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The Conqueror's Wife: A Novel of Alexander the Great

For readers who love ancient history but have been frustrated by a dearth of women in popular narratives, The Conqueror's Wife: A Novel of Alexander the Great offers a refreshing new perspective. Stephanie Thornton (The Tiger Queens: The Women of Genghis Khan) has devoted three previous novels to illuminating overlooked women from ancient history, and this book does the same.

While Alexander leads his ruthless army into battle, the women he encounters assert themselves even as society oppresses them. In the recently conquered Thessaly, a threatened mother lures a greedy mercenary to his death with the promise of jewels in a well. Impressed by her courage, Alexander spares her from his armies. In Persia, a young woman escapes the grasp of a lecherous old man by improvising a quick lie in front of a crowd of nobles. She purposefully seduces Alexander for her own benefit and, later, wins him over in marriage. Meanwhile, the ruler's younger sister, Thessalonike, is relentless in her desire to explore the world, and his mother is a merciless manipulator who leads Dionysian rituals and defies even her own powerful son.

In addition to its shrewd characters, The Conqueror's Wife is enjoyable for its rich details of life in the ancient world. In Macedon, nobles feast on crusty olive bread, dried apricots, sow's udder stuffed with leeks and cumin, and milk-fed snails in pepper sauce. In Persia, princesses whiten their skin with ground lentils, barley and powdered deer antler. It's a world of both sumptuous luxury and brutal violence, and the story is sure to entertain fans of history, romance and political drama alike. --Annie Atherton