Hephaestion, the loyal general and warrior love to Alexander the Great, has vowed that not even death shall separate them. Though thousands have years have passed since their time on earth, Hephaestion has tirelessly worked to end their forced separation. For while Hephaestion was granted Purgatory, and Alexander was damned to Pit. And Hephaestion, armed with only the shadow of a plan, sets off to find the one man for whom he will move Heaven and Hell.
Proud though he is, Hephaestion doesn’t reject the help of kindly strangers who offer to aide his journey through the underworld. From Yitz and his powerful wife Adina, to Boudicca and others still, it appears Hephaestion has a team supporting him at every turn. But there are enemies too, threatening to not only stop Hephaestion, but bring down the very foundations of the afterlife. And the greatest threat of all may be the one that Hephaestion never sees coming.
Trampling in the Land of Woe has everything. A brilliantly imagined world, fantastic mythological interplay, wonderful heroes and … I really didn’t like it. And I’m still not sure why. I should have loved it as the book ticks nearly every one of my absolute loves, but almost from the start I found myself turned off. Let me say first that I think most fans of myth and the classics will love Trampling in the Land of Woe so I had to step back quite a bit in order to do my review. There are issues, but I think a lot of my personal problems stem from the fact that I know too much mythology (or perhaps not enough!) and the bulk of this book just rubbed me the wrong way. So I’m going to start with the things that irked me, understanding I may be alone in my frustrations.
First there are some religious quandaries that left me annoyed. And I realize that this might set some readers on edge, but I’m coming at this from a historical and mythological point of view, not a religious one. For example, the author has chosen to impose a Christian placement (Heaven and Hell) on people who existed long before the time of Christ. Hephaestion died around 324 BC and if he was religious at all, he certainly wouldn’t have gone to a Christian afterlife because it didn’t exist yet. At the same time, there is almost a vilification of Christianity through the Jesuits who are portrayed as part of an evil army bent on consuming the other religions of the afterlife. Additionally, while the storytelling is vibrant, there is also a chaotic tendency to the writing that I found jarring. So while I found Trampling in the Land of Woe frustrating to read, others might not even blink, which is why I think so many of you will enjoy it.
So with my spleen somewhat vented, let me acknowledge the many positives of this book. The research is well done and clearly the author has taken the time to create a complex, imaginative rendering of the afterlife. And done so with an easy, natural pacing that really lets the story flow. There is tragedy and humor and love and all of it bound up with a beautiful humanity that makes readers think about life and death and everything in between. There is a crazy bedlam to the world through which Hephaestion travels and it is excellently described without ever becoming so bogged down in the details as to seem tedious. Having some background in mythology and history helps, especially as many secondary characters aren’t fully described.
I admit my review may not do Trampling in the Land of Woe justice and I have tried to temper my rating to reflect this. At the end of the day, despite everything it does right, I just didn’t like this book. But I think most of lovers of mythology and classical literature will find a lot to enjoy here and there is no doubt that Trampling in the Land of Woe is excellent storytelling.