A Bloodline of Kings
It is unusual – and daunting – to take on a novel from a small press that arrives complete with glowing commentary from novelists such as Bernard Cornwell and Cecelia Holland. At its conclusion, I was relieved to find myself in complete agreement.
In this epic novel of Philip of Macedon, the story begins with one birth (that of Philip himself) and ends with another (his son Alexander, later “the Great”). In the intervening pages, Sundell takes us through the life of an extraordinary man, Philippos of the Makedones, whose brilliant military career during the 4th century BC was overshadowed by that of his more famous son. It is Philippos who earns Macedon a place on the political playing field of the ancient Hellenes and makes it the equal of powerful city-states such as Athens and Thebes. This is not only a military saga, however, for the women are as strong and ambitious as the men. In fact, some of the most emotional moments occur as Kleopatra, former Queen of the Makedones and Philippos’ great-grandmother, secretly trains her young charge to be a future leader, not knowing that his older brothers’ early deaths will make her wishes come true.
The author’s research is well evident – its thoroughness is, in fact, astonishing. As the novel does not always wear its research lightly, newcomers to the period may find it intellectually challenging, but the education they receive as a result will make their efforts worthwhile.