Rating: 4.25 stars
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Childhood is over for the indomitable Alexandros. If he ever really was a child. With his father on the verge of war, Alexandros must step into the role of regent. He was born to be king and it seems that his father is finally giving him the chance to spread his wings. But Alexandros is inexperienced and mistakes will be made. He’s trapped between manhood and youth and the world around him seems to be in flux. The only constant is Hephaistion.
Hephaistion has no lust for power. He may be the only one in Alexandros’ life who values the man over the throne. But as Alexandros’ life begins to change, so must Hephaistion’s. They must re-learn their roles and accept a new place in one another lives. And when the unthinkable happens, Alexandros will need Hephaistion more than ever before.
Rise is the second in the Dancing with the Lion series and, at least for now, the last. The author mentions she plans on writing more about Alexandros and Hephaistion in the future, but there’s no book currently on the horizon. And that makes Rise slightly problematic. It is a very much an “in-between” novel. Alot of things happened in the first book, Becoming, and Rise ends with a pivotal event in the life of Alexander the Great. Which leaves the bulk of Rise dealing with the in between. There are things happening to be sure ,but it almost reads as filler, taking up the space between Becoming and whatever happens after Rise. And if there were another book in the series, I think it would be fine. It would make sense and have a purpose. But as the “end” of a series, it comes up short. The pacing is more scattered and events occur during leaps of time; weeks and months will pass between chapters. So it’s harder to measure continuity in Rise and, because of that, when the end comes it feels abrupt and jarring.
The historical aspect is still stellar. The author does an amazing job of building a credible and realistic world around Alexandros and his compatriots. There is a visceral believability to it all that I absolutely love. Alexandros and Hephaistion continue to read as nuanced and legitimate, which is no easy task given the nature of historical fiction. In Rise, we get more in depth with the social morals and expectations of homosexual men during this era of Antiquity. I think the idea that homosexuality was more tolerated by the Romans, Greeks, and Macedonians is generally well known, but tolerated isn’t always synonymous for accepted. And there were rules and social constraints put on male relationships and the realities of that would have affected Alexandros and Hephaistion. These men feel real and, as a result, the things they endure and the losses they suffer are affecting.
Rise is amazing book, but it suffers from being the second in a series that may or may not be continued. The writing is exceptional and Alexandros and Hephaistion are incredibly compelling. But the pacing is more awkward than in Becoming and it just isn’t as strong as the first book. If you liked Becoming, you will enjoy Rise a great deal. But if you’re like me, it’s going to leave you wanting more.