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From the acclaimed master of historical fiction comes an epic saga about a reluctant hero, the Roman Empire, and the rise of a new faith. Jerusalem and the Sinai desert, first century AD. In the turbulent aftermath of the crucifixion of Jesus, officers of the Roman Empire acquire intelligence of a pilgrim bearing an incendiary letter from a religious fanatic to insurrection From the acclaimed master of historical fiction comes an epic saga about a reluctant hero, the Roman Empire, and the rise of a new faith. Jerusalem and the Sinai desert, first century AD. In the turbulent aftermath of the crucifixion of Jesus, officers of the Roman Empire acquire intelligence of a pilgrim bearing an incendiary letter from a religious fanatic to insurrectionists in Corinth. The content of this letter could bring down the empire. The Romans hire a former legionary, the solitary man-at-arms, Telamon of Arcadia, to intercept the letter and capture its courier. Telamon operates by a dark code all his own, with no room for noble causes or lofty beliefs. But once he overtakes the courier, something happens that neither he nor the empire could have predicted. In his first novel of the ancient world in thirteen years, the best-selling author of Gates of Fire and Tides of War returns with a gripping saga of conquest and rebellion, bloodshed and faith.


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From the acclaimed master of historical fiction comes an epic saga about a reluctant hero, the Roman Empire, and the rise of a new faith. Jerusalem and the Sinai desert, first century AD. In the turbulent aftermath of the crucifixion of Jesus, officers of the Roman Empire acquire intelligence of a pilgrim bearing an incendiary letter from a religious fanatic to insurrection From the acclaimed master of historical fiction comes an epic saga about a reluctant hero, the Roman Empire, and the rise of a new faith. Jerusalem and the Sinai desert, first century AD. In the turbulent aftermath of the crucifixion of Jesus, officers of the Roman Empire acquire intelligence of a pilgrim bearing an incendiary letter from a religious fanatic to insurrectionists in Corinth. The content of this letter could bring down the empire. The Romans hire a former legionary, the solitary man-at-arms, Telamon of Arcadia, to intercept the letter and capture its courier. Telamon operates by a dark code all his own, with no room for noble causes or lofty beliefs. But once he overtakes the courier, something happens that neither he nor the empire could have predicted. In his first novel of the ancient world in thirteen years, the best-selling author of Gates of Fire and Tides of War returns with a gripping saga of conquest and rebellion, bloodshed and faith.

