[By Nic Lindh on Monday, 05 December 2005]
Steven Pressfield follows up the highly successful Gates of Fire (my review here) with Tides of War, a novel of the Peloponnesian War focusing on the larger-than-life Athenian leader Alcibiades and told mostly from the point of view of Polymides, an Athenian soldier and mercenary.
Like Gates of Fire, Tides of War features immense and well-written battle sequences and strong attention to detail. The historical accuracy regarding this bloody and horrific time period is also quite impressive.
Nevertheless, it is a bit of a slog to get through—it’s worth it to persevere, but some resolve is required. This is due to several things, one being the characters themselves: None of the main characters are likable. Interesting, sure, but not likable. Also, the Peloponnesian War was not a good time by anybody’s standards, and it gets a bit depressing to read about the relentless atrocities and misfortunes befalling pretty much everybody involved.
The biggest problem, though, is that the tale is told by several different characters, which makes things a bit choppy and disjointed without really adding anything to the story as all the voices sound the same, while the switches disrupt the flow of the story.
Tides of War is definitely worth reading if you’re interested in Classical Greece or enjoy large stories of human folly and heroism. Just be prepared to put some work into it.