Review by Joey Madia
It’s always interesting to read the end of a main character’s arc, rather than its start (David Chase’s The Sopranos). We meet in Immortal Alexandros an Alexander the Great whose cumulative battle wounds (including numerous blows to the head) lead him to paranoia, violence with staff, and a relentless march to the Mediterranean over seven years. As age, disease, harsh environments, and constant battles decimate his army, I reflected on the “Myth of the Great Man” that’s caused suffering and death throughout human history.
Immortal Alexandros presents a historically accurate physical world, with immersive descriptions of open-air markets, harems, battlefields, the Hindu Kush, and other locations. Equally immersive are descriptions of Zoroastrianism, military tactics, and medicinal techniques.
Like William Hurt’s accent in M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village, I found the language at first to be too modern and wondered if it was a clue. It was. The Ptolemaios of the series title is the narrator and Alexandros’s close advisor. He’s a time traveler who inadvertently changed history nine years prior. He saved the life of a teenager who should have died, who then saved Alexandros who should have died.
Ptolemaios is trapped, with his next chance to escape a decade away, with the odds of success diminishing because of “inertial tendencies of the temporal stream” or, as Stephen King says in 11/22/63, “The past is obdurate. It doesn’t want to change.”
In this alternate history, Dareios, ruler of Persia, has had three major defeats, resulting in the surrender of Babylon.
Geiger excels at depicting the complex relationships of the Greeks, Macedonians, and Persians, at times making Game of Thrones look like preschool. Ruling an empire, managing wives and concubines, and keeping generals and advisors happy is difficult, to say nothing of the day-to-day of betrayals, spies, defections, and negotiations with potential allies and enemies.
Although war novels are usually only about men, Geiger devotes ample story to women: concubines, wives, mothers, mistresses, and royal offspring. They are strong-willed and as capable of strategy and machinations as the men.
If you want to deep-dive into the book and series, there are fifteen color maps, animated battle depictions, and more at alexandergeiger.com. The book has footnotes with historical information, definitions, and references to previous books, as well as characters and location compendiums. These are helpful, since the book is over 500 pages.
TITLE: Immortal Alexandros (Book Four of the Ptolemaios Saga)
AUTHOR: Alexander Geiger
PUBLISHER: Ptolemaios Publishing and Entertainment LLC