While it took me awhile to get through this book because of circumstances, Last of the Amazons was a book I couldn’t put down when I resumed reading it in the dead of night ’til the morning.

This is my second book as I make my way through my two challenges :  Once Upon A Time IV and Spring Reading Thing 2010.

Author :  Steven Pressfield

Publication Date – First Edition :  June 1, 2002 (Hardcover)

Publisher – First Edition :  Doubleday

Publication Date – This Edition :  July 2003 (Trade Paperback)

Publisher – This Edition :  Bantam Dell

ISBN :  0-553-38204-7

The Story :

It is about 1250 B.C., way before Troy or the Battle of Thermopylae, a time where stories have been regarded as myth or legend. It has been told that a nation of Amazons, a warrior race of only women, existed as an independent, self-sufficient society that stood as a testament to the strength, intelligence and hardiness of the supposedly weaker gender.  Steven Pressfield picks up on this tale from accounts of Plutarch and legends and carves his own marvelous what-if of an all-female society with its own culture, mores, lifestyle and government.

The story opens with a Greek family’s nanny, an Amazon slave named Selene, who escapes and unwittingly induces her eldest charge to follow her. A search party of some of the noblest Greeks follow the trail of their comrade’s daughter and Selene. While at sea, the men who had  previously encountered the Amazons with King Theseus tell their tales of these extraordinary warrior women.

When King Theseus of Athens accidentally discovers these legendary women, he sets off an irrevocable chain of events that seal the Amazons’ fate. Antiope, the Amazonian queen falls in love with Theseus, and elopes with him. The new queen Eleuthera tells her nation that the elopement was actually a kidnapping.  In their fury, the entire Amazon nation rounds up its allies and marches on a warpath to Athens to rescue their queen. The story that follows centers on the politics, logistics, and brilliant war tactics these Amazons employ in their war with Athens and continues on to when Antiope returns to them as a foe and heralds the Amazonian civilization’s diminishment into the twilight of their age.

The Review :

I have come out impressed by yet another of novel by Steven Pressfield. Last year, I had been floored by Gates of Fire, his gripping must-read version of the Spartans’ desperate stand against the Persian empire at the Battle of Thermopylae. While Last of the Amazons falls a little short of this novel, it, nevertheless, still is a dazzling read.

There is nothing exciting in the first few pages of the book with the plodding pace and a rather abstract ramble on Amazonian beliefs. But if you just hang in there, you’ll notice that the pace picks up in a while. Soon, you find yourself drawn into a fascinating legendary nation of wholly warrior women equal to men in physical stamina and battle skills. Pressfield tells of a civilization of true feminists, sufficient unto themselves and needing no man except for the serious business of procreation.

Although Pressfield has his doubts of the existence of the Amazons, he writes of them as if he himself had gone back in time and been intimate with their society, lifestyle, and psyche. Indeed, Pressfield’s real forte here is his ability to get readers involved with the story and  through his vivid writing, immersed  in the culture and mindset of the Amazonian civilization.

Without the author’s note at the end about the historical reality of the Amazons being largely based on Plutarch’s accounts and unsupported by archeological evidence, I would have thought this story based on historical fact and not simply on the author’s remarkable imagination. I am sure however that his renderings of the battle scenes are well researched accounts of how lance, shield, horse, etc. had been employed or how different ancient warrior nations conducted themselves in battle.

To Read Or Not To Read:

Ancient battle enthusiasts will be delighted with Pressfield’s meticulous and fascinating detailing. It all comes to life with his vivid accounts of battle strategy, politics, weapons, psychology , emotions, tactics and gore in living detail. For instance, it is quite fascinating to read about how the discus was employed as a weapon.

For the more sociologically inclined readers, Pressfield will not disappoint with his wonderful depiction of Amazonian culture and lifestyle.  In addition,  he handles the dynamics of human decisions and emotions very well.  There even is a marvelous debate between King Theseus and Eleuthera on the advantages or disadvantages of civilized society, the Athenian King arguing for the settlement of a civilization for its advancement while the upcoming Amazonian Queen rebutting a wandering society’s grounding for its loss of freedom and oneness with the natural earth.

Just a small caveat:  Some may be confused with the format of the book. The story is told from about four or five character viewpoints so it would be most helpful to take note of the narrator’s name before every chapter. Also, as I have said, this book needs a little more reading attention with the slew of names and the author’s wordy and somewhat old-fashioned prose (perhaps made to match the “ancient-ness” of the story(?) ).

In A Nutshell:

Steven Pressfield is my go-to for ancient war books.  I have not yet read any author who can match his breathtaking battle scenes laid out in all its  glory, page after riveting page.   If you have, I would appreciate the info for my comparison.  Moreover, this book exemplifies Pressfield’s  exceptional talent in handling  intricate layers in a story.

