The author of the international bestsellers Gates of Fire and Tides of War delivers his most gripping and imaginative novel of the ancient world-a stunning epic of love and war that breathes life into the grand myth of the ferocious female warrior culture of the Amazons.
Writing about ancient Greece with rich historical detail, passion and drama, Pressfield has previously dramatized the battle of Thermopylae (Gates of Fire) and the Peloponnesian War (Tides of War). Here, he steps further back in time, to 1250 B.C., when the civilized Greek city-state of Athens confronts the barbaric empire of the Amazons in a titanic struggle for survival. The novel does not pack the emotional punch of Pressfield's other Greek fiction, but it still rings with the clamor and horror of close combat, sword on shield, battle-ax on helmet and javelins thudding into armor. The Amazon kingdom, peopled and ruled by a ferocious society of female warriors, occupies land near the Black Sea. The Amazon war queen, Antiope, leads an army of female warriors feared for their savage cruelty and hatred of the Greeks. When Theseus, the Greek king of Athens, journeys into Amazon territory, he and Antiope spar verbally, but fall in love, creating a dilemma for both. Antiope forswears her allegiance to the Amazon life and flees with Theseus back to Athens to become his wife. Antiope's successor, her Amazon lover, Eleuthera, vows to wipe out Athens to erase the shame and treachery of Antiope and Theseus's marriage. She leads a mighty invasion of Greece, culminating in a long siege and a climactic battle before Athens's great walls. Amid the carnage, gore and violence, Pressfield presents a love story so grand it pits nations against one another. Pressfield's javelin is his pen and he wields it well in this gruesome tale of ancient blood lust in an age when there is no word for mercy. (May 21) Forecast: Bestselling and critically acclaimed to boot, Pressfield has the market for contemporary popularizations of ancient Greece sewn up. Last of the Amazons isn't quite as good as his first two, but it should flirt with bestseller lists nonetheless. (Pressfield is also the author of The Legend of Bagger Vance.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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June 24, 2002
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Excerpt from Last of the Amazons by Steven Pressfield
A TAME AMAZON
When I was a girl I had a nurse who was a tame Amazon. Of course such expression is a misnomer, as one of that race may be domesticated no more than an eagle or a she-wolf. Selene however (this was her name, "Moon") had been detached at age nine from her skyle--the words for "battalion" and "family" being the same in the Amazon tongue--and sent to dwell among civilized society, at Sinope on the Black Sea, and had thus become conversant with settlement ways. She could not endure such confinement however; at age twelve she stole a horse and weapons and fled home to the Wild Lands. As a grown warrior Selene fought at Thorn Hill against the Trojans and Dardanians, at Chalcedon against the Rhipaean Scyths, and at the Halys against the fifty sons of Admetus. She could speak Greek and served both as adjutant and envoy, as well as commanding in the hippotoxotai, the fabled Corps of Mounted Archers. She held the rank of wing captain in the Great Battle of Athens, in which Theseus and his allies of the Twelve States, after months of fighting, at last beat back the army of women.
Selene surrendered shield and bridle at the pass between Parnes and Cithaeron, where the graves of Amazons may still be seen, alongside her lover Eleuthera, "Freedom," who bore numerous wounds, and to secure whose ransom and release Selene yielded up her own liberty. Selene was never shackled or stockaded in my father's service, but held by her word alone, and so served honorably, governing my sister, Europa, and me until my sister's fourteenth (and my eleventh) year.
You eldest of my daughters reckon the bloodbath that transpired at that season. Each year I recount the tale on this eve of the festival of the Boedromia, beneath that horns-skyward crescent called by men an Amazon moon. None of male sex, father, brother, husband, or son, may learn this chronicle now or ever, nor any fraction, so have we all sworn, even you youngest, donating our blood in the Iron Rite of Ares. Repeat with me now: who abjures this vow shall perish at our hands, so pledge we all.