30 review for A Man at Arms

  1. 4 out of 5

    Curtis Edmonds

    One of the most interesting facets of religious belief is that religious belief has answers for everything. The Bible is full of what’s called “wisdom literature,” with advice on how to solve everything short of how to fix holes in drywall. In Orthodox Judaism, this is supplemented with incredibly detailed rabbinical teachings. Deuteronomy 6:9 commands that the words of the Shema prayer be written on the doorposts of your house, which is easy enough, until you realize that there’s a dispute as t One of the most interesting facets of religious belief is that religious belief has answers for everything. The Bible is full of what’s called “wisdom literature,” with advice on how to solve everything short of how to fix holes in drywall. In Orthodox Judaism, this is supplemented with incredibly detailed rabbinical teachings. Deuteronomy 6:9 commands that the words of the Shema prayer be written on the doorposts of your house, which is easy enough, until you realize that there’s a dispute as to whether the words on the scroll should be horizontal or vertical, and that because of that, you have to put them diagonally. Stoicism is a philosophy, not a religion. (Here’s how you can tell; Stoicism doesn’t have holidays.) Stoicism is behaviorist; its teachings are focused on ethics and virtue. The true stoic isn’t (as the modern usage has it) someone who is indifferent to emotion; it is someone who lives their lives consistent with their own ethical code. I don’t know if Steven Pressfield identifies as a Stoic or not, but his signature philosophy is something of an uneasy marriage between Stoic ideas and Manichean cosmology. The Manicheans, like George Lucas, believe in a dark side in constant conflict with goodness and light. Pressfield’s philosophy, expressed succinctly, is that there is a creative spark of light in all of us, and an invisible dark force, called Resistance, that is trying to blot that spark out. The job of the creative mind is to create, and not to surrender to the siren call of Resistance, however that manifests (usually as negative self-talk). The appeal of the Pressfield Way, for lack of a better term, is threefold. First, it’s uncomplicated. It doesn’t take a very sophisticated viewpoint to understand that applying butt to chair is work, and checking your email and Twitter and sneaking into the kitchen for a snack is not-work, and is therefore the work of Resistance. Second, it’s task-oriented, a philosophy that is supremely helpful if you have a job to do that needs doing and you need to eliminate distractions in order to do it. Third, it tallies with lived experience. Everyone deals with obstacles and procrastination every day; the Pressfield Way is dead useful as a mental model for addressing these conflicts. (I just this minute brought up the George R.R. Martin website, and he’s busy watching movies and reading Hemingway and, as far as we know, not writing, so that tells you something right there.) There are, however, three main limitations with using the Pressfield Way in practice. First, it can’t always tell you what kind of work to do. This is especially difficult if, like me, you have creative projects pointing at different directions every day. Down in the basement, I have furniture that needs to be refinished, and an art project that I need to finish, and the kids got a keyboard from Santa Claus and I want to learn how to play that at some point. I have this book review to finish, and a hundred others I’ve written that I want to cross-post to my website. I have to rework the website for my (struggling) publishing company, and I have a web project about baseball and one about music that I want to complete. I have a good idea for my sixth law review article. My fourth novel is about halfway complete, and then I have two non-fiction projects (one about politics and one about history) that I want to pursue. And I have a day job on top of that. I not only have your ordinary garden-variety everyday Resistance to deal with, I have an inner voice telling me that I need to work on the other things that keeps me from completing the thing I am doing. Second, the Pressfield Way can’t tell you if the work you are doing is crap or not. The most common self-talk you get from Resistance is what you are doing sucks and you are wasting your time with it. Pressfield teaches us that Resistance is always lying and always full of crap. Which is true enough as far as it goes, but every lie has a kernel of truth in it. Maybe what I am doing really does suck. How do I know? How can I tell? (This is where your editor and your beta readers come in.) The third limitation in the Pressfield Way is love. A MAN AT ARMS is about this limitation, about the intersection of fighting Resistance with finding love. Its hero is Telamon, a Greek warrior in the Roman legions now working as a mercenary. Pressfield portrays him as an exemplary Stoic, someone who acts according to his own code, impervious to any other concerns other than the welfare of his mules. Telamon accepts a commission from a Roman officer to track down a fugitive Christian who is carrying Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church. The Romans want to suppress the apostle’s message, and Telamon wants to be paid. The problem is that there’s a little girl involved. As a story, A MAN AT ARMS Is lacking in a lot of ways. Telamon seems scarcely human, and seems an unlikely object of childish devotion. The narration is chock-full of little deviations, some helpful, others with the consistency and appeal of cold oatmeal. The action scenes are taut and cinematic, though, and the villains are suitably villainous. But the attraction is in the clash of philosophies more than anything else, and in this area if no other, A MAN AT ARMS is instructive, and worthwhile. The message of the Pressfield Way in terms of the twenty-first century would-be novelist, typing merrily away on his wireless keyboard, listening to 80’s rock through his Bose speakers, is forthright. Spouses and children are tools of Resistance. You spend all your time hanging out with other people, whoever they are (which you can’t of course always do in this year of grace 2021), and you are not going to get as much work done, and that is a fact. But you have to talk to your wife, you can’t (sigh) let your kids play with their screens all day, you have to do your other job, and what do you do with that? Pressfield, in his other books, says that you fight Resistance, you become a professional, you follow the path of the warrior. In A MAN AT ARMS, he comes to a very different conclusion, and the correct one. Pressfield paints an idealized man of infinite Stoic virtue and accomplished prowess, the exemplar in many ways of his own personal philosophy, and it all comes to tatters in the face of love.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Connor Pritchard

    It's Pressfield. It's amazing. No one blends savage and beautiful better. An ex-Roman soldier (turned mercenary) protects a young girl (with a powerful secret) against his former employers. It's feels like a New Testament action movie with the added bonus prize of profound depth and wisdom. Not sold yet? There's a sorceress, revenge crucifixions, cool Roman tattoos, insect covered prophets, hidden desert cities, barbarian tribes, Arab horse soldiers, road bandits, lots of blood-covered arrows an It's Pressfield. It's amazing. No one blends savage and beautiful better. An ex-Roman soldier (turned mercenary) protects a young girl (with a powerful secret) against his former employers. It's feels like a New Testament action movie with the added bonus prize of profound depth and wisdom. Not sold yet? There's a sorceress, revenge crucifixions, cool Roman tattoos, insect covered prophets, hidden desert cities, barbarian tribes, Arab horse soldiers, road bandits, lots of blood-covered arrows and severed limbs, an escape down the Nile, and an epic climax on an entirely different continent. I would put Man at Arms an arrow notch below Gates of Fire as my close second favorite. The action-packed ending makes it a must read, but there's something special about this one. Entire passages and intense visuals kept resurfacing in my brain weeks after reading. When Steve Pressfield unpacks The Bible, some kind of mystical alchemy unfolds in your brain and the story of Telamon stays with you.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Joe Jansen

