Title: Gates of Fire:
Author: Steven Pressfield
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 442
Rating: 4 of 5

Historical fiction is not my go-to genre. Maybe it’s because I was scarred by Gilbert Morris and his ilk as a teen. Whatever the reason, most of the time I’d rather just read non-fiction to get my history fix. Nevertheless, this book came highly recommended so I decided to give it a shot…and I’m glad I did!

Steven Pressfield provides a far more complex and realistic portrayal of the Battle of Thermopylae than something like The 300 or a gun enthusiasts explaining ΜΟΛΩΝ ΛΑΒΕ This isn’t just 442 pages of carnage (though there is plenty of carnage). The battle is placed in its historical context with far more of the book exploring Spartan society, politics, and warrior ethos rather than describing the battle itself.

Most of the narration comes from a gravely wounded Greek survivor, dug out of the piles of the dead after the battle and commanded by King Xerxes to give him a soldier’s-eye-view of the men who made this valiant/futile stand against him. The story jumps around erratically within the narrator’s timeline, focusing on events that reveal the character of individual Spartans and ending with a moving/horrifying description of the battle.

The author’s somehow creates sympathetic characters within the pervasive brutality and oppression of Spartan society. He allows us to overhear and contemplate these warriors’ thoughts on violence, valor, honor, etc. (with some of the characters perhaps failing to show the proper laconic demeanor of true Lacedaemonians). He explores both the glory and the horror of war through events that still echo through history almost 2,500 years later. If you aren’t fazed by occasional info-dumping, profanity-laced rants, or graphic violence this is well worth reading.

6 thoughts on “THIS IS SPARTAAAA!!!

  1. Just as an fyi, the link to Molon Jabe didn’t stand out. I didn’t realize it was a link until I went to copy/paste it and my cursor changed. If you used a color change to indicate, that won’t translate to everyone reading, as browsers show that kind of thing differently. I’m using chrome by the by.

    I went to Morris’s wiki page and holy smokes, that man churned out the series like nobody’s business! Guess he found a formula that worked 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks…the default for links on this color scheme is pretty understated and sometimes I forget to manually make them pop a little bit.

      Morris is king of the Christian historical romance genre. Basically he takes a bunch of moralizing characters and puts them in a love triangle set in some other historical period (Civil War seems to be popular and generally plays to Confederate sympathies). He seems to do little or no research into how people actually thought, spoke, or acted in that era, but boy will he give you detailed descriptions of what everyone is wearing! He can’t even keep character details and plot points straight from one book to the next in some series. I endured some of his books at a time when my borrowing options were very limited, but I would’ve been better off re-reading some of my own books for the 4th or 5th time.

      Liked by 1 person

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