Posted 20 hours ago

The Last King of Lydia

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The ancient world is so distant from us that at times it feels like fantasy - kings, gods, sacrifices, oracles, mountains of gold, lost cities, myth. As king, Croesus has only to speak to make men obey -- a dream about his son's death by iron leads to a ban on all iron weapons. It deals with the sort of intimate themes that would appeal to a child and, while it’s bigger than your average children’s novel, it’s not too long. There’s the strong air of the fairy tale in this: characters are simplistic, motives are haphazard, society barely exists outside the palace, the land is at peace and no outside action can affect it.

He remembers the time he asked the old Athenian philosopher, Solon, who was the happiest man in the world. A wonderfully rich story with narration that brings the characters out from the past and reminds you of their humanity.

This book probably isn’t for everyone, but it has forced me to re-examine my own perception of life and the meaning *waves hand around randomly* of it all. It’s a debut novel that the author clearly worked very hard on, it covers a little-explored figure of history and legend, and I can positively see the pride and ambition oozing from the pages in the philosophical themes… but it fell flat for me. Like any good philosopher, Leach doesn’t answer the big questions he asks, but his exploration and hints are the more interesting as a result.

Leach puts these words in the mouth of a 5th Century BC ruler, yet I’m not sure I’ve read a more apposite phrase to sum up what’s wrong with modern society. As the wealthiest man in the world, and ruler of the largest kingdom on Earth, Croesus is fairly convinced it’s him. Regular readers of this blog will know I tend to only review books I have enjoyed and think other people will enjoy as well.Life is full of pleasures we shouldn’t turn down just because we worry they aren’t permanent or profound. Readers who revel in the material details of period costume, weapons and mores may be disappointed in this fabulistic treatment of the ancient king whose name became synonymous with wealth. He comes to realize that his power has limits because "It's a difficult thing, having one's happiness depend on those one cannot control" -- like his son's guaranteed well-being.

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