    Review of "A Man at Arms," by Steven Pressfield Steven Pressfield’s newest novel, “A Man at Arms,” opens on a roadside in Judea in the year 55 AD, some two decades after the crucifixion of a Hebrew prophet whose followers continue to prove troublesome for the Roman Empire. A caravan of merchants and other travelers pause at the foot of a grade, knowing from experience that the summit is a favorite spot for brigands, bandits, and thieves to lay in ambush. We’re introduced to the novel’s main chara Review of "A Man at Arms," by Steven Pressfield Steven Pressfield’s newest novel, “A Man at Arms,” opens on a roadside in Judea in the year 55 AD, some two decades after the crucifixion of a Hebrew prophet whose followers continue to prove troublesome for the Roman Empire. A caravan of merchants and other travelers pause at the foot of a grade, knowing from experience that the summit is a favorite spot for brigands, bandits, and thieves to lay in ambush. We’re introduced to the novel’s main characters. First, a local boy, David: “son of Eli, age fourteen, unlettered but of sturdy limb and abundant ambition.” Among the pilgrims and peddlers milling about and fretting on how they might continue on the road to Damascus without being waylaid and robbed blind at the top of the hill, David takes note of a father with his young mute daughter in tow. David is “struck by the child’s apparition. Feral, dirty, with bare soles and hair so matted it seemed neither comb nor brush could be pulled through it, the girl seemed more a wild animal than a human being.” David then spies “the most striking personage in the enclosure,” a solitary soldier with a tattoo on his forearm, LEGIO X, indicating his service in the Roman Tenth Legion. His countenance and equipage suggest he’s fought on the battlefields of many lands. The boy observes that “the man’s weaponry was of legionary provenance, but adapted in a way David had never seen.” A Roman lance, but cut down and modified for close-in fighting. At his side, a short Roman ‘gladius’ sword. He carried a “bow of extraordinary length, constructed of the Amazon science,” nestled in a wolfskin case with arrows of the type used by Syrian and Parthian horse archers. He wields a leather throwing sling of the type employed by shepherds. His cap was wool, like those favored by seamen. The man-at-arms speaks Latin, Greek, and Aramaic. Thus we are introduced to the mercenary Telamon of Arcadia, and the two youths with whom his path will cross. In an opening action scene that begs to be on the big screen, Telamon reluctantly provides aid to the column of travelers, dropping marauders and freebooters with the deadly efficiency of a skilled combat veteran – yet not out of compassion for their plight, but for the purse of coin with which he expects to be paid. Post-skirmish, Telamon is taken into custody by a late-arriving Roman patrol, the mercenary running afoul of his former comrades when, seeing the feral girl-child about to be assaulted by a brute legionnaire, Telamon’s “...face went black with fury. With a single violent stride, the warrior broke from the circle of spearpoints and flung himself upon the legionary.” In the melee to save the child from violation, the girl and her father escape astride a stolen cavalry mount. Held responsible for their escape, Telamon is then pressed into service by the Romans. His directive, now with the boy David in tow as an apprentice, is to pursue and apprehend the child’s father, who Rome believes is carrying a message that could threaten the stability of the empire, before that message can be delivered to the seditious Christian underground based in Corinth, Greece. These events set in motion an epic tale that matches or surpasses Pressfield’s earlier works of historical fiction like “Gates of Fire,” “The Afghan Campaign,” or “Last of the Amazons.” “A Man at Arms” is Pressfield’s 20th book and his 11th novel, and reflects his talent in creating a sense of place and realism. With sometimes sparse language, his prose can evoke a frisson of fear and apprehension. When seeing a workshop full of Roman crucifixes, sized to fit man, woman, or child, Telamon gestures to the wooden crosses and queries the Roman garrison commander: “Does it work?” “For what?” the garrison commander replies. “To hold the populace by terror?” The Roman considered this. “Not really. But it breaks the tedium.” The story moves at the speed of a racing chariot -- short chapters around six or seven pages in length keep the reader embedded deeply in the first century. Nearly every chapter ends with a hook that elicited a margin note from me, like: “DANG!” or “The clock is ticking!” Or just “Wow.” I have more than one friend who’s read an advance copy and claims to be afflicted with sleep deprivation from being unable to stop turning pages, late into the night. Telamon is rendered as a three-dimensional character, but equally as interesting is the nine-year-old mute girl, who plays a critical role in this story. We know there is something special about her and that she has a deep inner strength, which she shows straight away from the opening sequence. After the initial bloody skirmish where Telamon has dispatched the band of thieving marauders, all the itinerants and merchants have run for safety or taken cover – except for this young girl, who “alone stood forward, barefoot on the summit track, her gaze fixed upon the man-at-arms.” Later when she is denied the chance to participate in a dangerous mission: “The girl’s jaw worked hard. She had a fistful of stones and now hurled these one after another, hard, against the walls of the wadi. She did not throw like a girl.” The relationship between Telamon and the child evolves. The novel’s plotline of “a man with a savvy young girl in his charge, embarking on a dangerous journey” may have readers hearkening back to this theme appearing previously between characters like Rooster Cogburn and Mattie Ross in “True Grit,” or between Moses Pray and Addie Loggins in “Paper Moon.” Pressfield has written that he never consciously intended to create Telamon. The Arcadian arrived on the page unbidden as a mercenary and assassin in Pressfield’s 2000 novel, “Tides of War: A Novel of Alcibiades and the Peloponnesian War,” set in Greece around 430 BC. Telamon appeared again 100 years later (the man yet unaged) as mentor to a young king and later a general in Pressfield's 2004 novel, “The Virtues of War: A Novel of Alexander the Great.” It’s worth noting that at the end of that novel, Telamon took leave of Alexander’s service to follow a line of pilgrims into India to become, as we are meant to understand, a monk. The mercenary even appears briefly in Pressfield’s 2011 near-future thriller set in 2030, “The Profession,” where a former Marine captain refers to “my old enlisted mentor, Master Sergeant Vaughn Telamon of Arcadia, Mississippi.” Now in “A Man at Arms,” Telamon commands center stage – or at least shares it with a nine-year-old mute girl who, on some levels, is his equal. The mercenary Telamon has his arc in this story, much like the smuggler Han Solo in the Star Wars saga: out to get paid and concerned only for himself, until he finds something greater to care about. Telamon is even chastised for his selfishness by his former Legion commander, Marcus Severus Pertinax: “What is that passage from your credo, Telamon? ‘Only fools fight for a flag or a cause’? Yes, that’s it.” Yet in “A Man at Arms,” Telamon changes. He finds something greater to fight for. In the run-up to the launch of “A Man at Arms,” Pressfield released a video series entitled “The Warrior Archetype” (https://stevenpressfield.com/2020/08/...). In these twice-weekly videos, Pressfield led readers on an exploration of how the “warrior ethos” applies not only to external wars and warriors, but to our own inner battles and struggles. The series led us to Telamon. The Warrior Archetype also led to something more universal: to an investigation of how we, by necessity, evolve from archetype to archetype: son/daughter, wanderer, warrior. Then to lover, husband/wife, king/queen, sage, and finally, if we’re lucky, to mystic. Steven Pressfield has mused whether Telamon the Arcadian is something of his own “alter ego.” As Telamon has evolved over the past two decades – from assassin to mentor to general to monk – and then to what he becomes in this novel, Pressfield’s books have reflected a deepening of insight over time, and a deep regard and respect for all religions as ways we try to understand our place in the cosmos. His first novel, “The Legend of Bagger Vance,” was based on a story from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita (the warrior Arjuna appearing as WWI veteran “Rannulph Junuh,” and the deity Bhagavan as “Bagger Vance”). His historical narrative “The Lion’s Gate: Behind the Lines of the Six Day War” and his biographical “An American Jew” were tied to his exploration of his own Judaism. People familiar with the Christian Bible will recognize in “A Man at Arms” that the dangerous message (which is the MacGuffin in this novel) is none other than "Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians.” This work of historical fiction is a strong and page-turning addition to Pressfield’s body of work. My favorite Pressfield novel is usually the one I just read. “A Man at Arms” does not break that streak. The first five chapters are available for free download at AManAtArms.com. The book is available for preorder on Amazon and launches 2 March 2021.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Keith Currie

