The Conqueror’s Wife

Written by Stephanie Thornton
Review by Michael I. Shoop

After witnessing his father’s murder at games celebrating a royal wedding, the handsome, god-like warrior Alexander of Macedon ascends the throne as the new basileus and begins his meteoric rise to greatness. This hugely sprawling saga about Alexander the Great’s quest for empire is told by multiple narrators, including: his sister, Thessalonike, who desires to conquer new lands at her brother’s side, instead of being married off and watching others share in the honor and glory; Roxana of Balkh, a scheming, vindictive woman determined to be Alexander’s only wife; Drypetis, a sharp-tongued Persian princess who captures the heart of Alexander’s dearest friend; and his great companion and lover, Hephaestion, who never hesitates to tell Alexander the truth, and whose loyalty is without question.

Thornton provides a fresh look at Alexander and those closest to him, with excellent historical detail, thrilling battle scenes, murderous intrigues, and touches of romance. She sets her story firmly in the era of ancient Greece and Persia, with all its wealth and splendor, cruelty and violence, and the ever-present horror of constant warfare across vast expanses of territory. She deftly weaves her myriad plot lines together and juggles her enormous cast of characters with a vibrant and well-paced narrative, interspersed with plenty of action, and laced with wit and humor. I found her characters, with their various back stories, relationships, and motivations, to be sharply drawn, intensely human, and realistic. Even such minor figures as Bagoas, Queen Sisygambis, Cynnane, and Barsine are given distinctive voices – but in the end, it is Alexander who is the shining star, and everyone else is just a supporting player. I found this every bit as entertaining as any of Mary Renault’s acclaimed novels about Alexander. Recommended.