"A great warrior comes face to face with the only thing that could ever change him: a little girl who holds both hope and humanity in her heart. This is Pressfield’s best work."
"An incredible book that I devoured in one sitting. The master behind Gates of Fire does it again!"
Pressfield’s considerable gifts for historical military fiction, displayed in such superior works as Gates of Fire, are nowhere in evidence in this ponderous account of Greek mercenary Telamon of Arcadia’s mission to preserve and disseminate the gospel of Paul. With Judea under Roman occupation, 14-year-old David, a Jew, witnesses Telamon defend a caravan from attack by a band of bandits. While Telamon is successful, his triumph is short-lived, as a group of Roman soldiers capture him. David, who claims to be Telamon’s apprentice, joins up with his “master” after Telamon is freed with a charge to track down Michael, a Nazarene in possession of a particularly important letter. As the two venture through deserts and various Roman outposts, Telamon instructs David in the art of battle, and an encounter with a witch and Michael’s daughter leads to clues as to Michael’s whereabouts. The prose is nowhere near what Pressfield has shown himself to be capable of; clichéd staccato passages and clunky phrasing abound (“The woman managed to stumble into such proximity of the camp as to make her voice heard”). The author also underwhelms with period detail, having the temple in Jerusalem referred to as King Solomon’s, despite that edifice having been destroyed centuries earlier. This isn’t likely to appeal even to fans of biblical fiction. (Mar.)
"A brilliant tour de force."
"A Man At Arms explores the warrior ethos through the eyes and heart of a mercenary whose calling is tested on a journey of transformation. A masterpiece!"
"An enthralling epic from the master of historical fiction with tremendous character development, fast-paced action, and extraordinary combat scenes! A truly wonderful read."
"A master storyteller’s searing epic. Steven Pressfield brings to life a warrior’s limitless devotion and the total commitment to serving humanity. Powerfully told yet humbling, A Man At Arms will remain with you long after you put it down."
A warrior and an unlikely cohort face the might of the Roman Empire in this vivid tale of tribulation.
In Anno Domini 55, a 14-year-old Jewish boy named David witnesses a group of brigands launch a failed ambush upon a wagon train. They are scant match against the mercenary Telamon of Arcadia, who bears a tattoo of his former Roman Tenth Legion. After rescuing the wagon train from the bandits, the fearsome warrior assists a mute and “feral girl-child” named Ruth and her caretaker, Michael. Star-struck, David declares himself Telamon’s apprentice. Meanwhile, the Romans are chasing Michael, whom they consider "the most dangerous man in Palestine." They fear that he's carrying a lengthy and seditious letter written by Paul the Apostle or that he knows where it is. Said letter is destined for delivery to the Christian underground in Corinth, Greece. Meanwhile, Marcus Severus Pertinax, the Roman commander in Jerusalem, knows Telamon well and directs him to find the messianic “Jewish subversive calling himself Paul the Apostle,” a man who “cannot be suborned, coerced or reasoned with.” And Severus urgently wants Paul’s letter. Although Telamon claims to believe in nothing but money, he travels across the desert with Michael, Ruth, and David, who don’t have two coins to rub together. And Michael and Ruth won’t say if the letter even exists. They endure unrelenting trouble: bloody skirmishes, parching thirst, terrible torments, threatened crucifixion, and a treacherous witch (is there any other kind?) who wants to rip Michael’s guts out to look for the missive. Throughout their arduous journey are hundreds of colorful details, such as the balloon trousers of the Sadducees and the underground city called The Anthill. The writing style feels at times like that of an old storyteller of the day: “David could not see the lead sling bullet, so swiftly did it fly.” Though the foursome do not share a common faith, they show each other unflagging fealty.
Action, loyalty, bravery, and blood make for fine historical fiction, and it’s all here.