    ‘Arms and a man, I sing’ ‘Charity never faileth.’ The words of St Paul in the First Letter to the Corinthians; in this novel, Pressfield’s first in twelve years, charity fails again and again. Set in Roman Palestine during the reign of Nero, the plot revolves around a mercenary soldier and his attempts to convey the famous Letter of Paul from Jerusalem to the Church in Corinth. The ‘man at arms’ is the consummate warrior skilled in every type of martial skill. A former legionary, turned cynical s ‘Arms and a man, I sing’ ‘Charity never faileth.’ The words of St Paul in the First Letter to the Corinthians; in this novel, Pressfield’s first in twelve years, charity fails again and again. Set in Roman Palestine during the reign of Nero, the plot revolves around a mercenary soldier and his attempts to convey the famous Letter of Paul from Jerusalem to the Church in Corinth. The ‘man at arms’ is the consummate warrior skilled in every type of martial skill. A former legionary, turned cynical soldier of fortune, he is first employed by the Roman authorities to track down and intercept the letter and its carrier, but then changes sides, working to get the letter to its planned recipients. This is a brutal and violent story, the Roman soldiers and their allies more akin to Mel Gibson’s legionaries in ‘The Passion of the Christ’ than other recent fiction. The narrative is filled with cruel, sickening torture, crucifixion scenes, cynical betrayals and genocide. Yet the literary style is odd. The tale reads as though it were a Nineteenth Century translation of an ancient text, Josephus say, or other Hellenised writer of the time. I expected a reveal of the supposed origin of the text to appear at the end, but this did not happen, leaving me to wonder somewhat why the author chose this particular style and conceit. The plot is almost entirely implausible, is filled with magic and lacks much historical accuracy. Yet the setting is a recognisable Palestine of the Roman era, and the story replete with non-stop action carries the reader headlong despite many misgivings. The hero initially appears to be a Roman era Outlaw Josie Wales, a sort of superman gathering a posse of vulnerable followers, but the miracle at the close of the book, while clever, seems greatly at odds with the plot up to that point, a literal ‘Deus ex machina’ in fact. Recommended, but with considerable reservations.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Michael McClellan

