by Steven Pressfield
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Gates of Fire retells the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC, an epic tale of patriotism, the power of belief in one’s country, in one’s self, and the need to succeed despite insurmountable odds. Persia mounted a vast army, one that far outnumbered the indigenous Greeks and threatened to overrun their City States. Sparta led Greece’s counter-charge, living up to their historic reputation as warriors, imbued with lifelong military training, and inhabitants of a tyrannical society thankfully out of step with the Greek belief in democracy.
That is the drama of the story, but it takes Pressfield half the book to get there. If he hadn’t been an established author, some by-the-book agent would have tossed his manuscript as unpublishable. Pressfield follows none of the usual action-thriller rules–even those for historic fiction (the official genre of Gates of Fire). Where I wondered for the first one hundred pages whether it was worth it, by the middle, I understood his reasoning. His character development, plot back-story, setting detail are so authentic and engaging, by the time the battle arrives, you are right there, with the noble Spartans and the Loyal Greeks, desperate for a miracle that arrives too late.
When you finish this book, you will forever remember the Battle of Thermopylae, the noble warriors and the roots of man’s need to fight the good fight, no matter the cost. In fact, Pressfield’s battle depiction is so memorable, it is still included by the Commandant of the Marine Corps on his official reading list.
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Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. In her free time, she is editor of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a techno-thriller that should be out to publishers next summer.