4 out of 4 stars
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The Last Shades of Scarlet: Wolves of Laconia, by William A. Lamon, follows the first-person narrative of Adronikos (Nikos), a young Spartan. Beginning during his youth, the novel takes the reader on a journey through Nikos’ training in the agoge, where he learns the physical and mental skills he will need to fight alongside his peers as a mighty Spartan warrior. Along the way, Nikos is helped through his training by his mentor, Gylippus. As the novel progresses, Nikos is inducted into the prestigious Wolves, where he is sent on a mission to gather political intelligence. Set against the Peloponnesian War, Wolves of Laconia combines political intrigue, realities of war, and the intricacies of humanity to form one epic tale.
At its heart, Wolves of Laconia is a coming-of-age story. As a Spartan warrior, Nikos doesn’t live a typical life, but the feelings he experiences are simply human. Lamon does an excellent job of focusing on the physical and battle-specific aspects of a Spartan’s life while also weaving in the emotional struggles faced by a soldier: Nikos confronts ethical decisions on multiple occasions. As a soldier, he faces moral quandaries about loyalties to his comrades, his standing in society, and the killing of innocents. These inner battles, which Nikos endures throughout the story, build a sense of realism into the character.
Similarly, Lamon masterfully devotes portions of the narrative to Nikos’ realistic wants and desires. So often, soldiers are portrayed as battle hungry robots, but that is not the case for Nikos; he is a multi-faceted young man with interests outside of training. As one would expect, Nikos is interested in getting to know the fairer sex, and the author includes a romantic side plot to show readers this aspect of Nikos’ nature. In the story, Nikos is torn between his love for a woman and her substandard social standing. Although this is a minor plot compared to the majority of the story, it plays an important role in developing the narrator as a realistic and relatable character. The combination of focus on the devastation of war and Nikos’ humanity made this a well-rounded story that will appeal to a wide audience.
Not only was this novel entertaining, but it also proved to be enlightening. The author weaves many facts about the historical period into the story. Although the book includes a detailed glossary of terms, I rarely found the need to reference the glossary because terms were thoroughly described as they appeared in the novel. Best of all, archaic words were explained seamlessly within the narrative and did not take away from the storytelling. Moreover, Lamon’s writing is professional and easy to understand, and the dialogue felt appropriate for the setting. Wolves of Laconia does not shy away from masculine nature and the realities of war, so readers should be aware that there are many instances of profane language and graphic battle scenes throughout the story; however, it is important to also note that all instances felt fitting given the focus of the novel.
Overall, Wolves of Laconia proved to be an entertaining and informative read. The author expertly conveyed a coming-of-age story, told from the believable perspective of a young soldier, that was inclusive of important facts about the historical period. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and there was nothing I disliked. I rate Lamon’s work a glowing 4 out of 4 stars. Although this novel has a true ending, Nikos’ story is left open for additional novels to follow, and I look forward to future installments in the series. Readers who like accurate historical fiction, especially with a focus on ancient Greece and the Peloponnesian War, are sure to enjoy Wolves of Laconia.
Wolves of Laconia
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