    I wish I could give this six stars. The ending literally took my breath away and moved me to tears (I will omit saying anything specific that could be a spoiler). It is, however, both surprising and inevitable in the manner of the greatest works, and left me stunned in the afterglow of its power and beauty. The phenomenal premise gripped me from the beginning. From the back cover: "Jerusalem and the Sinai desert, AD 55. In the turbulent aftermath of the crucifixion of Jesus, agents of the Roman I wish I could give this six stars. The ending literally took my breath away and moved me to tears (I will omit saying anything specific that could be a spoiler). It is, however, both surprising and inevitable in the manner of the greatest works, and left me stunned in the afterglow of its power and beauty. The phenomenal premise gripped me from the beginning. From the back cover: "Jerusalem and the Sinai desert, AD 55. In the turbulent aftermath of the crucifixion of Jesus, agents of the Roman Empire receive information about a pilgrim bearing an incendiary letter from a religious fanatic calling himself Paul the Apostle to insurrectionists in Corinth. What's in the letter could bring down an empire. "The Romans hire a former legionary, a solitary man-at-arms named Telamon to intercept the letter and destroy the courier. Telamon fights for money, not principles. He's been promised a rich reward; should he fail, the punishment is death by crucifixion. But once he meets the courier, Telamon experiences an extraordinary conversion, and instead of carrying out the mission, takes on an Empire. In his first novel of the ancient world in thirteen years, the best-selling author of Gates of Fire and Tides of War returns with a gripping saga of conquest and rebellion, bloodshed and faith." And Pressfield delivers. My strong suspicion is that this book will endure among the greatest of his greatest books, including the ones that have sold a million copies. This one feels like it arrived on a straight pipeline from the Muse. A Man at Arms is undoubtedly a great work of art, but perhaps even more than that, it puts a timeless message straight into the heart of the reader. And that message may be what we all need to hear as the antidote to this precise moment in time. Bravo, and I hope this book moves you as much as it moved me.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    Steven Pressfield’s best work of fiction since “Gates of Fire”. A Man At Arms might well prove to be his best-selling work yet. I took a few weeks to process this book before reviewing. Before reviewing “A Man At Arms”, I think it is important to admit that I am a huge Pressfield fan. I have consumed, either read or listened, to almost every book Steven Pressfield has written. I’ve recommended both his fiction and non-fiction as frequently, and War of Art has become my most gifted book in the pa Steven Pressfield’s best work of fiction since “Gates of Fire”. A Man At Arms might well prove to be his best-selling work yet. I took a few weeks to process this book before reviewing. Before reviewing “A Man At Arms”, I think it is important to admit that I am a huge Pressfield fan. I have consumed, either read or listened, to almost every book Steven Pressfield has written. I’ve recommended both his fiction and non-fiction as frequently, and War of Art has become my most gifted book in the past decade. I read his blog, and generally listen to any podcast on which he’s interviewed. Steven has the uncanny ability to get his messages across in both fiction and non-fiction. That is exceedingly rare. So, to say I’m a Steven Pressfield fan is an understatement. This is not an unbiased review. Steve’s primary theme in both fiction and non-fiction is the internal war within, and how a warrior ethos (one of his books) can be utilized to become our best selves. This theme is hammered home in “A Man At Arms” thoroughly, convincingly, and enjoyably. Many of Pressfield’s works I continue to re-read and re-listen. Gates of Fire, War of Art, Turning Pro, and Legend of Bagger Vance (I don’t really know why I love this book so much, but it touches me every single time) are on a semi-annual repeat cycle for me. Since the iPod, I have become more of a listener, and so I speed up the narration to 1.5-2.0, and revisit the lessons Steve offers explicitly (non-fiction) and implicitly (fiction). A Man At Arms has leaped into the re-read stack already. As of writing this review, I have started to read it again. Previous reviews above cover the basic narrative better than I can do justice. I will echo a couple of reviewers’ comments that I continually used my Dictionary app to learn some odd, and maybe archaic terms. This was not a distraction however, it was enjoyable. Sam Harris does to me in at least half of his podcasts… Instead of reviewing the over-arching story, I want to describe what reading this made me feel and think, while reading, and since finishing. The true magic of great historic fiction is to bring history to life intimately. Ken Follett is another champ at this in his terrific series (KingsBridge & Century), but Steven Pressfield brings to life the Middle East in 55 A.D in a way that left marks in my soul. His example of how important, and how well built the ‘Roman Roads’ completely changed my understanding of ‘every road leads to Rome’. They were essentially Auto(cart/carriage/chariot)Bahns. I had no idea. So crystal clear. His description of the Roman Legions, the Roman infrastructure, and bureaucracy puts an entire new understanding of what the early Christians were up against. David had much better odds against Goliath. The religious differences among the Jewish people was also enlightening, as with how stubborn the Jewish people were to protect their own culture and beliefs. Stubborn, in this context, is the highest praise. The violence, torture, and physicality of this age adds ballast to Pinker’s ‘Better Angles’ argument in vivid color. There were passages in which I was physically wincing in my chair or bed—and I’d quickly scan ahead to see when it would stop because it was making me deeply uncomfortable. The power in this narrative is gripping, and I tore through the book in just a few days. Like almost all good books I’ve read, I couldn’t put it down—and was nearly distraught when it was over. I wanted the story to go on and on. A few comments about what I got out of it. 1. We need mentors. The young boy who attaches himself to Telamon reminded me of my own hero-worship. (Ok...I have a bit of hero-worship myself for this author, and I’m 40+ years older than David.) Leadership, modeling (which is how Telamon taught-implicitly for most of the novel, then explicitly when the youth made it clear he wasn’t going to quit), and mentoring is how our species learns. I’d trade a summer with Telamon over my decades of formal education in a New York Minute. 2. Even leaders/warriors need mentoring. Telamon changes in this book. I haven’t quite figured out (will take a few readings before I think I truly understand) what makes Telamon—this Terminator caricature of a warrior—change his values from ‘gun for hire’ to protector of the innocent/vulnerable. My first thought is Telamon sees something in this young, awkward Ruth that shifts something deep inside him. I think he sees, maybe, what he thought he had spent most of his life fighting for, but never witnessing in person. He sees resilience, grit, determination, strength, honor, and courage wrapped in the most unlikely of packages. A mute pre-teen girl with a bedraggled, torture-surviving adult man who demonstrate more internal strength than he has shown physically in his entire life. This experience changes him, and he recognizes that he must do everything within his power to pick up their fight against, truly, the entire world and impossible odds. He pays dearly for this decision as well. Lastly as the book reached its climax, I wept. It caught me completely by surprise, both the emotion that it evoked, and the story itself. I can probably point to the exact word when the tears ran, but that would steal this beauty from the reader. Just know that it hit me like a bolt of lightning. Immediately. In closing, A Man At Arms is why we read books. This is a must read for any fan of historical fiction. bsn

