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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Dawn of Empire by Sam Barone

Dawn of Empire by Sam Barone. New York: William Morrow (an Imprint of HarperCollins), 2006. ISBN: 978-0-06-089244-9

I'm a sucker for historical novels, especially if they're set in an early enough period such that the people and society are radically removed from our own time. From this perspective, the book might just as well be science fiction, since it places us in a setting almost as foreign as another planet, or amongst aliens. For this to work (for me, anyhow), it generally has to be at least the medieval era or earlier. This book meets that criterion, no problem. It takes place in prehistory, back at the dawn of civilization, so called.

We find ourselves in an era when the first villages were springing up along the Tigris river, but unfortunately for them, savage bands of nomads roam the area, burning, pillaging, raping, basically destroying the work of the dirt-eaters, as they contemptuously term the farmers. The author depicts the chief nomad as aggressively determined to wipe out any farmers that dare to form villages, since he somehow instinctively understands that if they become too plentiful, too strong, it will seriously threaten the nomad way of life.

The story revolves around an ex-nomad, kicked out of his tribe, name of Eskkar, who ends up in a town that has a few leaders who are determined to resist. They hire Eskkar to head up their defenses. He works with the town's craftsmen to plan and build a wall around the city.

The town leader gives Eskkar a 14-year old female slave, who turns out to be his biggest asset, as she was the daughter of the chieftain from another village, and is trained to understand all of the intricacies of this society. She helps him plan, and gives him the political advice he needs to survive. The big climax to the book is naturally the inevitable siege and battle that occur when the nomads return.

I enjoyed this book, largely because of the way its primary characters grow, learn and adapt. I always enjoy stories of this kind. Even though the tale as told here collapses historical development that probably occurred over several centuries into one tale involving one city, and one group of characters. In reality, the first attempt at defending a city with a wall undoubtedly failed miserably, as did the second, third, and 50th attempts, most likely.

Everything works altogether too well for our proto-town for us to really believe it could have happened that way the first time someone tried it. But we don't care, as it makes for a darn good story. Strongly recommended.

Checking the author's website, I discovered that a sequel, Empire Rising, is in the works, scheduled for release in August, 2007. You can even read the first three chapters of Dawn of Empire online.

3 Comments:

  • Hi, I'm Sam Barone, author of Dawn of Empire. If you liked Dawn, then you should really enjoy the sequel, Empire Rising. Feedback from advance readers says that it's an even better read than Dawn. So please give it a try. Empire Rising will be available on September 25th. Thanks again, Sam.

    By Anonymous Sam Barone, at 8:23 PM  

  • Hi Sam,

    Thanks for taking the trouble to check out my blog entry on your book, and to update us on the release of the sequel. Due on Sept. 25, eh? That just happens to be my birthday! Should be a nice birthday present, although I'll admit I probably won't get around to reading it until later, when I can get it at my local library.

    By Blogger Will, at 10:08 PM  

  • Sam,

    Since you're checking the blogs, I must inform that Dawn of Empire is one of the best books I've read since Pillars of the Earth and Shogun. I have put Empire Rising on my Chrstmas List. Awesome debut.

    By Anonymous Rick, at 10:45 AM  

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