Colossus by Alexander Cole

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Colossus by Alexander Cole

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Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sam Tyler
Reviewed by Sam Tyler
Summary: The tale of the ambitious Gajendra, a man who wants to rise in Alexander's army. It can only help that he has a special relationship with Colossus, the biggest elephant in the living God's stable. Battles must be fought on behalf of Alexander, but also for Gajendra's own soul.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: January 2014
Publisher: Atlantic Books
ISBN: 978-0857891150

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I would not want to be in the front line of any army, but one that is facing a row of battle worn elephants must be the worst. These huge beasts, that don’t smell particularly nice, are charging towards you, their tusks tipped in armour. You’ll find me cowering somewhere near the baggage train. Not Gajendra, he is an ambitious young man in Alexander’s all conquering army. He has a special relationship with the largest elephant in Alex’s army, Colossus. This close relationship between man and beast will lead Gajendra to a higher level than he could ever have imagined for a poor boy from India.

I have read a lot of historical fiction in my time and different authors place differing weights on the historic and fiction parts of the genre. Alexander Cole is an author who certainly weighs more towards the fiction; he has decided to extend the living God’s lifespan so that a new story can be told. The book does not start off brilliantly; we are introduced to Gajendra and Colossus with some very short and sharp sentences that rattle the brain. There seems to be a strange choice to treat the elephant as if he has human emotions. To say I was wary after a chapter or two would be fair.

However, as the book begins to flow, Cole’s style begins to settle down. He is interested in creating a pacy story that has plenty of action to keep the reader entertained. This is certainly the case; there are some gruesome battles to behold, but also some thrilling internal politics as Gajendra begins to rise through the ranks and jealousy ensues. The book eventually introduces Mara, a female character stripped of the luxury of her former life and thrown into a world of slavery. Suddenly, the book has structure as Gajendra and Mara dance around one another. Yes, at times the book feels a little like a Mills and Boon with added evisceration, but the relationship enhances the action as you want certain characters to live or die.

It is because Gajendra and Mara are such fun characters that the book works. Neither of them is particularly nice; one is a little snooty, the other too ambitious for their own good. Indeed, both are very arrogant people. However, I think it is this aloofness that made me like them. Flawed people are so much easier to support that perfect people. There is a battle for Gajendra’s soul that plays out during the book; will he do anything to gain ultimate power, or will he realise that power is nothing without love?

Fans of true historic accuracy should avoid this book as it is has a lot of conjecture on the part of Cole. The battles themselves feel authentic, but by extending the life of the real Alexander and making him fight a battle that never happened, will infuriate some. I am not one of these people; I read books to be entertained. You could write a thousand historic inaccuracies and I am unlikely to notice or care as long as the book is gripping. In this sense Colossus works well. The action is constant and the love story does appeal. However, there is also a naivety in sentence structure and a disregard for the annals of history that will annoy some.

If this book appeals then have a look at 1356 by Bernard Cornwell and Praetorian (Roman Legion II) by Simon Scarrow.

Buy Colossus by Alexander Cole at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Colossus by Alexander Cole at

Buy Colossus by Alexander Cole at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Colossus by Alexander Cole at


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