  7. 5 out of 5

    Tom Frazier

    As with Gates Of Fire, the other book I’ve read from author Steven Pressfield, A Man At Arms was hard to put down. As a Christian and fan of historical fiction I found the main plot, the delivery of the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Corinthian’s, particularly interesting, and the premise not one I’ve previously seen explored in historical fiction. Combine that with plenty of action and historical context, and you come up with a real page turner!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Shane Slater

    I have been a Soldier for 20 years. Steven Pressfield’s “A Man at Arms” caused me to reevaluate what that means. Military theorist Carl Von Clausewitz famously demands the profession of arms be examined in its absolute form, free from idiosyncrasies, foibles, and unfettered by organizational dogma. Either via the experience of a centurion former life, or by divine gift of the muse, Pressfield masterfully strips away the trappings of modern warfare and examines the life of the warrior in the abso I have been a Soldier for 20 years. Steven Pressfield’s “A Man at Arms” caused me to reevaluate what that means. Military theorist Carl Von Clausewitz famously demands the profession of arms be examined in its absolute form, free from idiosyncrasies, foibles, and unfettered by organizational dogma. Either via the experience of a centurion former life, or by divine gift of the muse, Pressfield masterfully strips away the trappings of modern warfare and examines the life of the warrior in the absolute: raw, unforgiving, and guided by unwavering clarity of purpose. Unfolding against the Middle Eastern, Roman empire backdrop in vivid Pressfieldian manner, A Man at Arms traps the reader in awed captivation as the hero endures adventure, trial, and brutality with resolute fidelity to his purpose that will rend your soul. This book is a game changer. I did not put it down once I began and will be dissecting for years to come. A brilliant gut-punch to the senses and the psyche. When you finish this book, regardless of your profession, you will be faced squarely with an inescapable question- what do you believe in, and how far would you go to protect it?

  9. 4 out of 5

    Bill Wickman

    Great read of historical fiction. Especially if you have a little knowledge of the Bible, especially if you know a little of the Apostle Paul and 1st Corinthians and the Roman attempts to suppress the young religion. Pressfield can call up the the ancient world and immerse the reader in that world as no other author. Highly recommended!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kyle.L.Carroll

    Pressfield is at the top of his game and in full command of his subject matter with Man at Arms. Raw and powerful. Hybrid history at its best.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Kohler

