Axios was born in Sparta and as a male, his life is determined for him. At the age of seven, all Spartan males are taken from their homes and becoming a warrior is the only option. Axios trains with other boys in harsh conditions to learn how to fight, how to take orders, and how to withstand pain and hunger. Whether the men want to be warriors or not, there is no choice and their reality is kill or be killed.
Axios is a more gentle soul and being a warrior is not the life he dreams of. He wants all people to be treated as equal and he longs for a quieter life surrounded by nature. But his reality is brutal, harsh, and relentless.
In the midst of all this, as a young boy, Axios meets Eryx and their attachment is instant and ever-lasting. From training partners, to friends, to lovers, to soulmates, their bond is unbreakable through the years and they fight side by side. They also spend any free moment together as they come of age and develop a deep love for each other. But love and feelings are a weakness in Sparta as the only focus can be the fight. Fighting for Sparta is seen as the greatest honor and while the battlefield is where wars are won or lost, Axios and Eryx know that if one of their lives ends, the other’s will as well.
Love stories set in Sparta are not so common and this book intrigued me simply on that premise alone. Historical books are not my go-to genre, but the potential for an epic love story here called to me. I read a lot of self-published books and had yet to try one from Jaclyn Osborn so the Self Published Book challenge provided the perfect opportunity.
The book is more character focused than I had anticipated given the setting. The narrator, Axios, is a more gentle soul as the book opens. He longs for things that Spartan men have no business longing for. The life of a Spartan male is harsh and Axios wants no part of it. At a young age, he was taken from his home, stripped of his clothing, and put under the most rigorous of training where boys are called upon to make horrifying decisions in the name of saving themselves and in the name of Sparta. The outcome is highly trained and skilled warriors, but the cost is high, especially for Axios.
In a book such as this, setting is extremely important. Osborn is able to conjour up the landscape of Sparta and the extreme conditions without taking it too far. There is a great sense of what these boys, who become men, go through, and while some scenes are bloodier and harsher than others, for me it was not extreme and perhaps even more tame than I had expected.
The core of the book is the love story between Axios and Eryx. They meet as children and are eternally bound to each other. As they grow, their relationship evolves, and for me, their love was solid and steady as opposed to sweeping. They are two parts that together make a whole and there is never any doubt that they will always be together.
The author explains that she has extensively researched the time period and has tried to keep some characters and battles as accurate as possible, but perhaps a sense of history on the part of the reader would enhance the description of the seemingly endless wars the warriors have faced for decades.
I liked that the outcome for the men was uncertain, although there are certainly enough hints along the way. There was just a little something in several areas that was missing for me along the way to truly elevate this book to epic status. This book may also fall into the classification of a love story rather than a romance by certain definitions and that aspect works just fine for me. I would certainly recommend this book if the time period appeals and you will be rewarded with an eternal love story that will stay with you after the last page is read.
You and I will never part, my warrior. In this life and the next, we will be just as we have forever been: side by side.
This review is part of our Reading Challenge Month for Self Published Book Week! Leave a relevant comment below and you will be entered to win one of seven fabulous prize packs from an amazing group of self published authors. Commenters will also be entered to win our amazing grand prize sponsored by Dreamspinner Press (a loaded Kindle fire filled with DSP books!). You can get more information on our Challenge Month here, and more details on Self Published Book Week here, including a list of all the prizes being offered this week. And check out our prize post for more details about the awesome prizes offered this month!