Saturday, August 26, 2017

Book Review: Axios: A Spartan Tale by Jaclyn Osborn

I am Axios of Sparta, and I was born to kill. At age seven, I left home to train with other boys where we were taught obedience, solidarity, military strategy, and how to withstand pain. My harsh upbringing stripped me of my weaknesses and forced me to become strong. Ruthless.
But, I craved something greater—a life I could never have. Against all odds, and the toughest training a warrior could endure, I found an unexpected love in the arms of a fellow Spartan. He was the very air I breathed and the water that sustained me. Fighting side by side with him, we were invincible. Where he went, I followed.
However, there was no place for love in Sparta. Feelings were for the weak. The only life for a Spartan was one of battle and brutality with no guarantee of tomorrow. In times of war, all men were put to the test, but the greatest challenge for us was not one of swords and spears, but of the heart.

Jewel's rating:

"This is my life." [...] "A life of gore and violence."

Brutal. Raw. Brilliant. And it wrecked me. Utterly and completely. And I regret not a moment.

Axios: A Spartan Tale is a love story. I've seen the word EPIC used to describe the romance of Axios and Eryx and I cannot help but agree. It's a rare book that gets my emotional investment to the degree that Axios has and I don't think a book has ever affected me so profoundly. Axios made my heart sing and it also made it hurt. I sobbed, but it was worth every tear. Axios is one of the best books I've ever read. This will be the book hangover for the ages.

Axios seemed to be greatly researched and I found myself looking up battles and kings to read more about them. It's such a brutal part of human history and I loved how the author took the characters and wove them into real events. The story is bloody and unforgiving, but the romance was strong, even amidst the violence and brutality. Axios and Eryx were soldiers with a duty to defend Sparta, but they were also men and who loved liked they fought -- with everything they had.

"You and I will never part, my warrior. In this life and the next, we will be just as we have forever been: side by side. There is not a thing that can take me from you, neither the slashing of a sword nor the impalement from a spear, for I will always find you.”

Eryx is a born leader. The son of a coward who was determined to restore his family's honor. Eryx sees the honor and glory of being Spartan. He is Spartan, through and through. He is determined to do his duty, even if it means his death and he looks forward to proving himself in battle. And among the boys in his herd, he is the most likely to succeed. Eryx had a charisma about him and he never spoke in haste. Many saw him as being a bit cold. Except Axios. For Axios, Eryx lets down his guard and tells him stories and encourages him to become a better warrior.

"Eryx might not be the cold-hearted beast the men wanted us to be, but he didn’t show his gentle side to anyone apart from me. To the rest of the world, he was stern and lacked compassion. He was disciplined and unwavering in his ability to strike a man down. The perfect makings of a soldier—a leader. But to me… he was my home.

Axios, however, is out of his element. He has the heart of a dreamer and a poet. He wishes to see the ocean and have a life that isn't fighting. Being a warrior isn't something that suited him at all, but he had no choice in the matter. All Spartan males must train for war. Fight or die. So from the time Axios was seven years old, as with other boys, that was his life. And when he was 10 years old, Axios had to make a terrible choice, but it was really no choice at all. And it was Eryx who held him together then and always. Axios did adapt to his life as a warrior and he performed his duty well, but the boy he once was was still there in moments of calm.

“I crave a life where we can live in peace.” My voice was thick with emotion, and I forced myself to speak through the tightness in my throat. “Where love is seen as a strength and where our days are spent lounging by our stream, lost in conversation for hours on end. There’d be no sorrow, pain, and no darkness. Nothing but happiness and light. Love. However, I’ve come to the realization that dream will never be.”

"Duty" is a theme that plays heavily in the story. It is beaten into the boys from the time they are seven years old what their duty to Sparta is and to turn away from it is to be a coward and it will bring shame to their families and their brothers. And they train in harsh conditions for more than 10 years to be the Spartans that all of Greece fears. And duty may have been what started them on their paths, but ultimately, it was not duty that kept them on it, but a desire to protect each other and their brother-in-arms.

“Sparta is not my home. You are.”

I loved so many of the secondary characters, too. Leanna, Axios' sister was fierce and determined to live life on her terms. She was certainly no shrieking violet. And Haden, who became like a brother to Axios and Eryx. And Quill and Theon who always managed to laugh. Through their eyes, as they grew from boys to men and into battle, I came to know and love them all. But Axios and Eryx have my heart.

"Eryx was the anchor that kept me from drifting out to sea. My safe haven from the storm."

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Happy reading (and maybe bring a teddy bear)!

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