This book is about the teenage years of Alexander the Great, so most of the storyline is meant to be historical. That being said, this book is historical fiction, and more specifically a historical fantasy. It follows the stories of 7 point of view characters; their names being (in order of initial appearance): Katerina (aka Kat), Jacob, Alexander (aka Alex), Hephaestion (aka Heph), Olympias, Cynane (aka Cyn), and Zofia (aka Zo). These characters’ stories begin separately, but slowly intertwine as the story progresses. Legacy of Kings is also the first book in Herman’s debut fantasy series called The Blood of Gods and Royals, as she has only written non-fiction history books thus far. There is also a prequel novella that you can check out if you’d like, titled Voice of Gods and it’s free on Amazon!
The best thing in this book, imo, is the Greek mythology that it brings to light. I have always been interested in ancient mythology and I highly recommend this book to anyone else who is. The world building is strong, though I can warn you that character development is slow. I’ll give Herman a break considering she hasn’t written very many novels yet and come from a nonfiction background that focuses on historical accuracy. That being said, if you have yet to read the book and wish not to be spoiled, come back after you’ve read it and let me know if you agree or disagree with me and we can have a nice chat 🙂
My rating: 3 stars
Alright so the first thing I would like to mention is the crazy names in this story, the first one being Attoosheh which is the name of Zofia’s (which is also strange since it’s just Sofia with a “z”) mother who abandoned her two daughters at a young age and then came back, and continued to be a pretty crap mother. Really, though, that name sounds like someone sneezed and decided that the sound they had made would be a great name. I found no record that proves this is an actual name used by any humans, or at least anyone important enough to be referenced on the internet, during any point of time. I understand that most of the names in the story are actually real so I cannot judge them on weirdness simply because people actually had those names in the ancient times. However just to give a general notice of the characters who are actually based off real people in Alexander the Great’s lifespan of 32 years, out of the characters mentioned in this book, here’s a nice little list:
- Queen Olympias of Macedon- Alexander the Great’s birth mother
- King Philip of Macedon- Alexander the Great’s birth father
- Cynane- Alexander the Great’s half-sister
- Hephaestion- Alexander the Great’s closest friend, and leader of his army
- Snake: Inherited. Allows communication and ability for the spirit to leave the human body and transport into one of an animal or any other living organism, such as a scorpion.
- Earth: Inherited. Healing powers.
- Smoke: Acquired. invincibility.
Moving onto the real stuff, the first topic of interest is Katerina and Jacob. These two are life-long friends, and after living with Jacob’s family for a couple of years, they decide at age 16 that they may be in love with each other right before Jacob leaves his hometown of Larissa to compete in a tournament for the King of Pella. Said tournament is open to any willing citizen to enter and the winner receives the high honor of a position in King Philip of Macedon’s army and a decent amount of money. Kat, after deciding she’s in love, follows her new bf to Pella to root for him… and also because she has a secret mission to kill the Queen of Pella, Olympias (obviously that’s the real reason right?).
This tournament was by far my favorite part of the entire book, though it happened a bit too quickly for me and I wish Eleanor had gone into more detail in that scene. Alexander the Great’s best friend Hephaestian is also trying to win the tournament so that he and Alex can take the money and go on a journey to the fountain of youth. A sip of the water from the fountain of youth is to make one young forever and to heal any wound. Alex particularly wants this water to heal a snake-like scar in his leg that he was born with and which cripples him. As the heir to the Macedonian throne, Alex knows he cannot be a cripple. His journey is halted by money because, as he is not yet king, Alexander has no access to the King’s treasury to acquire the funds an enormous journey would require.
Now that we’re through that back story, I’m going to move as quickly as Herman did and just say that Jacob wins the competition. Of course, he does not win without something strange happening. A hellion, a ravenous mythological dog creature, was mysteriously released into the tournament arena by someone (later revealed to be Alex’s evil half-sister Cynane). Jacob traps the hellion in a net and defeats it with flair, thus causing King Philip to name him as the victor and making Heph lose the tournament.
The melding of stories is yet another aspect of this book that irked me a little because everything happened so conveniently. I am no expert on Alexander the Great but I do know that Kat is a made up character. These two run into each other outside the arena while Kat is being accused of rigging the competition so that Jacob would win, and so that she would win money off of betting on him. Alex sees her and immediately feels a connection to this stranger (thankfully it’s not insta-love) and takes her in as a guest of the castle. He notices a difference with her because he cannot read her or her past when he looks at her, which suggests that Alex possesses some kind of magic that Kat is resistant to. That is the fantasy element of the story working its way in at last. Kat quite obviously possesses what is called snake blood and may also have some Earthblood as it is shown that she can heal wounds quickly, but this is not explicitly stated.
