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The Last King of Lydia

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This deeply wise novel of what it means to be human is perfect for readers of Mary Renault and David Malouf. As the novel progresses, Croseus comes to understand true happiness lies in the smaller things in life. Croesus is supposed to be king of an impressive empire, but I didn’t feel as though the story centred me in that empire of vast distances and countless people.

This transformation, from fear to wary understanding, is echoed in Croesus's changed relationships with others once he is no longer king. The story is a gripping tale of ancient kingdoms, yet its central theme should give warning to any contemporary world leader, or greedy corporate fat cat.

It is heart-wrenching to read about his reflections on his short life, as he marched to death, fighting for his country. It is a beautiful comparison between someone who believes he is all powerful coming up against a true giant of a man who will make his mark on history. If you absolutely hate anything remotely like spoilers, you might want to stop reading now, although I don’t think these will qualify as plot revealers. He does a great job of giving his characters distinct personalities and worldviews, including some historical and pseudohistorical figures (e. He had never seen a king die, and as he cropped the prisoner's hair and trimmed his thick, black beard, he placed little nicks in his scalp and chin, apologizing for his clumsiness each time, even as he keenly watched the royal blood flow.

Characters talk out their motivations, their longings, and their regrets, and it is these conversations that are the heart of the story, despite the epic conquests and and empire-spanning travels that serve as the backdrop. Only Isocrates, Croesus' slave, and his wife appear to be invented for the novel, and they add a level of novelty for the reader who knows his Herodotus. If you absolutely hate anything remotely like spoilers, you might want to stop reading now, although I don't think these will qualify as plot revealers.In some ways Cyrus can be seen as the inventor of the concept of leaving people alone to worship as they please: “permissively plural,” as Cyrus’s theory is jokingly described by a slave in the novel. I particularly enjoyed the relationship between Croesus and Cyrus, the Conqueror and the conquered in an uneasy alliance.

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