The Queen of Warriors: Alexandra of Sparta Book One

Written by Neil Zenobia
Review by Misty Urban

After three years of searching for remnants of the army she lost in a crushing defeat, Alexandra of Sparta, the Queen of Warriors, returns to a Persian city she once conquered and is taken prisoner by its king. The Golden Lynx of Rhagae has a grudge against Alexandra, and he means for her to pay for past humiliations in kind. As she faces surprising revelations in her prison cell in 243 BCE, Alexandra also relives her previous ten years of battle and betrayal. When she learns the truth about her captor, including the tortures of his recent past, she’s left in the end with a choice she never imagined.

Readers expecting a tale of war and vengeance should be aware that the bedroom figures far more prominently than the battlefield. The Golden Lynx’s tortures involve an erotic game of cat-and-mouse, and Alexandra’s flashbacks dwell on her love affairs with Mithra, the Babylonian concubine she frees, and Aristos, the Persian noble she enslaves. Alexandra’s formidable reputation is largely constructed by her cunning mentor, Nicandor, and her success rests on her band of warrior elite. The Queen of Warriors’ real journey is toward self-awareness, humility, and the embrace of complete domestication, making the tale essentially a romance.

That said, the novel is exciting and well-plotted, with surprising reveals that keep the action swift and memorable scenes rendered in crisp, nimble prose. Fully imagined characters spring forth from an intriguing backdrop, the cosmopolitan Persian Empire disintegrating in the wake of Alexander the Great. Neil weaves Greek, Persian, Jewish, and Nubian culture into the classic tale of a great hero’s fall, made more poignant in that the hero is a skilled, ambitious woman who has lost everything. Readers will be eager for book 2.