The Wooden Walls of Thermopylae

Written by Nick Brown
Review by Richard Tearle

Mandrocles, nicknamed ‘Luck Bringer’ is the narrator of this tale of Greece at the time of the Persian invasions. A survivor and hero of Marathon, he serves Themistocles, also a veteran of Marathon and now an eminent and cunning politician. Themistocles plans to build a huge fleet to counter the inevitable renewal of hostilities with Persia, who have a new king, Xerxes. In doing so, he has to manipulate his enemies – former colleagues and friends – into exile and negotiate with the Spartan king, Leonidas.

And this is largely what the book is about: the politics of Greece at the time and the lead up to the two great battles, Thermopylae and Artemisium. The characters have been created well and the research that has gone into them and the political situations has been thorough.

However, I do have one or two niggles: Mandrocles – who does not seem to live up to his soubriquet in this volume – is clearly an old man now and is looking back on his life which is being written down for him. Thus, he constantly refers to ‘you, reader’ and I found this slightly off-putting because of the frequency. The title may be a little misleading in that the famous battle takes place at the very end of the book and as Mandrocles was not present other than at the climax of it (but did not take part) fans of ‘300’ might be disappointed. Both title and cover are valid, but that validity does not become clear until near the story’s end and, for me, the cover is not eye-catching enough even though it does, eventually, convey the meaning of the title.

Nevertheless, this being the second book of a series (the first is Luck Bringer), I would welcome a third volume as, apart from my own small criticisms, The Wooden Walls of Thermopylae is a well-written and gripping story.