Gates of Fire Book Review – Steven Pressfield

Gates of fire Book Review – Story 4/5:

Gates of fire is a story about the 300 spartans who went on to fight the biggest army in the known world – The Persians and millions of their soldiers. The whole story is told after the battle through the eyes of one survivor.

He wasn’t a true-blooded Spartan, but as we follow along with him, from his burned and destroyed city to the inner circle of the King of Sparta, we understand his passion and, most importantly, how the world worked back then.

It’s not just a dry history book with facts upon facts, it’s more of a novel focusing on the life, philosophy, and worldview of ancient Greece. The most interesting part is that the story shows you battles from every point of view.

Gates of Fire Book Review

From training your mind not to feel fear at the moment of battle, to the panic that crawls on your skin when you see your friends being decapitated.

Now the story isn’t perfect, there are some pacing issues when the plot seems to go extra slow, and there are time jumps that can feel a bit awkward. Some periods of our main protagonist’s life, that would be interesting, are just skipped.

In my opinion, the book balances fiction and facts quite nicely, not making the Spartans some super-duper heroes, like the movie “300” did.

But the thing that I liked the most is the whole theme of the book: honor, the duty to your city and people, and the strength of the mind. The spartans didn’t see war as a fun way of killing people, it was an inevitable fact of life. They didn’t kill fear, they learned to embrace it, keep it locked until the very last moment.

At the end of the book, I would have probably stranded there fighting side by side with them against the Persians. Because at that point, they were my friends, comrades, and heroes.

Recommend for the Story? – YES

Gates of fire Book Review – Characters 4/5:

Now it’s a bit harder to judge characters in a book like this because some of them are based on real people and some of them are fictional. But what I will say is that these people feel real, grounded in the situation they are in.

These characters aren’t super evil villains that want to “TAKE OVER THE WORLD”. But they are no superheroes, that can’t make mistakes. The author doesn’t take a side in this story, war is war, and people are people.

They make mistakes, get angry or jealous, they do bad things in the name of good and vice versa. The book is not about good and evil mind you, it’s about how different people and cultures understand the order, stability, good, and even our minds and dreams.

The enemies here aren’t some sort of magic freaks from far away lands, they are just men. Sure wanting to control more land or have more people serving them, but that’s everyone I know.

Now some characters do get a bit annoying at times. But as you try to imagine yourself living in a time like that, you kinda forgive them and understand them a bit. Just like the real world, some of the characters are tired of this shit but have no other choice.

Recommend for the Characters? – Yes

Gates of fire Book Review – Writing style 4/5:

The book is written in the first-person perspective, we’re following our main protagonist from an early age to his last breath. The main focus of the story is his journey, and all the historical bits and pieces form around his story. While it’s mostly the first person, the book sometimes breaks character and just tells you about what and why is happening.

This might seem a bad idea, leaving the story of Spartans as a side plot. But here it works to the story advantage. We get the same information that our protagonist knows, so we feel like we’re part of the culture and philosophy.

The author makes a great choice when selecting the protagonist. Because we start following him as a kid, we are introduced and shown things that most adults would already know. But since he’s a kid it feels natural, that people are explaining things to him. On that note, this technique also works with rookies in any other story.

Gates of Fire Book Review

Gates of fire has a tiny problem for me – the time jumps. Sometimes they would seem to happen randomly. At those times you needed a couple of minutes to wrap your head around where the characters are and how much time has passed.

For me, the best thing was the length of the book. While writing something based on historical facts, you can stretch the book to the nth degree. But everything here is concise and feels like part of a greater story. Honestly, I never felt like the book was filling time or making stuff up.

 Recommend for the Writing style? – Yes

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