OR: Alexander at the World’s End

A review that originally appeared in The Third Alternative #22:-


Tom Holt

Little Brown hb, 434pp, £16.99

While Alexander’s name is on the cover and he dominates the  book, the story is about Euxenus, an impoverished citizen of Athens and apprentice of the Cynic philosopher Diogenes, who is sent on a diplomatic mission to Macedon and becomes tutor to the future world conqueror. When King Philip wants to off-load some mercenaries, Euxenus is sent to establish a colony at Antolbia, where he rules for many years, resolving internal disputes and those with their Scythian neighbours. Finally, Euxenus returns to Athens, only to be snatched away again at the whim of Alexander, who requires his help in establishing the ideal city, an ambition planted in his head by a chance remark Euxenus made many years before.

As you’d expect, given comic fantasist Holt’s pedigree, humour is never far away in this book, and as a chronicle of the ancient world it has more in common with Lindsay Davis’s Falco novels than the work of people like Mary Renault and Allan Massie. And it’s humour which is the book’s saving grace, turning what could have been a rather pedestrian account of marginal events into an engaging story. Euxenus’s first person narrative is a witty and acerbic account of life in classical Greece, full of marvellous characters sketches of the philosopher super-stars and orators of the day, all delivered in a delightfully dry and self-mocking tone of voice. It only falls off in the last quarter when a different narrative voice intervenes, that of Euxenus’s soldier brother Eudaemon, a necessary device if we are to have a first hand account of Alexander’s military career, but introducing a broader note of farce after the refinement of what went before, and setting the stage for an ending that seems abrupt and anticlimactic.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s