    I just finished reading Steve Pressfield's latest book "A Man at Arms", and I have to say, it is powerfully transcendent and stirring. The characters were all so vivid, I couldn't put it down. In this novel, Telemon becomes even more compelling than in Mr. Pressfield's previous novels - enduring great pain, suffering, and sacrifice in pursuit of helping others. He appears to be a mercenary, but he is not. Above all, he is a devoted servant to his own code of honor. The way Telamon is portrayed a I just finished reading Steve Pressfield's latest book "A Man at Arms", and I have to say, it is powerfully transcendent and stirring. The characters were all so vivid, I couldn't put it down. In this novel, Telemon becomes even more compelling than in Mr. Pressfield's previous novels - enduring great pain, suffering, and sacrifice in pursuit of helping others. He appears to be a mercenary, but he is not. Above all, he is a devoted servant to his own code of honor. The way Telamon is portrayed as warrior archetype - at once fierce, stoic and ascetic in his own way, defiantly enduring pain and injury, and as a relentless seeker of his own brand of incorruptible classical virtue - made reading this novel a richly engaging wild ride. Telamon's connection with Ruth is at once powerful and poignant ; as they bond, they recognize each other as unsentimental righteous predators, pursuing a higher and perhaps timeless purpose. And although we know it's fiction, the meticulous way the author has researched this book to put all the characters in a precise, correct historical context makes the story that much more enjoyable and believable. I thoroughly enjoyed the characters, the story, and writing style. It's another classic Steve Pressfield literary home run, and best of all it's one in which Telemon transcends his goddess Strife, and truly becomes a part of history.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Avi K

    I loved this book! The characters are exceptional, and the plot is excellent. The language the author uses really put me in the scene, and I couldn't put it down. This book is another amazing historical fiction novel like Gates of Fire and Tides of War. I received an advance copy of this book I loved this book! The characters are exceptional, and the plot is excellent. The language the author uses really put me in the scene, and I couldn't put it down. This book is another amazing historical fiction novel like Gates of Fire and Tides of War. I received an advance copy of this book

  13. 4 out of 5

    Gerald Cook

    Recently I was gifted the honor of reading an advance copy of Steven Pressfield's forthcoming novel A Man At Arms, and I'm still catching my breath. Pressfield's writing has taught me much about discipline, honor, and integrity. In A Man At Arms the character Telemon of Arcadia displays all of those virtues, but there's so much more. A retired soldier for hire in Roman-occupied Judea following the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, Telemon is the picture of a decorated Roman warrior. His discipline ne Recently I was gifted the honor of reading an advance copy of Steven Pressfield's forthcoming novel A Man At Arms, and I'm still catching my breath. Pressfield's writing has taught me much about discipline, honor, and integrity. In A Man At Arms the character Telemon of Arcadia displays all of those virtues, but there's so much more. A retired soldier for hire in Roman-occupied Judea following the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, Telemon is the picture of a decorated Roman warrior. His discipline never falters; his sense of honor never ceases; his focus on mission is precise. But like I said, there's more. His behavior draws my admiration, yes. He earns my respect many times over. But his willingness to accept this paid mission and his focus on such a mission also caused me to shudder at one turning point in the story. I seriously questioned whether I could cheer such a man on this a mission! Telemon's skill might have been honed in training and battle, but his behavioral attributes are tested through this mission. A Man At Arms provides a new lesson and a new window into the Warrior Life. Through battles of character it also provides a new understanding of Warrior.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Beth Jansen

    I was lucky enough to be afforded an advance copy of Steven Pressfield’s ‘A Man at Arms’. It has a story and a theme that has me thinking about it long after I finished the last page. Clearly, the research and attention to detail about this interesting time and place are spot on. The development of the characters and the tantalizing way you find out more are masterful. I am looking forward to the next book in what should be a ‘Man at Arms’ series. This is my first Pressfield book and now I’m goi I was lucky enough to be afforded an advance copy of Steven Pressfield’s ‘A Man at Arms’. It has a story and a theme that has me thinking about it long after I finished the last page. Clearly, the research and attention to detail about this interesting time and place are spot on. The development of the characters and the tantalizing way you find out more are masterful. I am looking forward to the next book in what should be a ‘Man at Arms’ series. This is my first Pressfield book and now I’m going to devour all of his other works!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ray Foy

