David Gemmell was a noted fantasy author whose works were best sellers in the 80's, 90's, and early 00's, before suddenly passing away at his computer as a result of a massive heart attack. Even though I've always been of a mind to read an occasional fantasy novel, I completely missed Gemmell's work during his lifetime's popularity. Maybe it was the really cheesy covers used by his American publishers, or it could be that I just spent more time reading history or historical fiction and just never got around to picking up one of his works. Recently though, I noticed that Christian Cameron, the author of the Tyrant series set in Hellenistic times, highly recommended "Lion of Macedon" as one of his favorite works of Ancient historical fiction. Since I have very much enjoyed those books in the Tyrant series that I have read so far, I decided to give "Lion of Macedon" a try.
The novel tells the tale of Parmenion, from his youth as a half-caste Spartan warrior suffering much abuse at the hands of his peers, through his time as a professional runner and general in the Thebes of Epaminondas, and finally into his middle age as a mercenary under Philip of Macedon, the future father of Alexander the Great. Unknown to Parmenion, his life is being guided by a sorceress who is training him to eventually take on a Dark God seeking to enter the world in the flesh by being born into a human child. The book is very fast-paced and action-packed, although I did find the scenes of individual one-on-one fights more vivid than the large scale battle ones. The characters have enough depth to rank above the one-dimensional ones most common in fantasy literature, and readers familiar with this period of Classical Greece will see many of that time's notables make appearances in the pages - Xenophon, the Spartan kings Agesilaus and Cleombrotus, Epaminondas, Aristotle (as a philosopher and a wizard), Philip of Macedon, and even the shades of Leonidas and the 300 who make a brief but important appearance at a battle in the spirit world the Dark God dwells in. History purists might cringe at some of the material - for instance, Parmenion instead of Epaminondas actually devises the strategy of the extra deep phalanx used by the Thebans to defeat the Spartans at the Battle of Leuctra - but within the framework of the story, it all works quite well.