Publisher: Corvus (Trade Paperback – 21 February 2021)
Series: Alexander’s Legacy – Book Two
Length: 413 pages
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5
One of my favourite authors of historical fiction, the always amazing Robert Fabbri, returns with the second entry in his epic Alexander’s Legacy series, The Three Paradises.
Alexander the Great is dead, and the battle for his empire has only just started!
Chaos reigns in the Macedonian controlled territories of Asia and the Mediterranean as the formerly loyal followers of Alexander fight amongst themselves for control of his mighty empire. With the former front-runner for control, Perdikkas, murdered by his own men, the way forward is now even more uncertain. In Macedonia, Alexander’s regent Antipatros seeks to hold the empire together, even if that means ignoring the ambitions of his volatile son. In the east, the sly Greek Eumenes runs to avoid a death sentence placed on his head by the Macedonian army and must once again fall back on his intelligence and cunning to survive the forces lead by the one-eyed general Antigonos. In the heart of the Macedonian army, two dangerous queens, Roxanna and Adea, each attempt to press their claims through their two unsuitable kings while also working out the best way to kill one another. In Egypt, the bastard brother of Alexander, Ptolemy, secures his powerful position by seeding chaos across the rest of the Empire, while in the west, Alexander’s vicious mother, Olympias, bides her time, waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike.
As these players make their moves to secure power, Antipatros attempts to mediate peace and keep all the Macedonian territories together by calling for a historical conference at The Three Paradises. However, as the lies, treacheries and bloody battles continue, will there even be an empire left to save? Some will rise, some will fall, and the world will never be the same again!
This was another incredible and deeply entertaining read from Fabbri, who has once again turned the insanities of history into another amazing novel. I have been a major fan of Fabbri ever since I was lucky enough to receive one of the fantastic books in his compelling and memorable Vespasian series. All of the books in this series (including Rome’s Sacred Flame, Emperor of Rome and the tie-in volume of short stories, Magnus and the Crossroads Brotherhood), were incredibly fun to read, and I really enjoyed each and every one of them. Fabbri continued his impressive run last year when he started his brand new ancient history series, Alexander’s Legacy, set in the immediate aftermath of Alexander the Great’s death after he failed to select an heir to rule his empire. The first book in this series, To the Strongest, was an amazing and clever read that not only set the scene perfectly but also provided the reader with a detailed and captivating tale of betrayal and destruction. As a result, I have been keeping a very keen eye out for Fabbri’s second Alexander’s Legacy novel and I was very happy when I received a copy of The Three Paradises.
For this latest novel, Fabbri has come up with another awesome and captivating tale that dramatizes the crazy events that followed Alexander’s sudden death. Told through multiple viewpoints, The Three Paradises continues to explore some of the key parts of the post-Alexander period, including a number of battles, conferences and manipulations recorded in history. This results in an epic and captivating tale of betrayal, conspiracy and lies as everyone attempts to gain power. I absolutely loved all the outrageous proceedings that occurred throughout this book, and Fabbri does an amazing job featuring as many real historical events as possible. If you are unfamiliar with the history, than you are going to find that The Three Paradises’ story goes in some extremely unexpected directions as various key people rise or fall.
I was surprised that many of the incredible events depicted in this novel are recorded in history, and it just goes to show that reality is sometimes a lot stranger than fiction. I felt that Fabbri did a fantastic job depicting each of these events as they are chronicled in history, especially as he also attempts to fill in some of the gaps and come up with some of the possible discussions that would have happened in advance of them. While some of the facts are no doubt dramatically exaggerated per Fabbri’s trademark style, this turned out to be a really detailed historical read and I loved the cool focus on this unique period. I ended up enjoying The Three Paradises a bit more than the preceding novel in which the overarching storylines of the series were set up. The Three Paradises jumps into the action a lot more quickly, and I think that the story flowed a lot better, especially as Fabbri ended up reintroducing the line break in this novel’s format. All of this was incredibly epic, and readers will love Fabbri’s unique interpretation of these historical betrayals and battles.
One of the most intriguing parts of the Alexander’s Legacy series is the author’s use of multiple historical figures as his point of view characters. This series focuses on a large selection of major players in this conflict, each of whom become the focal character of multiple chapters within the novel. The Three Paradises in particular features 10 separate historical point-of-view characters, each of whom play a unique role in the events preceding the death of Alexander. All 10 are former members of Alexander’s court that have gone into business for themselves and are now attempting to take power or shape the empire the way they want. Fabbri brings each of these historical figures to life by examining their actions or descriptions from history and crafting a personality that matches their outrageous deeds or brilliant decisions. Each character is given a title or nickname at the start of the story, usually centred on their personality or role in the empire (for example, The Sly, The Mother, The Wildcat or The Bastard) as well as a simple but clever representative icon. Fabbri then builds on them from there, examining their various actions during the wars this book focuses on and highlighting nearly every decision or bold move that history records them doing. Fabbri also throws in a little of his trademark exaggeration and creative licence, especially for characters like Olympias (although not by much), which really enhances the historical craziness this novel contains.
