Spoils of Olympus Receives Great Review from Writer's Digest
I am far from a historian, but one of the most striking qualities of Spoils of Olympus: By the Sword is Kachel’s incredibly articulate yet unpretentious framing of time and place. The geographic specificity, the nature of the characters’ relationships, the era-appropriate concerns and conversations--these felt as real and familiar to me as though I had experienced them myself. Too often, historical fiction becomes droning and academic; Kachel’s masterful recreation of the time period succeeds where many have failed. Part of this, I think, is how fully invested Kachel was in the world he created--he seemed diligent in his research; even the cadence of his writing demonstrated a calmed, knowing authorial voice.
This cadence didn’t change too often--those scenes describing the layout of a building and those describing the brutality of war were presented with the same methodical, carefully planned exposition. Kachel was consistent in this--and I think so much of his credibility comes from that consistency--but that did come at the cost of some emotional and dramatic intensity. I would suggest some experimentation with tempo--those fantastic battle scenes should overwhelm us--it may be helpful if both author and reader feel some loss of control. This is a small critique, as Kachel does so much, so well.
Even the gore, which we’ve all seen attempted in countless other stories, is carefully gruesome, unexaggerated, and never done in excess. Page 132, for example, has a terrific description of Andrikos and Stephanos walking over the bodies on the battlefield--“some stomachs were emptied . . . whose smell burrowed into my nasal cavity.” This, and so much of Spoils of Olympus, is spot-on.