by Christian Cameron

Reviewed by David Maclaine

Marathon, second in Christian Cameron's "Long War" series, continues the story begun in Killer of Men, and it's every bit as riveting. When it begins, the series’ protagonist Arimnestos is back home in Plataea, apparently happy at his forge and settled into local life. All too soon he finds himself embroiled in a blood feud and transported back to take part in the ongoing war in the islands. Surrounded by friends made in the earlier book, he is drawn into the struggle for the city of Miletus, and the naval operations that decide its fate. Those who know the outlines of history will be unsurprised that he survives fierce sea battles that claim the lives of many of those friends and that his return home is only a prelude to a pivotal campaign that will decide the fate of the free Greek cities.

Cameron sustains and even occasionally surpasses the high level he attained in Killer of Men; Marathon is now the version for the reader of fiction who wants to understand what it felt like to fight in one of history's most famous battles. If the first book impressed with its insight into the psychology of a man who has mastered the art of killing face to face, the sequel adds fresh details to our picture of how men think and feel on the field of battle. Cameron is especially skillful in portraying the stages of the physical and mental fatigue that can leave the armor-clad combatant nearly catatonic by the time the killing ends. My satisfaction at the end of this fine novel was enhanced by the news that Cameron's "Long War" series will continue. He hints that this is merely the second leg of an Iron Man competition, one that will not only carry us across the next decade until we reach the famous battles of Salamis and Plataea, but may also include the little-known battles fought on the Long War's western front. (2011, 375 pages)

More about Marathon at Powell's Books, or The Book Depository

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

Other novels about ancient naval warfare:

A Victor of Salamis by William Stearns Davis (1907), also set during the Persian invasion of Greece. See review or more info at Powell's Books

Antigone's Wake by Nicholas Nicastro (2007), about Sophocles and the Athenian fleet sent to punish the Isle of Samos after it revolts. See review or more info at Powell's Books

The Tides of War by Steven Pressfield (2000), about the Athenian general Alcibiades and the land and sea battles he fought during the Peloponnesian War. See review or more info at Powell's Books

Nonfiction about the Battle of Marathon:

Marathon: The Battle that Changed Western Civilization by Richard A. Billows (2010). More info

The First Clash: The Miraculous Greek Victory at Marathon and Its Impact on Western Civilization by Jim Lacey (2011). More info

Marathon: The Crucial Battle that Created Western Democracy by Alan Lloyd (2004). More info


Battle of Marathon at the Eyewitness to History website

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