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The Last King of Lydia

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It’s a debut novel that the author clearly worked very hard on, it covers a little-explored figure of history and legend, and I can positively see the pride and ambition oozing from the pages in the philosophical themes… but it fell flat for me. Power is transient, fleeting when compared with the vast sea of history, yet rulers are prepared to condemn thousands to misery in the hope of gaining more and more of it. Croesus, at least in this telling, provides an interesting example of how suffering derives not just from privation, but from excess as well. What makes this a special book is less to do with the events, the battles, the conquests and so on, but the effect on the characters.

The book does deal with some rather unpleasant situations like rape and murder which I wouldn’t expect to see in a children’s book. He comes to realize that his power has limits because "It's a difficult thing, having one's happiness depend on those one cannot control" -- like his son's guaranteed well-being. Croesus is not a man one might aspire to be like or be with, but his journey through life is a deep, varied and intimate one which I really enjoyed. has been a terrific year for books, and The Last King of Lydia deserves to sit right at the top of the pile.The prose is quite simple but there are some really beautiful and poetic descriptions of life that lift it above the ordinary. that's how i feel about this one, which is a shame because i think i would have liked it in the right mood. It's a book of philosophy as much as history, about what we can and should do to be happy, and perhaps a little about second chances to bring happiness to others.

Croesus notes bitterly that the coinage bearing his family crest will last far longer than their kingdom. Regular readers of this blog will know I tend to only review books I have enjoyed and think other people will enjoy as well. His story prompted many lines of inquiry that demanded further exploration outside of my reading time; it incites you to learn more. HNS Awards have helped discover and launch the author careers of Michel Faber, Ruth Downie, Hilary Green, Martin Sutton, Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott, Nikki Marmery, Margaret Skea, Warwick Cairns, Katherine Mezzacappa and Elizabeth Macneal. The written style is very simple, objective and unemotional, at times almost matter-of-fact, most unlike that of Hilary Mantel, another comparison made in the publicity.

This transformation, from fear to wary understanding, is echoed in Croesus's changed relationships with others once he is no longer king. Leach successfully summons up scenes of army camps, vast cities, treasuries and pyres with relatively few words, leaving space for understanding the actions, reactions and motivations of the utterly believable characters. The philosophical tone is set early on when Solon, the famous wise man of Athens, comes to visit Croesus. I thought this was a really wonderful modern retelling of Herodotus' account of Croesus, written in a simple but beautiful style that maintains a suitably classical feel while also importing some modern touches.

To base a novel on the life of Croesus king of Lydia might appear to be easier, I suggest, than it actually is. There is something in the collective consciousness that enables these stories to resonate with each subsequent generation, allowing ancient wisdom to put out new roots in fresh soil. Through Croesus's life he sees what his failings as king had been and humbly learns from Isocrates, formerly his slave in Sardis, now also slave to Cyrus. Leach's narrative is largely derivative of the ancient sources, but he adeptly weaves them together and keeps the pacing engaging.Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a single article for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

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