“The Spartan Dagger,” terrific historical fiction by Nicholas Guild

In the 4th century B.C., a few moments of violence set two young men on a collision course with one another.

One, a Helot slave with much to avenge, escapes to join the Thebans who would throw off Spartan rule. The other, a Spartan, will move up in the ranks of  diplomacy while seeking to atone for the shame of cowardice.


This is the root of “The Spartan Dagger,” a new historical novel by Nicholas Guild. The  personal duel of mind and body between these two plays itself out against the backdrop of the war years between Sparta and Thebes. Guild, a cunning storyteller,  shows us the cultural influences that shape both men, and the reader likely will sympathize with both. In a sweeping tale of intrigue, war and assassination plots, the author weaves in the personal stories of these two men and other richly drawn characters. You learn about both the tough business of ancient war and the details of marriage and daily life, all while being tugged along by a plot that makes you want to know What Happens Next. And the deeper into the novel you get, the harder it is to guess where the story will go.

I recently reviewed “The Ironsmith,” another Guild novel, and “Dagger” shares the same strengths. “Dagger,” however, is altogether bloodier, and will make you feel, and perhaps even understand, the pressures and forces of the ancient world. I highly recommend this well researched and expertly written story.

Oh, and by the way, Guild can write a pretty damned good cop novel, too.

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