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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Tom Swan Returns, while Satyrus and Melitta Start a New Storyline in Tyrant V Destroyer of Cities, both by Christian Cameron (with comments by Liviu Suciu)

"A young Englishman, Tom Swan, is badly wounded in a desperate sea fight. When he wakes in a hospital, he's in one of the last towns in Greece holding out against the Turks. And there aren't any women to be found. Rich men vie to hire him, and they all seem to want the same thing-a fabulous jewel made for Alexander the Great.

He's not a professional soldier. He's really a thief and a little bit of a scholar looking for remnants of Ancient Greece and Rome - temples, graves, pottery, fabulous animals, unicorn horns. But he also has a real talent for ending up in the midst of violence when he didn't mean to. Having used his wits to escape execution in part one, he begins a series of adventures that take him to the high seas, bedrooms in Constantinople and street duels in Italy, meetings with remarkable men - Cyriaco of Ancona and Sultan Mehmet II and the whole Sforza family - and from the intrigues of Rome to the Jewish Ghetto in Venice"

The fourth Tom Swan installment is the best so far as it hits just the right notes and it coheres the story that came before - in a way this one is the natural ending of the first part as volumes 2 and 3 ended on huge cliffhangers, while Tom Swan 4 - Rome ends with a new beginning.

Now that the first part of the story is done and the new one is under way, one can look back and appreciate how good this serial is as the author started hitting all the sweet spots - adventure, intrigue, atmosphere and very interesting characters you want to follow and find what what happens with next.

And as one more incentive to get this installment, one mild spoiler: Tom Swan gets married - at least more or less (!).


Read FBC Review of Poseidon's Spear and The Long War Series to Date

"Demetrius, son of Alexander's former comrade, Antigonus One-Eye, was perhaps the most dashing and charismatic of the Successors, the Macedonian generals who fought a bitter war for the spoils of Alexander's short-lived empire. Still smarting from his epic defeat at the hands of Ptolemy, Demetrius has his eye on one of the richest prizes in the ancient world - the naval superpower of Rhodes. But the Rhodians know that defeat will mean annihilation, and Demetrius's campagin will entail five separate naval battles over several years before he can begin to breach the city walls - leading him to employ an array of fantastic war machines: ancient super-weapons like his gigantic lens of polished bronze used to focus on the city's wooden ramparts and set them ablaze. If she is to survive against such a merciless assault, Rhodes will need the help of every ally she can muster - including the newly crowned King of the Bosporus, Satyrus, and his fiery twin, Melitta..."

Tyrant: Destroyer of Cities is the 3rd Satyrus and Melitta novel and moves ahead in time some 5-6 years after the events of King of the Bosporus. As I thought the twins' story ended well in King of Bosporus, I was a little wary about this one and it took me a few months after publication to read it, but once started - with a little impulse from Tom Swan 4 which reminded me how much I enjoy Christian Cameron's style -  but I should not have worried as Destroyer of Cities continues superbly the series with high octane action, narrative energy and the usual "realistic feel" of the author.

While the main event is indeed the famous siege of Rhodes, the book covers much more and is chock full of action, intrigue and powerful moments. The prose style is very smooth - this was the main issue in the earlier Tyrant novels but now the author seems to write effortlessly and roll on all cylinders.

The historical background is reasonably accurate - of course the main hero of the story, Satyrus, and his role are inventions but they are inspired from the real story as the author describes in the afterword. If you are familiar with the author's work you will recognize quite a few motives and pieces of action, both naval and on land. Also while technically #5 (or #3, or even #6 depending how you count, the two Kineas novels and God of War)
, Tyrant: Destroyer of Cities works well as a standalone with the back story integrated smoothly in the main thread.

And there will be more since Tyrant: Force of Kings is scheduled for next year and at a reasonable guess I would say it will lead to the Battle of Ipsus that essentially ended the Successors' Wars some two decades after Alexander's death and decided the Helenistic status-quo until the coming of Rome. Since the story in Destroyer of Cities, while ending its main thread, begs for more, that novel became again a huge asap...


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