Alexander The Great is a name in history that everyone knows but most people don’t know all the details of his life. Hoplite by Lee Ness looks at Alexander’s early years. This book starts off with Alexander trying to see his father before he goes off to war. An accident happens and he ends up on a ship headed off to the battlefield.
Alexander ends up being put to work as a servant to the Athenian army who is on their way to take over the benign state of Samos. The army finds this task harder to complete then they thought, tragedy strikes and Alexander is forced to become a soldier. Life changes quickly for Alexander as he learns the politics of war and how not everyone in his army is an ally.
Hoplite is a coming of age story. In the beginning Alexander is a normal kid that dreams of being an Olympian. You could say he is less than normal because he and his mother are outcasts in Athens with only his father being Athenian. Alexander wasn’t thinking of being a soldier but due to circumstances he has to become a warrior. It seems the world is against him but he proves his intelligence and adapts to the changing world around him.
This was a fascinating read not only is it suspenseful but it is also educational. I loved the scenes where Alexander learns what it takes to be a warrior and how to deal with other soldiers. Alexander’s teacher and my favorite character in this book is Theokritus. Theokritus is given the task of teaching Alexander how to be an athlete and a warrior. Alexander doesn’t think highly of him, his perception is that he doesn’t look very athletic and he is old, but he quickly learns that Theokritus is the most respected man in the army. At this point in the book it becomes like an instruction manual on how to live as a Hoplite and it comes from a man who doesn’t look like a hero. I loved that this guy who looked like he didn’t fit in was so important and that Alexander had to learn from him.
The descriptions of battle scenes were excellent from the armor they wear to the tactics used in battle. One great scene had A group of archers firing on the Athenians and the Athenians getting into a formation with their shields that would help them survive with the least amount of casualties. I can only imagine the amount of research that must have went into learning what Ancient Greek soldiers were like and how they lived their lives. Lee Ness really brought the Greek world to life.
This is an excellent work of historical fiction. Not only can you learn about history here but you could also learn about how to be a solider and a politician. Lee Ness is a teacher and you can tell that while reading this book. The book is entertaining as well with some great scenes like when Alexander has to race a much bigger man from Samos. Alexander doesn’t have much of a chance but if he looses two people from his army will die. In another scene he is given the task of negotiating with the enemy so his army can collect dead bodies from a battlefield. Hoplite is a great book that works on several levels as it brings history to life.