Blog Tour/Book Review: The New Achilles by Christian Cameron

The New Achilles Blog tour

Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for action-packed historical novel, The New Achilles by Christian Cameron. Thanks to Tracy Fenton at Compulsive Readers for inviting me to take part in the tour and to Orion Books and NetGalley for my review copy.  You can read my review below.

The New AchillesAbout the Book

Alexanor is a man who has seen too much blood. He has left the sword behind him to become a healer in the greatest sanctuary in Greece, turning his back on war.

But war has followed him to his refuge at Epidauros, and now a battle to end the freedom of Greece is all around him. The Mediterranean superpowers of Rome, Egypt and Macedon are waging their proxy wars on Hellenic soil, turning Greek farmers into slaves and mercenaries.

When wounded soldier Philopoemen is carried into his temple, Alexanor believes the man’s wounds are mortal but that he is not destined to die. Because he knows Philopoemen will become Greece’s champion. Its last hero. The new Achilles.

Format: Hardcover (pp.)    Publisher: Orion Books
Published: 18th April 2019 Genre: Historical Fiction

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My Review

The New Achilles is crammed full of action scenes (including a pirate attack in the very first chapter) that really come alive on the page.   It’s also full of detailed information about clothing, weaponry, armour, religious practices and social customs of the time that are obviously the result of extensive research.  (The glossary at the end of the book is much needed.) The detailed and often lengthy battle scenes, although undoubtedly exciting, were of less interest to me than the exploration of the interesting relationship between Alexanor and Philopoemen.  ‘We’ve boxed and we’ve argued.  Are we not brothers?’

Alexanor is variously doctor, therapist, confidante and sparring partner to Philopoemen, whom he accompanies on his journeys to different theatres of war from what we now know as the mainland of Greece to Crete and back again.  It’s a complex political situation with shifting allegiances and a multitude of city states and their leaders competing for power and influence – ‘the game of kings’, in fact.  In his Author’s Note, Christian Cameron likens Greece at the time to modern Syria with all the big players fighting over her.

Alexanor and Philopoemen are united by the trauma of loss in their personal lives but although both have chosen a life of action as the means to silence their demons, Alexanor has opted for priesthood and healing whilst Philopoemen has chosen success on the battlefield.

Philopoemen, the so-called ‘new Achilles’, is a charismatic leader, master tactician and accomplished, and seemingly tireless, fighter with miraculous powers of recovery.   As imagined by the author, he is somewhat of a radical visionary too, arguing the case for gender equality and an end to slavery among other things.  As he says, ‘I don’t want to conquer the world, I want to make it better.’ He’s a bit of a politician as well, keenly aware of what is required of a leader.  He states knowingly at one point ‘No one fancies a hard-working Achilles.  It has to appear effortless’.

The New Achilles is a book for readers who like their historical fiction to come with a soundtrack of the clash of swords, the thunder of hooves, the swish of arrows and javelins, the glugging of wine and the earthy language of soldiers in battle.

In his Author’s Note, Christian Cameron states, ‘This book is a novel, and a great deal of it, especially the details, is made up.  But Philopoemen really lived.  And he really was so great a man that everyone, friends and enemies, honoured him when he was dead.’ Fans of The New Achilles will be pleased to know that Philopoemen’s story doesn’t end here.

I received an advance review copy courtesy of publishers, Orion Books, and NetGalley.

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In three words: Detailed, dramatic, action-packed

Try something similar…The Last King of Lydia by Tim Leach

Christian Cameron 2About the Author

Christian Cameron is a writer and military historian. He participates in re-enacting and experimental archaeology, teaches armoured fighting and historical swordsmanship, and takes his vacations with his family visiting battlefields, castles and cathedrals. He lives in Toronto and is busy writing his next novel.  (Photo credit: Orion Books author page)

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Book Review/Giveaway: The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins

WinI’m delighted to give one lucky person the opportunity to win a hardcover copy of The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins, courtesy of publishers, Viking Books UK.

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You can read my review of The Confessions of Frannie Langton below.

the confessions of frannie langtonAbout the Book

They say I must be put to death for what happened to Madame, and they want me to confess. But how can I confess what I don’t believe I’ve done?

1826, and all of London is in a frenzy. Crowds gather at the gates of the Old Bailey to watch as Frannie Langton, maid to Mr and Mrs Benham, goes on trial for their murder. The testimonies against her are damning – slave, whore, seductress. And they may be the truth. But they are not the whole truth.

For the first time Frannie must tell her story. It begins with a girl learning to read on a plantation in Jamaica, and it ends in a grand house in London, where a beautiful woman waits to be freed.

But through her fevered confessions, one burning question haunts Frannie Langton: could she have murdered the only person she ever loved?

Format: Hardcover, ebook (384 pp.)    Publisher:  Viking Books UK
Published: 4th April 2019   Genre: Historical Fiction, Crime

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My Review

The author makes the silencing of other voices, in particular those of black people and of women, a central theme of the book. It’s why Frannie feels compelled to set down her story in her own words, unmediated by others. Frannie’s account is interspersed with the testimony of witnesses at her trial including the Benham’s housekeeper, Mrs. Linux, other household servants and visitors to the house.

Frannie and her new mistress, Madame Benham, are initially drawn to each other by a shared love of books and reading and there are many references to the power of books to inform, excite, provide comfort, open up new worlds and possibilities. I like to imagine the author’s inclusion of the sentence, ‘And what do two women do in a room of their own’ is an allusion to Virginia Woolf’s famous essay.

The two women’s relationship soon becomes much more intimate and therefore more challenging to the social mores of the time. Staying with the literary theme, the author utilizes books as a metaphor for Frannie’s feelings towards her mistress. ‘What I wanted was to learn her inch by inch. To read her like a book that wouldn’t end.’ When everything changes for Frannie it becomes a wholly darker story evoking memories of her early life on the plantation (ironically named Paradise) and the terrible things that went on there.

Alongside the story of Frannie and the nature of her involvement (or otherwise) in the deaths of the Benhams, the book touches on topics such as identity, racial prejudice, social and gender inequality, the nature versus nurture debate and the abolitionist and emancipation movements. It’s a lot to cover in one book and could for some readers perhaps be a distraction from the story of the murders which only returns to centre stage in the final chapters of the novel.

Reading The Confessions of Frannie Langton brought to mind other (fiction and non-fiction) books I’ve read recently such as Blood & Sugar, Sugar in the Blood and The Conviction of Cora Burns, all of which touch on similar issues although in slightly different ways.

The Confessions of Frannie Langton is an engrossing story of passion and betrayal that is part social history, part historical mystery.

I received a review copy courtesy of publishers, Penguin Books UK, and NetGalley.

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In three words: Compelling, intense, multi-layered

Try something similar…The Conviction of Cora Burns by Carolyn Kirby (read my review here)

About the Author

Sara Collins studied law at the London School of Economics and worked as a lawyer for seventeen years. In 2014 she embarked upon the Creative Writing Masters at Cambridge University, where she won the 2015 Michael Holroyd Prize of Re-creative Writing and was shortlisted for the 2016 Lucy Cavendish Prize for a book inspired by her love of gothic fiction. This turned into her first novel, The Confessions of Frannie Langton.

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