Levkoff chronicles the life of Crassus through the eyes of his unfortunate slave Alexandros, called Alexander. Alexander is very similar to Smith’s Taita in the way he becomes invaluable to his master and ends up running the household. Also like Smith’s Taita, he constantly reflects on life with the complex, sometimes arrogant mind of a philosopher. Alexander’s forceful personality is part of what makes him a good character, but he makes the jump from a good character to a great character because he is full of contradictions, just like real people.
The first few chapters are slowly paced to draw the reader in without completely disorienting them with the foreign world of ancient Rome. However, the pace picks up steadily throughout the novel and by the end it rivals Conn Iggulden’s famously fast-paced novels. However, unlike Conn Iggulden, Andrew Levkoff does not change history so blatantly. As far as I know, The Other Alexander is one of the most historically accurate pieces of historical fiction I’ve ever read. You can certainly tell there was a great deal of research and care put into this novel.
My only true criticism is that this should have been proofread better. I caught several missing quotation marks in the dialogue and even the use of ‘pray’ instead of ‘prey’ in this passage on page 256:
“In that case, Gaius, you are nothing. Pray on some other patrician’s wife.”
Yet these mistakes do not detract from the overall quality of the novel and I would recommend this to anyone who is interested in Roman history, particularly that of the late Republic.
I give this book 4.5/5 stars.