The Last Hero
This novel is set in an interesting and as yet unexploited period – the end of Bronze Age or Mycenaean Greece. Pylos in southern Greece was the home of Nestor, who fought in the siege of Troy along with other legendary figures like Achilles. Wind the clock forward a few generation and we find Prince Alkmaion, who grows up in the shadows of these great heroes but fears he may not live up to their prowess. As heir to the throne and a prince, he is involved in an annual Rite of the Goddess, whom the people worship. The rite goes wrong, and in atonement Alkmaion is sent on a sea voyage. On the way he proves himself in battle and leads a raid. He also encounters the somewhat less developed Dorian tribes from the northern parts of Greece. Legends suggest these people are descended from Hercules and may one day return to destroy the Mycenaean culture. Investigating further he finds stockpiles of the new type Iron blades and worries that invasion is imminent.
Alkmaion returns home and tries to persuade the King and his council of the threat of invasion. The story goes on to chart the Dorian invasion, the fall of Pylos and the adventures of Alkmaion in exile.
I enjoyed the book. It is an easy read, and Alkmaion is a likeable main character. There are suitable antagonists both within Alkmaion’s family and amongst the Dorians to be concerned about. The city of Pylos and the characters of Alkmaion and his companions and relatives are well fleshed out and I soon became immersed in a period of history I am fairly ignorant about. The chariot races, battles and individual tournaments are well described and exciting.
As a self-published book, it is well-presented and laid out. There is a useful family tree at the start and an author’s note at the end. My main criticism was that I felt the pace of the final 30 or 40 pages were too hurried. It was almost as if the author had run out of ideas but had to tie off the loose ends, so did so quickly.