As a result of his unique character creation, The Three Paradises ends up with a fantastic and diverse group of point-of-view characters whose exploits are a lot of fun to watch unfold, although readers should really not get too attached to them, as many do not survive the book. These characters include the aged statesman, Antipatros, who uses his experience and canny nature to attempt to guide and control several of the other players, with various results. You also have the scheming queens Roxanna and Adea, both of whom are linked to one of the people named king following Alexander’s death. Roxanna was Alexander’s wife and the mother his child, while Adea is a close relative of Alexander who ended up marrying his mentally deficient half-brother. Both of these queens are vicious and dangerous creatures who attempt to gain power over the stubborn Macedonian men, while also feuding amongst themselves over the status of their respective king. Fabbri really amps up certain elements of these two queens’ characteristics, such as Roxanna’s murderous ambition (to be fair, she did reportedly kill several of Alexander’s other wives after his death), or Adea’s lesbianism. Both prove to be really fun additions to this novel, and it was quite interesting to see how they influenced these hectic events.
There is also a lot of focus on Alexander’s mother, Olympias, a member of the cult of Dionysus and a figure of wrath and vengeance that every other major character is intensely afraid of. Fabbri has a lot of fun portraying Olympias in this novel, and he really plays her up as a crazed snake priestess, showing several of the alleged rituals cultists of Dionysus would have performed. I was quite surprised at how Olympias’s storyline unfolded in this novel, mainly as I was very unaware of how much influence she had after Alexander’s death, and she proved to be an extremely intense and memorable addition to the cast.
My favourite character, however, is still Eumenes, who Fabbri appropriately nicknamed The Sly. Eumenes is a Greek clerk who was able to gain some power after Alexander’s death by advising some of the other players and trying to keep the empire together. The Three Paradises sees Eumenes take on a more military role, and he proves himself a skilled commander, able to out-think the supposedly superior Macedonian enemies. However, Eumenes’s ambitions are constantly stymied by the stubbornness of his Macedonian followers or allies, all of whom believe in the superiority of the Macedonian people and are often reluctant to follow a Greek, even if he is the smartest person in the room. It proves to be very frustrating to see one of the best and smartest characters constantly defeated by events outside his control, but you still stick with him in the hopes that he can once again get a victory.
In addition to the returning cast from the first book in the series, Fabbri also introduces two new characters to replace some of the casualties that occurred in To the Strongest (like I said, don’t get too attached to these characters). These two new characters include Kassandros, nicknamed The Jealous (and represented by an icon of a boar, an animal that lies at the heart of his jealousies), and Polyperchon, nicknamed The Grey. Both Kassandros and Polyperchon are introduced about halfway through The Three Paradises in response to a major character death, and they end up being great additions to the story. Kassandros is the eldest son of one of the other point-of-view characters, and serves as an interesting antagonistic figure in the book. Thanks to his sense of entitlement and the major chip on his shoulder, it really does not take Kassandros long to get on the reader’s nerves, and you find yourself pulling for his enemies, no matter how despicable they may be. Polyperchon, on the other hand, is an older figure, portrayed as a bit of a loser. Polyperchon is a person who thrives best as a second in command, rather than being the man in charge, and is uncertain how to proceed when he has to make the hard decisions. Naturally, events conspire to give him a great deal of power, which results in disaster for Polyperchon and those allied with him, as he fumbles the job, allowing some of the other characters to take control. Overall, I had an outstanding time following this unique collection of historical figures, and I look forward to seeing whom Fabbri focuses on in the next novel, especially after several more were killed off in The Three Paradises.
Aside from the 10 point-of-view characters, Fabbri also features a massive cast of side characters, most of whom are real historical figures. The author does an impressive job of working each of these supporting characters into the plot, and you end up getting a pretty good idea of how each and every one of them played a role in the war, as well as some minor details about their personalities and intentions. While it was interesting to learn more about all these historical characters, I did find it a little overwhelming to try and follow who was who at times, especially as there were great deal of characters, and several had similar names. While I was generally able to keep up with what was happening thanks to an excellent character list contained at the end of the novel, readers will need to stay focused on who is being discussed at all times in order to avoid getting lost.
I also must highlight the incredible historical details of this book. Fabbri has clearly done his research when it comes to ancient Macedonia and not only is The Three Paradises filled with an outstanding depiction of the recorded historical events but the author also tries to capture the various aspects of day-to-day life during this period. This results in some great scenes chock full of fantastic historical detail, and the reader gets some amazing insights into the culture and attitudes of the conquering Macedonians. This is particularly true in The Three Paradises’ various action sequences, as the armies of Macedonia face off against each other. While a lot of the focus may be on the internal politics, personal betrayals and shifting alliances, Fabbri has also included several great fight sequences, and the reader is treated to fantastic battles on land and sea. The book’s major battle scenes are really impressive, and I loved seeing the various tactics of the Macedonians, whether they are fighting foreign armies or rival groups of Macedonians. It was particularly cool to see two separate pike phalanxes go up against each other, especially as their cramped and exhausting fight was essentially pointless (victory was decided by the fighting cavalry groups on the flanks). It was also rather entertaining to see how several key battles were stopped or prevented simply because the Macedonian soldiers discovered that an important person, usually a relative of Alexander, was present with the opposing army, and they would suddenly abandon their generals to follow them. This examination of the Macedonian mindset was really intriguing, and its limitations and predictabilities has become a fascinating recurring factor of this series.
Robert Fabbri once again shows why he is one of the most entertaining and captivating authors of historical fiction in the world today. The Three Paradises is an impressive and clever second entry in the amazing Alexander’s Legacy series, which provides a detailed and captivating examination of a crazy period of history. I absolutely loved this incredible read and I cannot wait to see what happens in the next exciting entry in this awesome series.