An informed Hellenic archaeologist from Cyprus has enjoyed Sword of Marathon. Despite a slight reserve at some of the more what you might call ‘primeval’ scenes, he’s still given it a decent rating. Here’s his review:
Jack has written an imaginative, fantasy tale with some interesting theories relating to historical events as we understand them.
The story is based on the historical background and enlivens the period pretty well. One can forgive the warped timeline which puts Norsemen, Archaic and Classical Greeks and Roman artifacts co-existing in this area at the same time -for the sake of a good yarn. Myths have been woven into the yarn (pardon the attempted joke), but I was glad to see that Jack had not fallen for the old chestnut which has Pheidippedes running from Marathon to Athens to announce the Greek victory and dropping dead – although he does put tongue in cheek to have some other messenger do it elsewhere. (Pheidippedes, in fact, did more than a marathon (24 miles) – he ran 130 miles from Athens to Sparta with an urgent message in 24 hours – and then ran back with the answer. It was the Athenian army as a body which ran from Marathon back to Athens – as the author so rightly relates it.)
It is an intriguing novel. I look forward to Jack’s interpretation of Thermopylae and Plataea, but a little less medical detail and titillation would suit my personal taste, much as other readers might enjoy them.
G.F.H., Archaeologist, Cyprus
Thank you, G.F.H., for your tolerance at my inner psyche’s outer abandon! 🙂
A perceptive and erudite man, Aaron, has written a crisp review of Sword of Marathon, on Amazon.com:
Jack England has written an exciting tale that keeps the reader gripped to each page.
In doing so he has accomplished the difficult task of creating a fantastical world that is at the same time believable.
The reader is drawn into this vibrant landscape that intertwines the magic of ancient legend with the eternally familiar themes of commerce, struggle, violence, loss and new beginnings.
This all set against the backdrop of genuine historical events that have shaped the world as we understand it today.
Marathon, to my mind, is the key battle of ancient times, which helped create the modern world, for good or ill. The ‘glorious defeat’ of Thermopylae was of course important too, and much more romantic, but without Marathon, Thermopylae would never have been necessary. By then, Sparta would have been an island under constant Persian assault, probably crumbling later rather than sooner, but still crumbling nevertheless. Fortunately, in Book Beta, we’ll get to Thermopylae, to figure out what really happened. By the way, Aaron, Xerxes has just left Sardis, and the Athenians are just about to work out whether to stay in Greece or to leave for Italy. It’s starting to get exciting again! 🙂
Life is a journey and the joy of reading fiction is to be transformed into a journey more interesting and exciting than the one we trudge through day-by-day, paycheck-to-paycheck. For those readers who like their heroes hard-bodied with conquests bloody in battle and insatiable in the boudoir, Jack England’s first novel Sword of Marathon will both sate your appetite, and whet it for more.
Mr. England says there are two more instalments coming and why not. His heroes, Luke and Hal, are young and robust. Their swords and battle skills sharp. The younger Hal is the best bowman in the land. Meanwhile the older Luke is the epitome of the master swordsman. No challenger’s head or bowels is safe against him in battle, while at the same time he has every damsel from Athens to Halicarnassus wanting to jump his bones.
Alas, he’s shy and inexperienced, but fear not dear reader, Luke hooks up with the ultra-experienced Agariste who uncovers his natural talents. By the time our young hero falls for Misia, a young Carian princess, he is, shall we say, battle-tested.
There is no ambiguity as to who are the good guys and who are the bad in this tale of ancient Athenians and Persians. Although when the convoy of ships is attacked by the man-eaters, well, its hard to know who to root for. Even our hero falls in love at first sight with an attacker of “intoxicating primal beauty” who intends “to cleave Luke’s head in two…”
The author’s classical liberal point of view provides a refreshing ethos over the story. The brothers are seeking traders for their amber. The money is as sturdy and reliable as our heroes and the author deftly introduces some Hoppian critiques of democracy along the way.
However, those looking for Rand-like pages-long ideological rants will be disappointed. Mr. England keeps the political preaching to a bare minimum while the swashbuckling and lust is constantly amped up, nicely softened by the author’s dry English wit sprinkled throughout the dialog.
Sword of Marathon is a page-turner that will get your pulse racing and your mind wandering. The perfect escape from life’s drudgeries.
