Reviewed by David Maclaine
Christian Cameron's Funeral Games is set in the same period as Mary Renault's novel of the same name. It's the third novel in his Tyrant series, and the one in which the story is handed over to the next generation, a pair of twins born to the protagonists of the first two novels. It begins with betrayal, death, and a desperate flight from determined assassins, during which the twelve-year-old twins, a boy and girl who share an unusual upbringing, must grow up very quickly indeed. After a three-year gap the story resumes with most of the survivors of the first half established in Alexandria. Soon their enemies are breathing down their necks again, and their struggle for survival intensifies. Their effort to stay alive long enough to start planning to retake their lost Black Sea kingdom entangles their fate with King Ptolemy's struggles against his own enemies. Soon the twins are off to war, to take part in a crucial battle whose outcome will go far to decide how the Greek successor states take shape.
Cameron's narrative has all the elements you'd want in an adventure story. His young protagonists have advanced horsemanship and archery skills thanks to their mother, who ruled a kingdom of horse-peoples from the steppes; their adult companions, a Spartan tutor who drinks too much and an Olympian athlete-turned-trainer from Corinth, have the advanced martial skills you'd want when you have to fight your way out of one tight spot after another. The author's storytelling technique is of the highest order, swift and compelling, and his deep knowledge of the period shows in the careful details. Cameron's protagonists are still young when Funeral Games ends, so we can nurture the hope that he'll follow their fates well into adulthood in many additional lively tales from a period still largely unknown to the average reader of fiction. (2010, 493 pages)More about Funeral Games at Powell's Books, Amazon.com or The Book Depository