The Afghan Campaign

Written by Steven Pressfield
Review by Lisa Ann Verge

Pressfield has penned an astonishing story about a young soldier coming of age during a brutal war. In the process, he opens a window into a past that looks very much like the present.

Matthias is a Macedonian soldier eager to follow in his brothers’ footsteps by seeking glory in military service. As a mercenary, he voyages through Alexander the Great’s empire to join the army. By 330 BC, that army is struggling to subdue the tribes of Afghanistan. Though poor in resources, Afghanistan has plenty of fierce warriors who refuse to meet Alexander in open combat, melt away only to attack when least expected, and honor no promises made to the invader. Matthias makes friends among the Afghans, as well as implacable enemies, and neither in the way he expects: this is a place where Afghan men kill their own daughters for the slightest offense against their code of honor, and Macedonian prisoners are tortured in unspeakable ways. For three long years Alexander struggles to subdue the tribes, but peace comes only when the king chooses to marry the daughter of the strongest chieftain.

The Afghan Campaign is a brilliant novel: clear, compelling, with cinematic descriptions of ancient battles, strong characterizations, and an honest look at a clash of cultures. The parallels to the current situation in that part of the world are undeniable and deftly made. Bravo to Pressfield for writing a novel about the ancient world that resonates so vividly in the current one.