Friday, January 21, 2011

REVIEW: Alexander and Alestria by Shan Sa

From Amazon: "Beginning with Alexander's childhood in Macedonia with his abusive father, tyrannical King Philip and his overbearing mother Olympias - educated by Aristotle and trained in the military training - he develops the fierce character, strength, and ambition to overthrow his abusive father and take the crown. Meanwhile, in the wilds of the Siberian steppe, Alestria is queen of the Amazons - the tribe of female warriors who dominate this vast land at the edge of the known world. Switching between the distinct voices of Alexander, Alestria, and Tania (the queen's loyal follower and confidante), Shan Sa brings the reader to the center of harsh physical and emotional battles. After Alexander conquers and unifies all of ancient Greece and Egypt and sets out to the Orient to conquer his rival, King Darius of Persia, Alexander and Alestria first encounter each other on the battlefield; surprised to find that his adversary is a woman, Alexander is instantly smitten: her hair is long and black, her body muscular and bronzed, and her skin scarred from years of battle. And at last, this independent woman who had renounced men has found a reason to leave her tribe."

This book seeks to tell the story of Alexander, one of the greatest Generals of his time. He conquered all of THIS, most of it by the age of 30. In this version, we meet Alexander as a little boy-a very effeminate one (his mother dresses him and braids his long hair like a little girl). When Alexander grows into a beautiful young man through his warrior training, his father King Philip takes notice and (well there is no other way to say it) has a sexual relationship with his son. He also shares Alexander with his friends. Alexander uses this as a means of manipulating his father. YES-this book really went there and that is just the beginning. When Philip is assassignated Alexander (who by now has had many lovers including Hephaestion, his best friend) takes his Army off to conquer Persia.

Meanwhile-far off in Asia lives Alestria, young Queen of the Amazons. She leads her band of women warriors, a tribe which follows her faithfully. One day she encounters a warrior and they do battle. She is shocked to learn he is a man and despite rule numero uno of being an Amazon Queen-do not fall in love with a man-she falls for Alexander and leaves the tribe to be his bride. She is followed by the faithful Tania who refuses to abandon her Queen even though she has abandoned the Amazons. What follows is Alexander and Alestria's intense love affair. They make passionate love, he runs off to conquer more territory, the once fierce Queen is lonely, he comes back, lather, rinse, repeat. We go from this once proud, fierce Queen to a love sick ball of misery pining away for Alexander.

The narrative switches between Alexander, Alestria and Tania and on several occasions the transition between who was narrating was confusing. It often took me a few pages to realize whose point of view we were seeing now. Adding to the confusion, the author refers to Alexander part time as Alestries so we have Alestries and Alestria. Also when the Amazons are part of the tribe they have a "T" in front of their names to indicate this so for half the book we have Talestria and Tania and for the other half we have Alestria and Ania. Really confusing.

The biggest flaw in the book by far were the historical inaccuracies. I will list them here. Since many are spoilers please scroll over the area between the asterisks to see them. If you choose not to see the spoilers then just know the ending is not believable at all (in fact it is quite ridiculous). The only saving grace to this whole book is that it reads like poetry. The language is beautiful. Unfortunately, the story that unfolds using that beautiful language is just not good at all. Bottom line-this would have earned a C'est Terrible! rating had it not been for the language. Find yourself another Alexander book.

>Issue #1: the already aforementioned portrayal of Alexander as a girl child who was cruelly used by his father and cohorts.

>Never heard of Alestria in Alexander's history? That is because the author tries to say that when Alexander takes her for his bride he gives her the name Roxana. Alexander was indeed married to Roxana but Roxana was a Bactrian noblewoman NOT an Amazon Queen.

>In this version, Alexander is finally felled by an arrow to the forehead from the forces of Poros, a powerful Indian king. Alexander survives but is left handicapped both mentally and physically. Alestria continues to love him despite his infirmity. He hands his great Kingdom over to Haphaestion, installs look alikes for himself and Alestria on the throne and goes tra la la-ing back to Amazon country with Alestria to live the rest of his days. The book says they enjoyed 36 years together. What really happened you ask? Hephaestion died of a fever a year before Alexander so there is no way Alexander could have left his Kingdom in Hephaestion's charge. He would have been dead at this point. Alexander was married not once but three times. Roxana was his first wife. In this story those other two wives never happened. Alexander died of an illness (some say poisoning) just before his 33rd birthday not taking in the scenery on the steppes of Asia with his Amazon Queen*

From my own personal library

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