Last of the Amazons
by Steven Pressfield
Reviewed by Coral
Having read and enjoyed Pressfield's Gates of Fire I was thoroughly disappointed that an author so good could write a book this bad. Now maybe that's harsh, but 40 pages into the book and it became clear the author hadn't done any research into the Greek myths he was writing about, and I called it quits at that.
He writes about Ares fathering the Amazons with the nymph Harmonia, but Harmonia was his daughter with Aphrodite and therefore a full goddess. In fact she gave up her powers to be with a human she loved. It was with Artemis that Ares fathered the Amazons.
Another myth he screwed up was that of Theseus and the Amazon Queen. Hippolyta, the Amazon Queen (also know as Antiope, which is the name he uses for her in this book) had a son with Theseus. Hippolyta, in some myths, was killed by Hercules and in others by Theseus when she objected to his second marriage.
Now, I've studied a lot about the Trojan war, trying to fit it into a historical context. According to legend Hercules visited Troy and entered the city with Poseidon's help a generation before Troy was destroyed in the war. Archeology has told us that Troy 7 was the one most likely destroyed in war, which makes Troy 6 the one of Hercules' time. What has always been interesting to me is that Troy 6 was destroyed by an earthquake and Poseidon is the god of Earthquakes. I only mention this to say that Hercules, had he lived, would have lived during the Bronze age, when Iron was not being exported out of the Hittite empire, long before it was used for warfare purposes. Therefore Hercules should not have had any Iron armor.
Pressfield even claims that Theseus is an actual historical character, but as I write this, that isn't true. As of now he is still a mythological figure who's existence in reality we cannot prove or disprove at this point.
When it comes to historical errors, or errors in mythology like this, I can usually overlook it. I've read dozens of Arthurian legend books who disregard the Romanized-Celtic religion that Britain should have been worshipping to substitute in a Mother Goddess figure who's popular in fiction these days. In those cases, though, the author was at least a decent enough writer. This book had some drawbacks entirely separate from all this mythological stuff.
This was not the first book, and unfortunately probably won't be the last, where one female character makes another (look away now if squeamish) feel her menstrual blood. As a woman I'd just like to say, ewwwwww. Why would you want someone to do that?
I also didn't like the character of Selene, the captured Amazon governess to two young Athenian girls. Selene is gay and has a lover back among the Amazons, whose life she traded away her freedom for. What I didn't like about Selene was that, as she's telling her charges about her life as an Amazon, she kisses them and feels their breasts, while they are very young. I just feel that Pressfield is holding true to the belief the Boy Scouts of America seem to hold, that gay adults will molest children of the same gender in their charge. It's a harmful belief, and I didn't enjoy reading it.
I won't grade this book; having not read even a quarter of it, grading seems unfair. I will say again that I enjoyed his last book, which I thought was a well-written and engrossing story.