A well told tale of a feud taking place in Greece during the Peloponnesian conflict period occurring about the 4th century BC. During that era, the city states of Athens and Sparta were jockeying for supremacy in the area.
Guild has published many novels with diverse subjects including books set in the ancient world. In these novels his research has led him into fiction in settings that existed during the periods discussed and allowed him to paint protagonists with the probable thoughts and reactions prevalent then.
The Spartan Dagger follows two men living in the times depicted, traveling throughout Greece for many reasons and reacting to the events occurring at the time. Sparta has a culture and system for developing almost superhuman warriors taking young boys away from their families and inculcating them with ideals of war and bravery. The phrase when men went out on war was “Come home with your shield or on it,”meaning victory or death but never surrender.
Shortly before the period of this novel, Sparta had held off a force of about 250,000 Persians with a mere 300 men at Thermopylae giving enough time for Athens to get their navy ready for war. In addition, time was saved for Sparta itself to rally their regular army.
Two Spartan brothers were ordered by their father to go out and prove themselves men by killing members of the tribe of Helots than living in subjugation to Sparta. They do so, coming upon a family who were eating dinner. They kill the father, mother and a daughter but a son escapes. His name is Protos, meaning destiny, and his starts that night. He chases after the brothers managing to kill one and takes his dagger. He spares the other brother but vows he will eventually kill him.
This event starts the many years of conflict between the two. The Spartan boy in manhood becomes a statesman and leads men into battle. Protos finds himself traveling throughout Greece and due to a natural ability as a warrior becomes a leader of forces opposed to Sparta. Each finds love in the book which plays an important role in their development.
Guild is again successful in taking the reader into another era and making events live. Very well done.
12/16 Paul Lane
THE SPARTAN DAGGER by Nicholas Guild. Forge Books (December 27, 2016). ISBN 978-0765376510. 384p.