Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Killer of Men and Marathon book review

I am adding a book review feature to my blog. Twice a month I will review novels (fantasy, sci-fi, and historical fiction for the most part) and post my reviews. I will only review books that I think deserve four and five stars and am not taking solicitations for reviews. These will all be books that I have personally selected.

For my first review I have selected two books: Killer of Men and its sequel Marathon by Christian Cameron.

I will freely disclose that I know Christian and am a fan of his writing. I have also previously interviewed him.  The following is my honest review of his latest two novels. American (US) readers will be discouraged to learn that Christian's novels are difficult to obtain in the US because his publishers apparently feel that we can't handle realistic historical fiction. There is the possibility of purchasing the Kindle version from

Killer of Men and Marathon Review

Summary (from Goodreads): Arimnestos is a farm boy when war breaks out between the citizens of his native Plataea and and their overbearing neighbours, Thebes. Standing in the battle line - the wall of bronze - for the first time, alongside his father and brother, he shares in a famous and unlikely victory. But after being knocked unconscious in the melee, he awakes not a hero, but a slave. Betrayed by his jealous and cowardly cousin, the freedom he fought for has now vanished, and he becomes the property of a rich citizen of Ephesus. So begins an epic journey from slavery that takes the young Arimnestos through a world poised on the brink of an epic confrontation, as the emerging civilization of the Greeks starts to flex its muscles against the established empire of the Persians. As he tries to make his fortune and revenge himself on the man who disinherited him, Arimnestos discovers that he has a talent that pays well in this new, violent world, for like his hero, Achilles, he is 'a killer of men'.

Characters: Killer of Men and Marathon are both first person accounts of the life of Arimnestos, the son of a Greek blacksmith who grows up to be a fearsome warrior-- a killer of men. The book takes the form of a story being recited to Arimnestos’ daughter by him. As such, we know that 1) he survives and 2) he becomes a great man. What we are left to discover are the trials and tribulations of his strife-torn life. I’ll leave it to say Arimnestos does not have an easy life.

There are many other characters in the books, many with similar sounding names. It is sometimes a challenge to keep the many other characters straight, but the book wouldn’t be the same without the large cast. The novels are too epic in scope to have a small cast.

World building: Cameron completely captures the feel of the ancient world. The novel is filled with rich descriptions of geography, economics, technology, religion, arts, and government. This is not done in the form of info-dumping. The culture comes through the story in a very natural manner. Cameron has a scholar’s mastery of the ancient Greek world.

Engagement (Willing suspension of disbelief): Killer of Men and Marathon both utterly absorbed me. Once I started reading, I didn’t want to put the books down. There were no jarring or unrealistic elements that pulled me out of the story and into the real world. When you read one of Cameron’s books, you are IN his world.

Writing/Mechanics/Editing: I found both novels to be error free. This seems to be increasingly rare, even with professionally edited novels. Cameron perfectly balances a fast-paced, engrossing read, while also getting across important philosophical and political concepts. Cameron also writes action scenes as well as any author I have ever read.

Cameron does use a lot of Greek vocabulary in his writing as opposed to using modern alternatives, however the meaning of the Greek terms is easy to pick up in context. To me it enriched the novels.

Impact: Cameron’s novels stay with me long after I have finished reading them. One of my favorite elements of his novels (including his Tyrant series) is how well he captures the spirit of the soldier and the profound importance of the “brotherhood of arms”. Arimnestos might be a killer of men, but he is still a human being who feels loss and knows the impact of his actions. The killing in Cameron’s novels is not there for mindless entertainment, it always serves a deeper purpose.

I highly recommend these books and eagerly look forward to the next one in the series.

(Five Stars)


  1. I remember that you recommended this one to me a while back. Does he have a site where I can buy the ePub formatted ebook? Thankfully, ebooks are without borders.

  2. Tony, you can buy a Kindle version from

    Other than that I don't know of how to get an ebook version.