On the whole, Last of the Amazons is a very well written novel, mesmerizing on all accounts.

My Mark :  Outstanding


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Book 1

My, this summer is sizzling HOT! The grass on my lawn is tanned to a crisp and  ice cubes aren’t being formed fast enough to satisfy our lust for cold, cold drinks.  The heat has made me lethargic and so this blog has been  dozing on its virtual hammock as well.

Amid the El Nino heat though,  Percy Jackson was good company for ice cream binges and beach trips.

Author :  Rick Riordan

Publication Dates :  2005-2009

Book 2

Publisher: Hyperion Book CH

The Review :

I’m opting for not writing a synopsis this time, as I have given one for the first book, The Lightning Thief, several weeks ago.  (My review here. ) I find that giving a summary of a book in a series (other than the first one)  sometimes gives away the ending of the plot before it.  So, it won’t do to spoil anyone’s reading pleasure with some guess of a previous book’s ending now, would it?

On this note,  I shall review the series as a whole, which is a set of five action-packed books for kids aged 9-12 years.  However, the story is so interesting that even li’l ole me was hooked from page one!

Book 3

Despite being written as a children’s series, the story actually appeals to a wide age range, from kids to their parents; hey, maybe even grandparents!   Why the appeal?

First of all, the books are hip, fast and made for light reading.  Riordan makes sure he tickles his young readers’ funny bones with humor specifically geared toward the target age bracket.  Although some of his jokes may seem too corny in some places for mature readers, these I’m sure sit quite well with those in their preteens and early teens.  But hey, he does have some well-placed wit that would make anyone chuckle from time to time.

Second, the interesting concept of Greek mythology modernized with 21st

Book 4

century culture is just too different to pass up.  Kids and adults alike have an enjoyable time escaping in a world where Olympus is the invisible 600th floor of the Empire State Building; Poseidon’s son is a regular kid at school with a ballpoint pen for a sword; Hermes has winged sneakers; Dionysus wholly drinks diet soda ; or one of The Furies may just be your strict, scary pre-Algebra teacher.

Third, there seems to be something for everyone.  Stuffed with scrapes and adventures , the story  revolves around characters who rely on their individual powers and magical stuff to make fights and getting-out-of-tight-spots interesting and fun.  Those inclined toward Greek mythology would have an amusing time with Riordan’s  modern take on them.  Those who don’t have a clue would actually find they have missed out on some really great ancient  legends and perhaps get themselves to surf on who these dudes were :  Zeus, Poseidon, Hades, etc.    Then, there’s a budding romance to delight young girl readers.  However, parents would be so relieved to note that this series is quite wholesome.  There isn’t a whiff of mature content, implied or stated, that sometimes sneakily plague a great many YA books.

Book 5 (The End)

Fourth, there are a lot of pretty cool characters to like and relate to.   Hey, even the monsters are great!

I feel Riordan’s strongest books were the first and last ones, where his writing style was most entertaining.    Moreover, he ended his series quite well.   Vastly entertaining for both young and old, this series is one of those you may not want to miss out on.

My Mark :  Outstanding

Snagged this book from the shelf for a light, easy read to tide me through a long car wash.   I was hooked from the first page and couldn’t let go.

Author :  Rick Riordan

Date of First Publication :  June 30, 2005  (Hardcover)

Published First By :  Miramax Books

My Edition’s Publication Date : 2006

My Edition”s Publisher :  Miramax Books-Hyperion

ISBN-10: 0786838655

ISBN-13: 978-0786838653

No. of Pages :  400

The Story :

Twelve-year old Percy Jackson thought he was a normal kid struggling in school with not so normal problems of dyslexia and ADHD.  With only a loving but harried mother to turn to from his smelly, nasty step-father, dismal report cards, and unpopularity, Percy has resigned himself to being a nobody with no future  until he is attacked by his pre-algebra teacher.    Suddenly his world turns upside-down and nothing seems as it once did.   Even his best friend isn’t normal!

Percy finds out that he is a demigod,  son of Poseidon.  But Percy’s problems aren’t over.  They have just begun.

Zeus is furious and accuses Poseidon of stealing his master bolt.   Since no god can directly steal from another, everyone in the immortal world suspects Percy of  having been put up to it by his father.  Unless the bolt is returned in ten days, Mount Olympus (address at the 600th floor, Empire State Building), will erupt in war and spell a terrible doom upon the Western world.

Percy, together with a satyr and Athena’s daughter, set out to find the bolt, discover the thief, and avert a catastrophe of mortal and immortal proportions.

