Empire of Ashes
by Nicholas Nicastro
Reviewed by Coral
In the aftermath of Alexander the Great's death, uncertainty takes hold in the empire he leaves behind. In Athens - a city that was never content to be ruled by the Macedonians - anxiety builds as an army under the Macedonian general Antipater marches towards them.
It is in this politically charged atmosphere, that the pro-Macedonian forces bring up impiety and treason charges against Machon, an Athenian soldier who served as a biographer to Alexander up until his death. A guilty verdict will show support to the Macedonians, while a not guilty verdict may doom them all.
I did not enjoy this book. At all.
The majority of the story was Machon and his accuser standing in front of a jury giving their statements, which wasn't a particularly enjoyable style of story-telling.
I didn't like the jury characters that were presented and actually found them a little superfluous to the story. I think the story would have been served better if more detail were given to Machon's accuser, Aeschines. As it was, he was just a name on a page with only other character's insinuations as his motivation.
The prologue didn't add much to the story and was slightly off-putting, so much so that I almost didn't continue reading the book.
I didn't enjoy any part of the story of Alexander as told by Machon. It seems like the book was trying too hard to be anti-Alexander. Oh, history says that he treated these prisoners with dignity and respect? Well, Machon says that's just a falsehood and he really abused them. History says that he was a brilliant strategist? Well, Machon says that every victory he had was because he had brilliant generals and a secret weapon that no Macedonian liked to talk about. (The identity of this secret weapon was a little hard for me to find believable at all. Although it wasn't any more ridiculous than how the verdict was decided or the 'truth' of Alexander's death.)
I find Alexander to be an interesting historical figure, so I've read a lot of books about him. He conquered a large empire, killing a lot of people. So, it's not that I am against a more negative approach to his story on principal, it was just the execution in this story that I found lacking.
As I've mentioned before, I also have a soft spot for Hephaestion so I didn't like his portrayal in this story.
The way Alexander's romantic relationships were portrayed in the book just made me angry.
There really was nothing remotely interesting or decent about this book.