The Emissary by Aniruddha Bahal (a noted journalist and author) takes us further back in history to when Greece held sway over a sizeable part of the planet, almost 2,500 years ago, around the time of Alexander the Great.
This is a story narrated by Seleucus, son of Nicanor, an ace charioteer who is trampled to death under his own horses commandeered by a rival charioteer at a practice session. Seleucus sets out to avenge the killing of his father and becomes an outlaw, watchful over his own life. Circumstances have trained him to sense out treachery and deceit, and he soon becomes a skillful manipulator himself. Growing in the ranks, he turns out to be a powerful overlord in his own right. Seleucus founded the Seleucid dynasty after a series of successful military exploits and intrigues, where he bested and slews his rivals.
The story is set in Macedonia and in Olympia, where there is spectacular chariot race, vividly described by the author, who transports you into an era gone by, and makes you feel that you are in the midst of all the breath-taking action.
There are palace betrayals, violence, sexual profligacy, military prowess, described in detail. The device used by Bahal, of a first person account from the mouth of Seleucus, is also probably responsible for that easy transit of the reader into ancient Greece.
“Once the armies came face to face in battle and the soldiers in the Macedonian phalanx beat their shields with their sword handles, the gloom that prevailed earlier was forgotten. Even before the armies marched to meet each other, I knew that it would be a hard day: you could tell from the Macedonian discipline and the shoddiness of the Greeks. The Macedonian phalanx made some rapid exercises and changed shapes from square to a rectangle and then separated into two and rejoined again, all in very short time. This caused much silent amazement in the frontlines.” A bloodbath follows.
There are spectacular battles with the Persian army. This book has a lot of sword and daggers being freely employed along with various other instruments of murder. Engrossing.
The Emissary by Aniruddha Bahal