Sunday, 8 February 2015

Positively Beaming: BY THE SWORD by Christian Kachel

By the Sword by Christian Kachel
I have read a lot of historical fiction over a lot of years. There might be times, as I trudge through it all, that I nearly forget why I read historical fiction in the first place. Especially in those stretches of time where I find myself reading so many more uninspiring books than I do fantastic ones.
Historical Fiction has changed noticeably in the last five or six years. And there has been this danger of being bashed dumb by a pulp fiction tsunami containing sloppily written books haemorrhaging weak, passive-verb laden prose.

I have often found myself wondering..where have all the potential Classics of the Ancient History sub genre of Hist Fic gone? The Gates of Fire and Pride of Carthage novels. The I,Claudius and The Warlord Chronicles. Are they still being written and discovered in 2015? Can publishers still find them in more than dribs and drabs? Can they even find an audience for them anymore when they do?
Will there be room for thoughtful and intelligent historical fiction novels? Where the author takes the time to understand creative writing before he or she writes his/her story? 

I have found a few excellent authors who are harnessing word and story craft, but I am also always grimly watching the line to see what is coming down it. To see what the future of the Ancient History sub genre of historical fiction, will look like. 
Little did I expect to discover that future in an Independently Published novel that I nearly did not read nor know existed.
Of all the places to find a budding author of the calibre that I speak of above....I find him in the world of Indie books. I can hardly believe it myself. Not to trash Indie books....I mean that I wouldn't expect to find this book Indie published because I would have thought a Trad publisher would have snapped him up.

If he had not smooth talked me (Me! An expert in Indie and self pub SERE tactics because I get offered so many of them) and sent me his book in the mail, then I would have missed out on being exposed to this promising author's work.  
What a near miss it was.

By the Sword is the first in a series (or was it a trilogy?? I forgot to ask, or forgot it if I was told) called Spoils of Olympus.
It is set in Ancient Greece, 322BC, following the death of Alexander the Great. 

I could bang on and on about everything that happens, but you know that is not my style. I like you - the reader - to find out plots and storylines by reading the book or the book blurb yourself. I will only touch on a few things.
The story heads out with your narrator, Andrikos, at that poignant moment in his life where he is young, impressionable, bored and running blindly into self destruction. Many of us have been there. Good kids at heart in our day, but with too big of a sense of adventure and with too many wild seeds to sow. The right guiding hand, the wrong kind of trouble, and we find ourselves keening for a way out of our own messes. Andrikos' way out, as with many teens throughout history, is to sign up for the Army.

You may think now that you know this book. Without reading it, you have worked it all out. Boy joins army. Goes through Basic. Loses his virginity. Goes to war. There may be a love triumvirate. Commonly two men and a girl. Has his first, second, third, taste of battle. Excels in leadership and combat. Is given his own band of brothers to lead. Comes home a changed man and a local hero..blah..blah..blah..
You'd be wrong. But I don't blame you. I was wrong too. While some of those plot devices are in By The Sword, it is not all this book has to offer. There is a point where the book takes a complete deviation from the normal flow of things and pulls on its second skin.

I look at the back of the book trying to work out what else I should tell you. I see words in the book blurb. Clandestine, intrigue, violence, brotherhood. Yeah, I'll give the author those. That isn't all the smoke and mirrors of your usual hackneyed book blurb. It does have all that going on.
Obviously, being a debut, not everything is going to be perfect. Damn close though. None of the faults are fatal ones. They are easy to circumnavigate in future novels if the author wanted to evolve his style a little.

I do not understand why this book was ever overlooked by agents and publishers (except the Indie one that picked him up). In fact, I think I have an extra forehead wrinkle from all the frowning I have done as I have read it.
There were actually times where I have put it down and said out loud “but how did this happen! This is too good!”
Books like this should not be slipping through the cracks. Good stories, an author with bonafide life experience and solid writing skills.

What more could a lover of historical fiction wont for? 

Oh, I know..she would wont for book two. 

I hope I haven't given the author, Christian Kachel, a big head with all my flowery words. But how can any self respecting devotee of this genre leave negative feedback in their reviews when she/he deems the writing or stories bad in books, or aggrandize books that probably don't deserve it...and then not give a power stroke of positivity in a review for a book with as much going for it as this one.

Of course I had to be forthcoming. Of course.

5 stars out of 5. All day long.

- Medieval Mayhem

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