Alexander and Alestria
By Shan Sa
(Harper, Hardcover, 9780061543548, 256pp.)
Publication Date: August 1, 2008
List Price: $23.95*
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re-creating the lives of two of the most intriguing rulers in history, Shan Sa brings us a novel filled with the sound of hooves, the whistle of arrows, blood, passion, and betrayal. The familiar figure of Alexander the Great comes to new life in this richly imagined tale, which entwines his historical legacy with a fantastic love affair set in a wartime between Western and Eastern civilizations.
Abused by his father, King Philip, who loved and hated his beauty; shadowed by his mother, the mystical and overbearing Queen Olympias; educated by Aristotle who wanted him to be a wise philosopher of Macedonia, Alexander develops a complex character. He becomes a brutal warrior, a pitiless strategist, and a poet longing for the world's wonders. Meanwhile, in the remote steppes of Siberia, an abandoned girl grows up among the wild mares, then adopted by the queen of the Amazons—the tribe of female warriors who dominates a wild world of snow and volcano. As a future queen, the young girl is trained to hate men and to fight against all invaders.
In the course of his great conquest of Asia, Alexander first meets the stunning Alestria on the battlefield. Surprised to find that his adversary is a woman, he is instantly smitten by the fierce queen. Dazzled by his strength, she decides to kidnap him and make him her "wife." At last, this legendary king—renowned for his beauty and love of men—has found his equal. And at last, this indomitable young woman has found a reason to leave her tribe. Their love, deeply passionate and problematic, evolves against an exotic backdrop of warfare and political turmoil, sweeps from antique Greece to Egypt, across the ancient Iraq and Iran, unto the mysterious kingdoms of India.
A sweeping, heroic romance. . . . Fascinating details about Alexander’s world and about the legendary Amazons, who, if they existed at all, might have been his contemporaries -- and equals.
“This reimagining of the life of Alexander the Great by the author of Empress would be a good choice for book groups, contrasting well with Stephen Pressfield’s The Virtues of War. . . . She writes here as a poet, blending image, action, and character in a rhythmic stream.”
“A dramatically imagined tale of a love affair between Alexander the Great and Alestria, queen of the Amazons. . . . Written with the unironic portentousness of an ancient myth, the novel nonetheless has modern and moving insights into such hot-button topics such as violence and gender.”
“Imagine a romance between Alexander the great and the queen of the Amazons and you have Alexander and Alestria, by author Shan Sa.”
“Told in the extravagant voices of Alexander and Alestria, and of Alestria’s confidante Ania. . . . Strewn amid the pageantry and clamour are fascinating details about Alexander’s world and the legendary Amazons, who, if they existed at all, might have been his contemporaries—and equals.”
-Finch's Quarterly Review Blog
“Sa, author of Empress (2006), takes a huge historical leap in this entertaining fictional biography of Alexander the Great. . . . Romance, action, and intrigue combine to set the stage for a pageturning romp through alternate history.