Saturday 28 September 2019

#BookReview — Gift of the Gods: Silver and Gold, Volume 2 by Thomas J. Berry #AncientGreece #HistoricalFiction @TBerryAuthor

Gift of the Gods: Silver and Gold
By Thomas J. Berry

Five men and women in Ancient Greece are set on a dangerous journey of self-discovery during the bitter conflict of the Peloponnesian War.

The climatic war between Athens and Sparta is over and, while peace has settled upon the land, bitter factions are at work to resurrect the bloody conflict.  The rival superpowers align themselves with new allies and embark on an overseas adventure with far-reaching consequences.  The democrats of Athens seek conquest and wealth abroad while the militant Spartans play a deadly gambit to stop them.  In the midst of this struggle, one man makes a fateful decision that will change the course of history forever.

As the powerful city-states gather their armies once more, men and women from across the region have far more pressing needs.  A harried mother sees her world turned upside down and struggles to make peace with her husband.  A rich playboy with grand ideas has finally achieved the power to make those dreams a reality while another agonizes over a promising future that has slowly slipped away.  A Spartan officer emerges from his brother’s shadow to claim his own stake in the world and wipe away the stain of his ignoble birth. A young slave struggles to find the courage to save, not only himself, but the ones he holds most dear as he discovers the true meaning of family.

Five men and women come together to weave an epic story of conquest, love, betrayal, and sacrifice.  Their lives will take on new meaning as the political landscape around them changes irreversibly.  How will they navigate these turbulent times and plot their own destiny towards peace?

"I have had frequent dreams of late, dreams of danger and ruins for Athens..."

But what did Socrates know? 

The Peace of Nicias had brought an end to the bloodshed — and the war. But until Sparta has surrendered Amphipolis to Athens, as was agreed, then why should the Athenians relinquish Pylos? One could almost argue, "How can there be peace when the terms of the treaty have not been fulfilled?"

Peace isn't what Athenian politician, Alcibiades, wants anyway. He wants glory and honour and above everything else, wealth. The only thing that could pose a problem to his plans is the Spartans and fellow politician, Nicias. So when the opportunity comes, Alcibiades uses his cunning to pick a fight with the Spartans and provoke a war.

War with Athens seems inevitable. However, Sparta is a land of warriors. They will face this new threat with courage, and they will be victorious. They have to be.

Socrates' warning has, unfortunately, come too late. The Athenians had come too far. Alcibiades would not, he could not, stop what he had put into motion. The Athenian fleet would sail. Alcibiades was not leading his people to destruction and ruin. Socrates was wrong— he had to be. The armada would not burn — how could it? Alcibiades was not leading his men to their deaths. He was leading them to glory and riches. To a land of silver and gold...

From the festival of Pyanepsion in Sicily to the utter defeat of the Athenian army under Nicias during the Siege of Syracuse, Gift of the Gods: Silver and Gold by Thomas J. Berry is in all ways a Historical Fiction triumph.

Told from the viewpoint of five very different people from opposing sides, Gift of the Gods: Silver and Gold is as rich and as potent as the wine once served in the dive bars in Syracuse, Sicily. This is a story that is not only tense, powerful and compulsive in the telling, but one that is also profoundly moving. 

Nothing is beyond the telling, and Berry's attention to the historical detailing is as staggering as it is accurate. Berry has brought this time and this place back to life in his crystalline prose and his compelling narrative. But, this book is not for the faint-hearted. Berry does not gloss over the history, nor does he gloss over the reality of the battles and the appalling treatment and torture of the prisoners. This book is a realistic retelling of this period of history.

The political landscape has been carefully documented and brought back to life in the raucous Assembly. The duplicitous Alcibiades was masterfully portrayed. He gets what he wants through cunning and tricks, and if he can embarrass Nicias at the same time, then so much the better. Likewise, I thought Berry had a lucid understanding of General Nicias, and his struggle to curb Alcibiades' ambitions. Nicias comes across as a shrewd politician, a man who seeks to keep the peace — he would rather work with Sparta than against her. But, Alcibiades is a formidable opponent, and Nicias can do nothing but watch as his beloved Athens is propelled towards another war. The consequences of which, as history will tell us, was disastrous for both Athens and Nicias. It is certainly a fascinating time in history, and Berry has really outdone himself in his portrayal of both of these very charismatic men.

Of course, in times of political unrest, such things spill over into everyday life, and Berry demonstrates this fabulously with the exclusion of the Spartans in the 420 Olympic Games. Berry is one of those authors that has an intuitive understanding of the power of words and how they fit together, which may sound a little strange, but it is true. He is a master at his craft. Berry's writing is as effortless to read as watching a Wolfgang Petersen's Troy, and it is just as rewarding. This skill is clearly demonstrated when Berry brings back to life the excitement, the danger, and the thrill of chariot racing at the Olympics. I could feel and see the enthusiasm of the crowd, the nervous agitation of the horses, and the determination of the competitors. Brilliantly written and wholly unforgettable. I could talk about how fabulously written that chariot race scene was all day, which I think says it all.

Another character that I must not forget to mention was Andreas. He has lived in the shadow of his brother for too long, and now that his brother is dead Andreas has the chance to prove himself. Through Andreas, Berry has allowed us a glimpse as to what life as a Spartan soldier was like. I thought it was a wonderfully compelling representation. Brilliant.

There are several other characters in this book, Cathryn being one of them, who gave a different perspective to the story. All the characters are wonderfully depicted, and they all helped to drive the story forward. 

I am not jesting when I say there is enough adrenaline in this book to keep you reading all night. It is one of those books that you simply cannot put down. Fans of battle heavy historical fiction will fall in love with this book. There is no doubt in my mind that Thomas Berry has written a masterpiece. 

I Highly Recommend.

Review by Mary Anne Yarde.
The Coffee Pot Book Club

Pick up your copy of
Gift of the Gods: Silver and Gold

Thomas J. Berry

Thomas Berry received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from St. Bonaventure University. A lover of history and literature, he has found his true passion in writing historical fiction. When not writing, he enjoys long distance running and has completed several marathons. He currently lives with his wife and five children in New Jersey.

Connect with Thomas: Website • Facebook • Twitter • Goodreads.

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See you on your next coffee break!
Take Care,
Mary Anne xxx