“The Road to Alexander” is one of the strangest books I have ever been asked to review, in that it is possibly the most contrary. Ordinarily, I love books which cross genres, if done well, and this book certainly does that. It doesn’t take itself too seriously – at least, surely it can’t – and seems, for the most part, to have its tongue buried very firmly in its cheek.
The premise is an interesting one: a time-travelling journalist from the future returns to the 4th century BC, to interview Alexander the Great, and subsequently falls in love with him. Firstly, to say that Jennifer Macaire is a very entertaining and adept writer – her style simple yet educated - who tells her story at a pleasing pace; although this book is perhaps a touch too long, it is highly engaging, and I found it difficult to put down at times, telling myself: just one more chapter… The story itself seems perhaps incidental – this is foremost a factual(ish) journey through the ancient world of Alexander, which is by far the most alluring aspect of it. It would have been nice to spend a little more time in the future, at the start of this book, if just to establish the context and emphasize its sci-fi/historical cross-genre premise, which I actually like.
But here is where, I’m afraid, I need to stand up and say that it should have stayed at that. Jennifer has done a fantastic amount of research into this book, and its historical insight is fascinating - she is clearly extremely hard-working and conscientious, and very vividly paints her historical scenes and set-pieces, enough to make you feel that you are actually there. Unfortunately, she has managed to dumb down what would be by rights a tremendous 5-star book, to a cringeworthy erotic romance, with a feel of contemporary melodrama – I am sorry to say that this decision has harmed her book significantly. “The Road to Alexander” now comes across as little more than pure erotic fantasy on the part of its author; this is a huge shame, and a massive detriment. The sex scenes seem particularly inappropriate, and perhaps even disrespectful, when considering they are real people she is writing about; the modern style of dialogue – with ancient Persians entertaining conversations about teenagers and hormones – seems absurd. The main character herself, Ashley, is infuriating and strangely flippant about her situation, which raises eyebrows in the reader; she approaches love like a teenager herself, and I did find her to be immature and puerile.
Jennifer’s writing itself is well crafted and proficient. Personally, I like sentences a little longer, and would have controlled the paced with better indentations; I think a final proofread would certainly be a good idea, as many of the commas are misplaced or absent where they should be. Other than this nit-picking, though, she is an impressive author.
But, needless to say, I feel very strongly that this could have been a much better book, which paid greater respect to the huge amount of effort Jennifer clearly put into it, as well as the characters within. I feel she has not used her creative licence particularly appropriately, and it is my opinion that this book would be improved considerably if she were to do away with the sex, erotica and melodrama entirely – there are enough words that she could do this quite comfortably, and even seamlessly. The quality is undeniable, but the content just all wrong.
In : Book Reviews
Tags: matt mcavoy review jennifer macaire alexander the great historical fiction cross-genre