Book Review: Fires of Alexandria by Thomas K. Carpenter (Three Stars)


Book Review: Fires of Alexandria (Alexandrian Saga #1) by Thomas K. Carpenter

(Three Stars)

“She would transform the city to a place worthy of the title of the City of Miracles. And not the miracles of the temples. Real, practical miracles that would change people’s lives and free them from the tyranny of the gods.”

Entertaining and educational alternate history. Too bad the writing wasn’t up to the premise. Using Alexandria circa 50 AD as his starting point, Carpenter weaves an intriguing “what if” tale of advancing technology, gender liberation, and personal freedom.

“And to see it with my own eyes. Because one cannot always trust what was written in books.”

He gets more right than wrong, though several gaffs are laughable. “Man-sized multi-firing crossbows” are a staple among writers having no idea how crossbows work. Imposed a modern concept of taxation instead of how Romans really did it. Several plot gaps: two guards conveniently disappear so the protagonist can escape. Enemies repeatedly threaten rather than punish. Teen-aged girl straight out of modern too-emotional-and-stupid-to-live portrayals.

“Humor is my secret weapon in battle. It’s always the overly serious ones that die first.”

Apparently resorted to the thesaurus for vocabulary enrichment without checking the definitions. For example: “Shimmering heat wafted over the roofs, obfuscating the gleaming white Lighthouse in the distance.” “Their excited screams were immaculate.” “…would have been killed as a stillborn.”

“You don’t believe in curses?” “I prefer dealing with men. They’re easier to kill. Gods are a troublesome lot.”

Amid the required religion bashing Carpenter refrained from modern fiction’s favorite scapegoat for the burning of the Library and other crimes. His invented cult provides plausible baddies.

“You Alexandrians are a duplicitous lot.” “A skill of survival, nothing more. We do not play the game for the sport alone, unlike the Romans.” “It was a compliment.”