The Review :

I made a good decision to watch the movie before I read the book.  I was quite happy with the cinematic version, which I found cute and different from other fantasy movie tie-ins out there for kids and young adults.    If I had read the book first, the movie would have been sort of a let-down because this book is brilliant!–simple, funny, and a totally absorbing read.    I spent a very blithe two hours at the car wash, immersed in Riordan’s  wonderful mix of Greek mythology and the 21st century.

However, many have been quick to point  this out as a Harry Potter-ish novel, drawing similarities with the threesome questing group; Camp (school) for half-bloods where they train their powers (the term “half-bloods is also used in this book); like Harry,  the main character Percy is unwanted by a step-parent/s;  as Harry, Percy is also charged with a mission to stop dark forces;  etc.

Now that it the similarities have been drawn, I admit they do exist.  However,  The Lightning Thief feels and reads so differently that I bet not many readers were aware of them (I, included)  until the fact was specifically pointed out.  So no, you will not be reading a Harry Potter-like novel with this.    Instead,  you get  a wonderful treat of getting lost in the world of  gods, goddesses, demigods, and immortals.

Now those who weren’t so particularly interested in Greek mythology would perhaps be drawn to know more about the deities after  seeing how Riordan breathes his own kind of life into them.  He incorporates the legends into our time so that they come out  fresh yet true to their own original stories…and a lot of fun!    Loads of wit  and  adventure plus charming characters simply compel you to want more of the escapism.   I wouldn’t be surprised if there has been a resurgence of interest in classic Greek myths.

To Read Or Not To Read :

Written simply, this is a book a nine-year old would undoubtedly take to.  However, so will his parents.  Riordan adeptly writes in that fine line that makes his stories so appealing to both young and old.    This should be a wonderful book for a parent to read and bond with young kids or a good thing to momentarily bridge the age-induced interest gap between parents and their teeners.    The appeal to a wide age range explains Riordan’s tremendous success with his series.

As of this date, Riordan has published a total of five books for the series.  Once you’ve had a taste of  The Lightning Thief, you’d surely want the savor the sequels.

In A Nutshell :

Hip, young, snappy, and funny, Riordan’s writing simply grabbed my attention from page one with the chapter title, “I Accidentally Vaporize My Pre-Algebra Teacher”.     Who wouldn’t break into a smile on reading something like this :

Glancing back, I got my first clear look at the monster.  He was seven feet tall, easy, his arms and legs like something from the cover of Muscle Men magazine — bulging biceps and triceps and a bunch of other ‘ceps , all stuffed like baseballs under vein-webbed skin.  He wore no clothes except underwear — I mean bright white Fruit of the Looms–which would’ve looked funny, except that the top half of his body was so scary.    —- p.50

The Lightning Thief should be one of the best children’s books written this decade.  Easily a bookshelf gem!

My Mark :  Excellent!


Author: Alicia Fields
Release Date: July 5, 2005
Publisher: Signet
ISBN-10: 0451215826
Pages: 282

The prettiest girl in the village is young and naïve Persephone, who lives a very sheltered life in Hellas, a small Greek isle, too small to matter to the rest of the world. Most of the boys in her village are in love with her but are too scared of her mother, Demeter, a man-hater who rejects all suitors for her daughter’s hand. But as fate would have it, lonely Hades spies Persephone and instantly sees her as the sunlight to his underground existence. Knowing no other way to win her, he abducts Persephone and as any love-struck swain does, tries to win her heart…

Love Underground is the myth of Persephone and Hades retold with a more realistic flavor, but with a tidy bit of it still sprinkled with magic.  The myth is a great story and Fields’ idea of humanizing it could have made it better.  But, she just doesn’t succeed.

The author tries to “de-myth” the characters by drawing them on a more humanistic plane, while still keeping a glimmer of mystique about them. Perhaps this attempt isn’t so easy for Fields as Persephone, Hades, Demeter, et al., end up flat, like comic book characters — well illustrated but without dimensions that stir empathy from those who are trying to get to know them.

That being so, there is a failure to inspire the romance it is supposed to have. It is that essential ingredient which could have transformed the work to a delightfully sweet story.

One thing Fields has done well, though, was keep one foot in the legend by being ambiguous about the characters’ deities. This was a nice touch, but sadly lost in a book floundering on ineffectual writing.

Regrettably, Love Underground is a literary disappointment.  I guess the book grew out of a good idea; but it withered on execution somewhere along the way. If you must read it, borrow or get a used copy on sale. Just don’t waste good money on a dime novel.

My Mark : In between UGH! and Mediocre — Poor