By the Sword is an atmospheric and character driven coming-of-age story that takes place in the years immediately following the untimely death of Alexander the Great. The news of his death traveled quickly throughout the land. He was born to the King of Macedon and was tutored as a noble and later by Aristotle. When he died, his kingdom was one of the largest the ancient world had known—more than 2 million square miles. His unexpected death left a vacuum of power and chaos. Civil wars and power grabs from Alexander’s generals tore this great empire apart. This is when Kachel’s enthralling Hellenic military epic begins.
Andrikos grew up during Alexander’s rule. Now everything has changed. The story begins in his village when he is an errant adolescent more interested in his next drink or round of sex. He is in no hurry to have the responsibilities of an adult. Kachel illustrates the ages-old influence that peers may have on young men and how they can affect them and their actions—changing their lives forever—for better or for worse. Young Andrikos hangs out with the wrong crowd and is swept up in their illicit behaviors and actions. He finds that he must flee his family and his home to save himself from an unintentional crime—forever changing him and his life.
Andrikos has no real plans for his life. Suddenly he finds that the only option he has is to join the armies of Alexander to escape his past. However, he was unprepared for the brutal conditioning and the heartlessness of the recruiters whose job it is to ferret out the weak from the strong. Kachel vividly portrays these horrific and brutal experiences through the eyes and heart of Andrikos as he undergoes the physical and mental conditioning that is forced upon him and his fellow recruits. There is no turning back. The only way out is death or fight to live another day.
Kachel captures what could happen when trained killers are left to their own devices and their own greed and bloodlust without guidance and a chain of command in this satisfying read. He also brings forward the importance of having a mentor can be to the young and inexperienced. Vettias is a confident and self-reliant warrior with a complicated background in gathering intelligence. He recognizes potential in Andrikos and takes on the mantle of becoming his mentor and teacher. Under Vettias’ guidance, Andrikos develops and matures into more than a foot soldier as he learns of honor and integrity, of treachery and deceit, and of friendship and loyalty.
By the Sword is a well-researched military historical epic where Christian Kachel, the author, portrays the effect that chaotic, warring times have on women and children, on the weak and infirmed, and the men who are caught up in the violent and ruthless swells of battles, and then the heartrending aftermath that follows even on the heels of victory.
One cannot help but think of the millions of young people who are going through their own coming of age throes in the heat of battles and skirmishes that are taking place at this very moment. Kachel, who has served three tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq, writes with compelling adroitness about what Andrikos experiences as he makes his journey from an oblivious youth to a young man whose eyes have been opened to the cruelty of war but still manages to maintain his empathy for his fellow man and holds on to his humanity.
Be warned that Kachel does not whitewash the horrors of war, nor the rape and brutish treatment of women and children, nor the screams of pain and the blank eyes of starvation in the telling of his epic.
Christian Kachel’s By the Sword is a fine debut novel that explores the little known, but fascinating, age of post-Alexandrian Greece. Its intriguing interwoven storylines of a young man’s coming of age, of alliances and espionage, and of harrowing battles scenes will be sure to captivate readers and keep them turning the pages even as they wince and grimace with Kachel’s no-holds- barred descriptions in this well-researched historical narrative. We look forward to reading more from Kachel about what awaits Andrikos in his next adventure.
Historical Fiction: Military, Classical Age
Targeted Audience: New Adult, military history buffs, Classical Studies