The King and the Slave by Tim Leach

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The King and the Slave by Tim Leach

Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Louise Jones
Reviewed by Louise Jones
Summary: The continuing adventures of Croesus the slave-king, as he serves Cyrus' unstable son Cambyses and watches helplessly as he descends into madness.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: September 2014
Publisher: Atlantic Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9780857899224

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The scene is set: a group of the king's closest acquaintances sit feasting around a table in almost total darkness. Wine flows freely. This is a place for political games, a place where the tension in the air is palpable. Wise men learn to play the rules; to be 'shadow men' under the ever-watchful gaze of a suspicious king who sees treachery in every smile. Invisibility is key to survival.

As the evening wears on and the men are drowsy from the potent wine, the king breaks the silence by addressing his subjects with a question:

Who do you think is the greater king? My father or myself?

Cyrus the Great was renowned as a fair and tolerant ruler and an expert military strategist. He was loved and respected by his people. His son Cambyses is the exact opposite. Weak and insecure, he demands loyalty under pain of torture or death. He is prone to violent mood swings and intense paranoia. He is hated by his subjects and there are many that wish him dead.

What do you say, Croesus? All eyes fall on the elderly slave in the corner, half eclipsed by shadow...

I loved The Last King of Lydia and was delighted to see that Leach had written a sequel, continuing the adventures of Croesus, the former king taken captive as a slave to the Persian royal family. Many decades have passed since the events in the previous book and Croesus is now a seventy year old man, still loyally serving the Persians and acting in the strange dual role of slave/advisor.

When Cyrus is killed in battle, Croesus is entrusted with the care and well-being of the new king, Cambyses, but is unable to stop the king's rapid descent from an insecure young man into a despotic, murderous tyrant. As the death toll rises, Croesus feels pressure to do the unthinkable and murder the king to prevent further tragedy. As a trusted slave, he has many opportunities, but his loyalty to Cyrus prevents him from doing so. The king continues to become more and more unstable and as his crimes increase in severity, the household slaves formulate a plot in the hope of ending his reign of bloodshed.

Leach has a writing style that draws the reader in, so it is no surprise that I finished the entire book within two days! He manages to get everything right; the pace, the plot, the scenes and the characters, resulting in a gripping story that is hard to put down. By creating a small and intimate cast of characters, Leach is able to delve deeper into the personalities of each individual. As a result, I felt as if I knew each one personally and had insight into their different viewpoints and ways of thinking. The range of characters cover the whole emotional spectrum; paranoid, cruel, mild, gentle, innocent, greedy. We see these different personality types collide and clash throughout the story and the effect is beautiful, epic and dramatic.

Leach is a great historian and researcher as well as a great writer. Much of the book is based on Herodotus' writings and the fact that the story is an amalgam of fact and fiction makes it even more fascinating to read.

I am glad that the author decided to write a sequel and by the end of the book, it felt like I was saying goodbye to dear friends. I'm very excited to see what Leach has in store in the future and thank the publishers for my review copy.

This book works well as a standalone novel, but if you want to learn more about the background of the characters, Bookbag recommends reading The Last King of Lydia first.

Buy The King and the Slave by Tim Leach at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The King and the Slave by Tim Leach at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The King and the Slave by Tim Leach at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The King and the Slave by Tim Leach at Amazon.com.


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