(Cover picture courtesy of The Book Smugglers.)
Alexander the Great’s soldier, Lydias of Miletus, has survived the final campaigns of the king’s life. He now has to deal with the chaos surrounding his death. Lydias throws his lot in with Ptolemy, one of Alexander’s generals who has grabbed Egypt as his personal territory. Aided by the eunuch Bagoas, the Persian archer Artashir, and the Athenian courtesan Thais, Ptolemy and Lydias must take on all the contenders in a desperate adventure whose prize is the fate of a white city by the sea, and Alexander’s legacy.
I have some mixed feelings about the second book in Jo Graham’s so far awesome Numinous World series. I mean, I’ve already read Black Ships and Hand of Isis, which were both great. But I’m just not feeling this one.
Lydias was a great, well developed character. He had a fascinating past that made his chosen path feel a little more believable and his actions throughout the novel are fairly consistent. I like how we learn his tragic backstory little by little and it really does bring some depth to the character rather than simply hinting at what happened and not letting the reader experience it as he did. Yes, it does slow down the plot but that wasn’t really my main beef with this book.
My main problem was not that I couldn’t relate to the main character, but rather that I couldn’t relate to the plot. The plot was slow, which would have been okay except for the fact that it was also a boring plot. As in pretty much nothing happened throughout the whole book. Ptolemy and Lydias arrived in Egypt after Alexander’s death. Ptolemy was crowned Pharaoh so Alexander’s spirit could be set free and Egypt could prosper once more. And yet this all took 300 pages? Truly, I just wasn’t feeling the plot like I did with Hand of Isis, where Charmian’s relationship with the gods had a more urgent, important feel to it.
Aside from the boring plot, I found that Jo Graham’s novel was pretty well researched and I learned a lot about the aftermath of Alexander the Great’s death. Of course from my Egyptian history I already knew that Alexander’s empire had been split into three pieces between his generals and their supporters, but I never really knew how long it took. Yes, they had already started squabbling before his body could cool, but I didn’t know it had taken them that long to solidify their new empires. It was fascinating to see how the politics of the time would affect Charmian in Hand of Isis later on as she remembered her previous life.
Stealing Fire certainly wasn’t a bad book, but it definitely isn’t one of Jo Graham’s best books. If you already have read books in the Numinous World series, go ahead and read this one. But if you’re just starting out I’d highly recommend either Black Ships or Hand of Isis. Chronological order isn’t really an issue.
I give this book 3.5/5 stars.