Mr French is obviously a man of discerning enlightenment.
An interesting reader in northern England called Bobko, has written a review on Amazon.co.uk:
Having finally read The Sword of Marathon by Jack England, I found I couldn’t put the book down. I was dying to know what happend to Hal and Luke in their adventures. I found Sword of Marathon extremely well written and although fiction I found it very interesting from an historical point of view.
I look forward to Jack England’s next book in the series.
All I can say, aside from knowing that this is a completely 100% no-holds-barred truthful review, as I hope they all are, is “Thanks Mum!” 🙂
Never before have I found a novel that so brilliantly combines ancient history and the stories of Antiquity with a timeless modern-day tale of valor, interpersonal relationships, the fight of good against evil, and the primacy of the individual over the collective.
Jack England not only takes his readers on a rollercoaster ride of suspense throughout forgotten parts of our history but also manages to insert deeper principles into his story without losing sight of the ultimate purpose of the novel: entertainment.
Sword of Marathon makes a great read for everyone really. Whether you are the history buff, the political philosophy geelk, or the ordinary no-nonsense novel reader next door, you will definitely find some reward in getting a copy of this well-written, entertaining and insightful book.
Let’s hope Jack England’s first novel won’t be his last.
There’s at least two more in me, Vincent. Thank you for the review.
An eclectic, bold, and adventurous reader, Soz, has reviewed Sword of Marathon on Amazon.co.uk:
I was looking to try something a bit different to my usual reading genre, so I thought I would give this book a try – by page 5, I was hooked!
The story is a really great romp – following the fortunes of the leading characters, Luke and his younger brother Hal. Somewhat by accident, they find themselves travelling to the political heartland of Greece. The journey proves dangerous and educational and there are understandable amounts of blood and gore along the way. What I particularly enjoyed though, was the transformation of these two from adolescents to young men. Whilst Hal maintains a steadfast gung-ho approach to everything, Luke matures into a true hero inspired by the various colourful characters he meets.
Eventually, Luke and Hal find themselves embroiled in the battle at Marathon. The ‘histories’ of Herodotus were the basis for this account, and it’s done very well. There are several nasty deaths (some, if I’m honest, a little too graphic for my taste!) and ingenious military manoeuvres.
As far as my limited knowledge of ancient history goes, it seems pretty accurate in its general setting. The English is rich and there are good layers of complexity. Full of war, history, violence and sex, I think this book will appeal mainly to male readers, however, I’m not a bloke and I can say one hundred percent that I loved it! I understand that a sequel is planned and I will eagerly await its’ release. Can’t help thinking this book would make a great film or mini-series.
As Stephen King relates in his book, On Writing, the unconscious mind often throws up the most graphic, rude, or unpleasant images and feelings. However, if a writer is to be true to himself or herself, they must transcribe these scenes to the reader, especially if they are essential to the story, otherwise the novel stops being ‘true’ and something is lost. However, thank you Soz for persevering through some of these gruesome bits and for writing this review.
A literary and well-informed reader, Catmandoo, has reviewed Sword of Marathon on Amazon.co.uk:
Our two young Gothic heroes, Luke, a prince, and younger brother Hal, are ably supported (or thwarted, depending on your point of view) in their quest to secure vital trade routes, by a cast of equally believable and cunning seafarers, philosophers, soldiers, explorers, traitors and vagabonds. Let’s not forget the occasional Amazon either (tip: if you ever meet one at a party, best avoid, especially if you’re a bloke!).
Jack England serves up a brilliant mix of ancient history (as it should have been taught but never was), romance, bravery and rampant skulduggery, into a damn good yarn which makes for a great read – the style is informal, but achieves graphic, no-holds-barred, portrayals of the raw shock of combat and life during difficult and treacherous times. Watch your back….
He presents just enough historic tit-bits on the politics, economy, geography, seafaring, warmongering and survival during this volatile era, to paint his scenes all the more convincingly without overpowering the underlying story – nor forgetting that it is still just that – a ‘damn good yarn’.
Roll on the next instalment….
The first draft of the next instalment is currently progressing well, Catmandoo, perhaps a little slower than I’d hoped, as the Athenians are set on bickering with the Spartans. However, the gates of Thermopylae approach relentlessly.