After becoming a guest at the castle, Kat takes up her mission and fails. What she does manage to do, though, is catch Olympias performing some disgusting snake ritual in an effort to acquire snake blood. Olympias is a vengeful character as well: she was the one who murdered Kat’s mother years ago for stealing something important from Olympias when Helen (Kat’s mom) was the queen’s handmaiden and close friend. The stolen object ended up being Kat herself who Helen was supposed to kill shortly after the baby’s birth. Helen felt compassion for the child instead, who is the fictional twin of Alexander the Great, and raised Kat in Larissa, unbeknownst to the Queen. When Olympias killed Helen she took a box filled with baby’s bones which were supposed to be Kat’s but were not. The sickest part of all was the fact that Olympias wanted to kill her own child and use the bones to acquire snake blood. It’s a disgusting quest for power but I suppose it fits the nature of the times and Queen Olympias as a character. At the end of the book, Olympias has figured out that her daughter never died and, as she is missing from the castle.
The third type of magic in this world is what Cyn is after. She learned about smoke blood from her mother, a mistress of King Philip. In a gruesome memory scene, it is revealed that Cyn’s mother was brutally murdered and now Cyn is seeking revenge upon the people who killed her mother. Cyn’s quest has been to aquire blood of true betrayal, the final ingredient she needs to complete the spell and become a smoke blood. She goes about getting it by plotting to make Hephaestion betray Alexander to the point of blood draw, because betrayal between these two best friends would be the greatest of all. Her plans ultimately go wrong, and Alex and Heph catch on. Cyn performs the spell with the blood of a random street thief and somehow seems to acquire the magic of smoke blood anyways.
The Aesarian Lords:
The Aesarian Lords are present from the start as they show up for the king’s tournament. There is much conspiracy that they are out to murder the royal family as well as eradicate all remaining magic in the castle. Magic supposedly ceased to exist in the world over a hundred years earlier. Obviously, that is not the case because snake blood is still around and the royal family of Macedon seems to have passed it on to the twins. Jacob is left at the castle to train and ends up converting to an Aesarian Lord because he is frustrated at his lack of power. This puts him on the opposite side of his love, Kat, and in quite a predicament when the Aesarians attack Macedon.
Kat has plans of her own, too, and leaves the castle after being accused of attempting to murder the queen (which ironically she does not end up being guilty of when caught) and runs away to her “mother’s” hometown of Caria. In this place, she meets a witch called Ada who teaches Kat how to control her magic. Kat shows back up in Macedon conveniently during the large, and seemingly unwinnable, battle against the Aesarians. She pushes them back with scorpion bombs made with the help of her snake blood powers. Kat ends up being shot at the end of the book and though Jacob is found standing over her, it is uncertain whether he was the one to hurt her or simply came to help her once he saw her fallen figure. Either way, Hephaestion protects Kat because there’s some sort of love triangle going on there. I mean, what’s a teen fantasy series without a good old-fashioned love triangle?
Now Zofia is where we get to some really irritating parts of the book for me. Everything Zo did was completely irrational and stupid. First off, she has sex with her boyfriend Cosmas right before she learns that she is to marry Alexander the Great. This news devastates her so much after such a profound act of love that she is driven to run away from her home in the Persian palace. She wants to live with Cosmas becuase he is her true love, so they run away together. First mistake: leaving the palace. Second mistake: leaving her sister Roxanna whom she loves so much, but ultimately decided she loved less than Cosmas. Super selfish. Third mistake: trying and failing to look like a young man, but ending up captured by slave traders. Roxanna realizes Zo has left and goes after her. Roxanna and her handmaiden both end up dead within seconds of finding Zo. Zofia refuses to let anyone know that she is a princess, and instead decides after hearing from a soothsayer that she is fated to mix blood with Alex that she will find the fates in the mountains and have them change her fate.
While Zofia is traveling with the slave traders to who knows where, Ochus, one of King Artaxerxes’ many many sons, raids their camp and takes the “slaves” so he can determine whether they really are slaves or can go back home if they were not. Zo ultimately makes up a story about being from a horse breeding family and actually convinces Ochus that she knows where to find a Pegasus, which have supposedly been extinct for hundreds of years. This lie was crafted so that she could travel with him into the mountains and then ditch him at some point to find the fates. Here’s how Zo’s story ends for now: she does see a live Pegasus in the mountains, she still has yet to have her story actually meet everyone else’s, and she seems to be a little too cozy with the brute Ochus especially for someone who is supposedly deeply in love with another man.
Let me know if you share my opinions or if you disagree with anything I’ve said!