One of our recent readings throughout this month was a book called “The Isle of Stone”. It is a novel release on December 6, 2005, by the American fiction and science writer, filmmaker, and film critic Nicolas Nicastro. As a fan of historical novels, it is safe to say that the book had plenty of the things I was looking for! So today we will talk about some things about the book, why I think is a great recommendation for any fan of the genre, without making any spoilers though, so the reader have the best experience, going into this book!
The Story of the Spartans
The plot of the book is unfolding during the troublesome, for the Greek world, times of the Peloponnesian War. Sparta and Athens, after the events of the Persian Invasion of Xerxes, stand as the two irrefutable powers of ancient Greece. Athens becomes a democracy, under the leadership of Pericles, while Sparta turns to herself, trying to train as best as possible the next generation of soldiers.
War is coming and Sparta is forging boys into men. Constant rebellions of the helots, the Messenians and now the Athenians, are threatening to change how Sparta looked up until these days. After the death of Pericles and upon many of misfortunes that found the Athenians, they finally manage to encircle a regiment of Spartans upon a rock in the sea, the Isle of Stone. Sparta now has to make a choice. Save her children, by agreeing to humbling terms? Or give them a good death, the death of Spartans and face the consequences of the lack of Homoioi Spartans in the army?
The Historicity of the Events of Isle of Stone
When a reader begins his journey inside a book like this, he (or she) is expected to find an authenticity of description. What we mean by that is that someone expects to find authentic and historical depictions of places, the societal structure, the cultural characteristics, even the realism of iconic battles. All of the above, are important to many (if not all) of the readers, who are sometimes fed up with the uncontrollable poetic license of writers and filmmakers, who sacrifice these characteristics and historical realism, for better action scenes, bloody fights, CGI and other (see 300: Rise of an Empire for an example).
The Isle of Stone provides a completely alive depiction of the political events prior the events of the Peloponnesian War and perfectly describes the tribulations of both city states, during the years that followed the death of Pericles, thus ending the Athenian hegemony in Greece. Also, another thing is the description of warfare.
Not only the action sequences, the bloody battles etc., but rather how the men in an army acted. Many writers don’t want to write about how horrific military life was, living constantly in filth. This is a dirty part of military life, that many fail to mention due to ignorance, or the willingness to stick to the good part, the action. And fail there too. Nicolas does a pretty good job describing the conflicts. It’s not about the good guys slaughtering the bad guys, but rather a realistic and historically faithful description of how brutal and psychologically damaging was combat.
The story was solid, and I really enjoyed the book. That being said, I believe that the prologue of the story could be more vivid and captivating for the reader. Of course, these are my own points of view, everyone’s taste is different and varies. I would rate it as a 7.5 out of 10. Also, if you are a history junky like myself, I recommend that you read that. Because, without considering the novelistic and artistic aspects of the book, the writer contains plenty historical facts about the Spartan society, their way of life, their military training (the “Agoge” and all that), providing an all-around educational experience for the reader.
We absolutely recommend this book! You can find a copy here! Do you agree with our assessment? Leave a comment below! Please maintain the no spoiler policy about this post.