“This may be up there in my top three novels of all time…It’s told from the point of view of a young boy who is only 16 years old. He’s called Bagoas. He is a courtesan in the Persian court, to King Darius, the hugely powerful leader of the Persian empire at the time. Alexander conquers that great empire and takes Baghdad. Bagoas is now in the hands of the invading army…To use Bagoas as her central character is brilliant because he’s an outsider. Outsider narrators are a wonderful way to bring you, the reader, into the story because they are discovering it on your behalf. He’s been used and abused since he was just a boy. He was sold as a slave. He was castrated. It’s so visceral and so grim. You’re deeply invested in him as a character. You want him to be okay. You want him to be looked after. You don’t want him to have to go through any more grim times. He has considerable antipathy for these people when they first turn up, because he’s been inculcated in the court, but after a while, like the rest of us, he is won over by Alexander’s charisma. You fall in love with Alexander through Bagoas. To write charismatic characters is a really hard thing to do, but my God, she’s good at it. You absolutely feel that Alexander the Great is that incredible, young, charismatic leader that he clearly was. The heartstrings are so pulled when Bagoas falls in love with him…You get all that amazing, epic scenery, and events, and visceral violence, and then you get all the tender stuff as well. It’s a masterpiece of historical fiction.” Read more...
Historical Fiction Set Around the World