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on June 09, 2012 :
"Fires of Alexandria" is the first book in an alternative history series by Thomas K. Carpenter known as the "Alexandrian Saga". I have to admit that I do have a soft spot for alternative history so I was looking forward to reading this book. This was especially so as it delved into a period in history that I have rarely read about in either standard historical fiction or alternative history fiction.
The story follows the adventures of Heron, a mathematician and inventor in Alexandria, Egypt during the Roman Occupation. Heron is actually a real historical figure; however Carpenter's first twist in the novel was to portray Heron as a woman who has taken up the identity and role of her dead twin brother. In the book Heron, is trying to overcome the various bad debts that her brother had built up. She therefore accepts a commission from a northern barbarian to create a mechanical army alongside another offer to investigate the mysteries that surround the fires that burned down the Great Library of Alexandria. These two objectives drive the story onwards with political intrigue aplenty until the satisfying and enjoyable finale.
I found the book to be thoroughly entertaining and I loved the way that Carpenter has managed to integrate real characters, both the well and lesser known into a coherent and believable story. The writing was clear, well-researched and paced in a manner that kept you hooked from start to finish. In addition, the entire novel was full of an enthusiasm that managed to infect me to the point that I was trawling the internet trying to learn more about the period and people involved. I really appreciated the interest that the book hatched inside me and it is times like this that I understand the power of a well written historical novel.
Overall, this really was an enjoyable book that has formed a solid beginning for a new series of novels. I found myself feeling sympathetic to the main characters and the story itself was a believable one that interpreted and altered history in an entertaining manner. It mixed action, mystery and intrigue well so that it was hard to put down at the end of the day. Without doubt, any future instalment will quickly appear on my reading lists.
(reviewed long after purchase)
White Sun Press
on Aug. 10, 2011 :
Really fantastic alternate history/historical novel with an excellent lead character in the form of Heron, a mathematician and "miracle inventor" in the time of the Roman occupation of Alexandria. Heron, a real historical figure, is portrayed with a twist in Carpenter's book as a woman (the twin brother to the male Heron, who takes his identity when he dies, as she is the real mastermind of the pair, as portrayed in this novel).
The main premise surrounds the mystery surrounding the cause of the fires that burned down the Library of Alexandria...but the novel takes us through numerous other political intrigues happening at the time, as well as other historical figures Heron interacts with. There is also an interesting (fictional) character in the form of "the barbarian" from the North, who hires Heron to fashion for him a mechanical army from her "miracle" technologies, and in the process she prematurely invents the steam engine. Speaking of steam, in terms of the miracles themselves, there's a bit of a steampunk flavor the book at times, even without the actual steam power.
Overall, a huge recommend for strong characters, a believable alternate history (and interpretation of real history) that is completely fascinating and compelling. Add to that strong action, mystery and intrigue throughout the course of the novel, and it's a tough one to put down.
(reviewed long after purchase)
on July 26, 2011 :
Fires of Alexandria by Thomas Carpenter is the first book in the Alexandrian Saga. One thing I liked about the book is it is a fictional novel based on actual happenings. Most all who studied history in school learned about the Roman Empire and the great fires that took out the Library of Alexandria, and about Heron of Alexandria. As the author writes he brings back to life in this fictional account some of the greats and lesser known’s such as Lysimachus the Alabarch who portrayed as a villainous debt collector in actuality was a cousin to Herod the Great.
As we get into the book we find Heron who was one of the greatest inventors and mathematicians there was is a woman. Taking on the role of Heron after her twin brother died she also took on his debts that he left behind. As she is called upon to find out who was the cause of the great fire she knows that this money will pay off the debts to Lysimachus as long as she can hold him off before he gets any ideas about her niece.
This is quite an enjoyable read that takes the reading back into the historical archives of history back to the years 350 BC to 10-70 AD. Back to when the Roman Empire ruled. If you are a historical buff and like to read fictional novels based on actual happenings, then you will enjoy this new saga. This book can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes & Noble or on Smash-words either as a e-book or paperback.
I would like to thank the author for giving me the chance to read his book. I found this to be an enjoyable read.
(reviewed within a month of purchase)