A Bloodline of Kings

by Thomas Sundell


Reviewed by David Maclaine


My reaction to A Bloodline of Kings was a little unusual. How often do you read a novel of nearly 500 pages of smaller-than-average type, covering a complex political history jam-packed with names of unfamiliar people and places made stranger by their authentic Greek spellings, and find yourself frustrated at the end because the author has not yet written a sequel? This is a rich saga about the life of Phillip of Macedon that ends in the year when his son “Alexandros” was born. Phillip, or Phillipos as Sundell spells it, was the greatest political and military leader the Greek world had ever seen, forging a harried Macedonian state into a power able to bring Greece under its control and imposing the unity the perennially splintered Greeks had resisted for centuries. Until Sundell’s novel, readers had become accustomed to seeing Phillip depicted only in the final decade or so of his life, where books about Alexander the Great start to trace his childhood. It turns out that the story of how Phillip, a younger son of a royal family, survived the treacherous politics and diverse military challenges of the Macedonian realm, transformed its military structure, and led his nation to triumph, is one that can capture the imagination on its own.

A Bloodline of Kings is not exactly the swiftest of reads - I found myself referring again and again to the end-paper maps to follow the myriad of neighboring cities and peoples who figure in the story - but its unusual present-tense style holds the attention and moves the action along nicely from place to place and character to character. Thanks to the author’s hard work, a figure of immense ability and importance has finally begun to emerge from the huge shadow cast by his son. We can only hope Sundell will someday publish a novel that treats the later years of King Phillipos with the same skill and attention to detail he devoted to his youth. (2001, 484 pages)

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A Bloodline of Kings appears on the list of The 36 Best Historical Novels for a Survey of Ancient Greek History


Other novels in which Philip of Macedon is a major character:

The Golden Mean by Annabel Lyon (2010), about Aristotle, who reluctantly accepts Philip of Macedon's request that he tutor Philip's son Alexander. See review or more info at Powell's Books

Fire from Heaven by Mary Renault (1969), about Alexander the Great as a youth; #1 in the Alexander trilogy. See review or more info at Powell's Books

A Murder in Macedon by Anna Apostolou (1997), a mystery about an attempt to find out who murdered Philip of Macedon. More info


Nonfiction about Philip of Macedon:

Philip II of Macedonia by Ian Worthington (2008). More info

Philip of Macedon by Nicholas Hammond (1994). More info

Philip II of Macedon: A Life from the Ancient Sources by Alfred S. Bradford (1992). More info


Online:

The Rise of Philip of Macedon, an Open Yale Courses lecture by Professor Donald Kagan at YouTube


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