The Bow of Heaven: Book 1, The Other Alexander
Levkoff’s beautifully written and thrillingly good Roman historical novel opens with a crotchety 85-year-old man looking back on his eventful life and snarling, “I shall tell what I know for truth’s sake and my master’s honor, and the glory of Rome be damned!” The old man is the “other” Alexander of the title, and when his recollections begin, he’s a haughty young Greek philosophy student who becomes a slave in the house of the famous Roman plutocrat, Marcus Crassus.
Roman history buffs will be all too familiar with the events of Crassus’ life—the stories of greed and duplicity; the prickly relations with his fellow masters of the Roman universe, Pompey and Julius Caesar; his disastrous military escapade in the East, etc.—and the subtle ways Levkoff undermines such certainties is one of the many joys of this book, along with its crisp plotting and absolutely infectious narrative drive. Like most philosophy students, Alexander can be at times appallingly stupid, and our older and wiser narrator is well aware of that—the layering of youth and experience makes every young emotion and old hindsight all the more compelling.
The world of Republican Rome is brought entirely alive in these pages; readers of Steven Saylor or John Maddox Roberts, accustomed to paying $25 for their latest in hardcover, can download The Bow of Heaven (complete with its bizarrely hideous cover), as good as anything either one ever wrote, for $3 in about ten seconds. Enthusiastically recommended.