Monday, March 25, 2013

Review: Alexander and Alestria by Shan Sa

Title: Alexander and Alestria
Author: Shan Sa
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Harper Collins
Published: 2008
Pages: 256

Rating: 2 out of 10

This book attempts to show the reader what Alexander the Great's life was like as a child, teenager, and young man, and the road that led him to "greatness." It also draws attention to Queen Alestria, the woman he married, and the complex, unusual relationship that they shared.

I was very excited about checking this book out from my library, but only a few chapters in, my anticipation was no more.
It is clumsily written, as if the author threw together a last minute draft and left it at that.

The characters are horrible, lifeless little sketches that make no sense. I often got the feeling that Shan Sa was trying to impress upon the reader that Alexander and Alestria were not like us. They were gods, beyond the comprehension of mere mortals. No attempt was made to create likable, relateable characters.

The text was dry, and somehow, nothing much ever seemed to happen. The author went on about the events of Alexander's life in an uninspired manner, and I imagined more than once listening to this book on audio and hearing a droning, monotone robot voice reading it to me.

Also, the sexual side of the story seemed strange to me. Alexander has sex with his own mother, and she asks him to? This was not completely clear - but it is certainly very heavily hinted at. However, far more than hinted were the scenes with Alexander's father. His father desires him sexually, and Alexander actually feels the same. What?
Although of course there could be deep, but plausible, psychological explanations for this (the abused forces himself to believe that it's what he wants as a coping mechanism, common in victims), the author has no intention of exploring them. As a result, Alexander comes across as a twisted, perverted man.
Misunderstood? Probably. But not in the author's eyes.
I was hoping for an intricate, well woven love triangle as Alexander struggles between his love for both a man and a woman. That story told from Alestria's side as well would have surely been a heartbreaking one.

However, please do not expect to share in any sort of emotion or feeling from the characters here. Disappointingly, this book is not what I was hoping it would be.