Saturday, February 19, 2011

"Tyrant" by Christian Cameron

...or "The Adventures of an Armored, Drilled, Superior, Light Spear, Sword, Greek Cavalry Officer".

If ever there was a work of historical fiction written with both Ancient wargamers and history aficionados in mind, then Christian Cameron's "Tyrant" is it.  The novel is the first in a series set in the time of Alexander the Great, and featuring a central character, Kineas, who is an exiled Athenian hippeis (or cavalryman) recently dismissed from the Macedonian army after the Persian conquest was completed.  Forced to start a new life, Kineas, and his band of cavalry brothers enter mercenary service to train the hippeis of the tyrant ruling the Greek city of Olbia on the shores of the Black Sea.  There, after wending his way through the intricacies of the Olbian political system to become commander of the city's military forces, Kineas forges an alliance with the Scythian tribes surrounding the Black Sea Greek city states (also finding time for a romance with a barbarian warrior princess), and faces an invasion from Macedon lead by one of Alexander's generals.

"Tyrant" has it all - it's extremely well researched, is very accurate historically, has fantastic battle scenes, and paints a very vivid portrayal of the interactions of the Greek and steppe-horse people cultures at the furthest edge of the Classical world.  There is a large cast of characters, complex in nature, who are realistically portrayed as people of their own time instead of as characters with modern motivations and sentiments appearing in an Ancient and alien world.  I found the book to be an out-and-out page turner, and the only minor quibbles I had were that I thought that the shamanistic sub-plot in the center portion tended to drag a bit, and that the book ends quite suddenly, almost right in the middle of the climatic battle against the Macedonians, with many plots and sub-plots unresolved.  But of course, there is a sequel that picks up almost right where the first book leaves off, and I'll be picking it up as soon as possible to find out what happens next.

Unfortunately, it seems that American publishers don't feel that American audiences will appreciate these kind of books, and Cameron's novels are not available in American stores - only British and Canadian ones.  I was able to get mine through though, and that is the same place I just ordered the sequel from.

One other thing that Ancient gamers may find interesting is that the author is actually a wargamer himself.  I know that I saw him several years ago playing in a Warrior tournament at Historicon with some other Canadian gamers, and he is credited with painting the miniatures shown in photos contained  in the Warrior rulebook.  In addition, it appears that the author has now taken up playing Field of Glory, as can be seen on this link to his website where he gives an army list for the allied Obian/Scythian army that faces the Macedonians in the climax of the book.  Besides the link above, the author's website is great, with a forum, tons of historical information, and reference material for the characters, locations, and events contained in all of his books. Check his site out at: Hippeis - the Ancient World of Christian Cameron


  1. Agree re these books. I'm just waiting to pick up the latest. Really enjoyed them. Well written and researched and that bane of the wargamer, sparks interest in a new period/army! :)

  2. Sounds like I should pick this one up. Thanks for the review, Peter!

  3. There are four volumes with the later two being Successor wars. An excellent read and fun page turner. Another good series is harry Sidebottom's Warrior of Rome series.