His mother claims he was touched by divinity. His father is determined to forge him into man. But in reality, Alexandros is still a boy, isolated by his status and by his sheer determination to prove his worth to the world. He’s clever and impetuous and while he may have been born to be king, he still has to survive his childhood. Then a new boy arrives to serve in the Pages, a boy whose fate will forever be entwined with Alexandros’.
Hephaistion made an oath when his elder brother was killed. It means defying his father and vowing to serve under the brutal but cunning king Philippos. It means going to war. But better to fight than to break his oath. Hephaistion doesn’t expect Alexandros to become the most important part of his life. But a friendship forged in youth will carry Alexandros and Hephaistion through the angst of boyhood and into their first battle. Their friendship will also blossom into love, one that will leave its mark on history.
I have to start by acknowledging a slight bias here — I went to school for history and was enthralled by the classics. As a result, my interest in all things Alexander the Great started early and left a lasting impression. Becoming is an excellent fictionalization of Alexander’s childhood and the early days of his relationship with Hephaistion. The book is written with strong attention to detail and reads as credible in nearly every way. We know Alexander as one of the greatest military leaders of all time, but in Becoming, the author has given readers a genuinely engaging look at the boy before he became the man. It’s a brilliant read that drew me in and, save for some mild pacing issues, held my absolute attention.
At the core of the book is the story of Alexandros and Hephaistion. Historically speaking, there is nothing that specifically says the two were lovers, but their friendship was well documented. And there is no doubt the fate of the one was irrecoverably entwined with the other. Still, given the practices of the time, a sexual romance is certainly possible and Becoming does a great job of showing the gradual evolution of their relationship. Both Alexandros and Hephaistion are portrayed as real and human, replete with failings and foibles. In Alexandros, we see his rash temper, quick intelligence, and a boy at odds with his status as prince. We don’t know as much factually about Hephaistion’s childhood, but the author creates a believable backstory and his personality is realistic and well defined. He’s an excellent foil for Alexandros and one of the few who never hesitates to tell his friend the truth, even when he doesn’t want to hear it.
I really can’t recommend Becoming enough. The writing is clear and concise and the story is fascinating. The historical aspects seem solid and, more importantly, Alexandros and Hephaistion feel very real. There is another in the Dancing with the Lion series due out in October, so I’ll be eagerly awaiting its release. In the meantime, if you enjoy history or just love a classic romance, plan on reading Becoming.