    A Man at Arms is a military action story set in the Judean and Mediterranean world of 55 CE. Like most of Mr. Pressfield’s novels, it is fast paced and has a realistic, gritty feel for the times and environment he is writing about. He drops the ball, though, with an omniscient narrative viewpoint that gets too omniscient at points. Though I was disappointed with this novel overall, it does have some good bones. Mr. Pressfield knows his classical era history and especially how warriors were equip A Man at Arms is a military action story set in the Judean and Mediterranean world of 55 CE. Like most of Mr. Pressfield’s novels, it is fast paced and has a realistic, gritty feel for the times and environment he is writing about. He drops the ball, though, with an omniscient narrative viewpoint that gets too omniscient at points. Though I was disappointed with this novel overall, it does have some good bones. Mr. Pressfield knows his classical era history and especially how warriors were equipped and operated. And he does attempt to go beyond military genre fiction with his characterizations and subplots. TROMPING THROUGH THE FIRST CENTURY The story follows a group of characters over the Middle Eastern and Mediterranean landscape of the First Century CE. The group is lead by a mercenary (”Man at Arms”) and ex-Roman soldier named, Telamon. While near Jerusalem in Judea, Telamon saves a group of travelers from bandits. Among the travelers are a young teenager named, David, and a nine-year-old mute girl traveling with her father. No sooner has Telamon saved this bunch of travelers than they are all captured by a company of Roman soldiers looking for the courier of a letter written by the Apostle Paul to the Christian Church at Corinth. The courier is young girl’s father, Michael. He steals a horse and they both escape. Because Telamon is ex-Legion, the local Roman Tribune, Severus, pays him to track down Michael and bring him back to the garrison. Telamon accepts the commission and sets out, accompanied by David and a “sorceress.” The rest of the book is Telamon and company’s struggle to reach the Corinthian Church with the letter, which it turns out is contained in the mute girl, Ruth’s, head. Ruth can’t speak, but she can write. The intent is for her to write out the letter when it is safe to do so. Along the way, Telamon has to fight more bandits, deal with hostile desert-dwellers and hostile Christians, fight more Romans, and endure various tortures. VOICE OF THE CHORUS? This is an action story and it moves at a fast pace. The middle section, especially, keeps the tension high and pulls the Reader along with “what’s he gonna do now” situations. This action is supported with realistic depictions of the weaponry used at that time and how it was used. Telamon’s instruction of David also provides insight into classical warrior training and tactics. Mr. Pressfield does well in tempering this material with plot development and character motivations. There are, however, slow points in the story where Mr. Pressfield gives in to offering authorial explanations. At these points, he breaks into nonfiction. Chapter Two (”Order”) for example, is an essay on Roman rule in first century Judea. It begins: TO UNDERSTAND THE TEMPER OF the historical moment in which the events of this tale took place, one must first acquire an appreciation of the alteration—material, political, and spiritual—wrought by Roman conquest upon the Hebrew inhabitants of Judea. And he goes on to explain the alterations wrought by Roman conquest. This is interesting material from a historical perspective, but to place it within the book’s narrative is jarring to say the least. It is the author talking directly to the reader. In my opinion, this material would have been better worked into the fiction narrative or contained in a Foreword. The narrative viewpoint is omniscient. That is, the point-of-view shifts from one character to another. This is a common POV technique and can provide a movie-like quality to the storytelling. Most of the time it works and is not really noticeable to the reader (and it should not be), but at times, Mr. Pressfield takes it to the point of directly addressing the reader and so “breaking the fourth wall.” For example: Kites and ravens soared overhead. Had you flown among them, high above the wilderness floor, you would have seen the man-at-arms halt the train within a copse of terebinth and acacia, at the foot of a granite ridge. And it goes on like this for another paragraph. Again, this is a jarring narrative technique and I don’t care for it. It may be that Mr. Pressfield is trying to simulate the structure of a Greek tragedy where a “chorus” would periodically address the audience and comment on things. If so, it doesn’t work for me. While Mr. Pressfield does know his history, especially for this period, there are a few areas in his story that strike me as questionable. The biggest one concerns the Christians in 55 CE. I think it is clever to use the Apostle Paul’s writings as a plot device. But in doing so, the Romans are presented as being far more concerned with the Christians than I think there were at that time. I don’t believe that even Nero’s scapegoating translated to having a legion concerned with tracking down a Christian letter. I’m sure there are differing opinions on that, but that’s how it struck me. Mr. Pressfield does, however, give a feel for the level of Jewish fervor for rebellion at the time. He might have gone a little deeper into that thread. Character development is not usually a big part of genre action stories. When it is, it takes the story to a more interesting level. Mr. Pressfield is usually pretty good at this (at least he was in Gates of Fire), but doesn’t do so well in this novel. The Tribune, Severus is too one-dimensional. He is basically every Roman higher-up in every Roman movie ever made. The soldiers are about the same—Roman soldier brutes. Mr. Pressfield does try to show some nuance and development in Telamon’s character. Where he does, is probably the best part of the book from the standpoint of character and “family” theme development. Though there is a lot of action, the plot is not intricate. Subplots are barely there. Some scenes feel like they wrap-up too quickly, or turn on doubtful points. The biggest such doubtful turning comes at the story’s conclusion. I won’t give the ending away, it is just that the final turning point felt to me like the “Martha” moment in Batman vs Superman. MAYBE GOOD ON THE SCREEN IF BETTER INTERPRETED Mr. Pressfield is a fine writer and military-action storyteller, especially with fiction set in the Greek and Roman classical world. I think he misses his potential with this book, though. It is not nearly as well-done as his previous works (re: Gates of Fire). Even so, if you are really into military action and classical history, you could do worse than A Man at Arms. It would probably even make a good movie, and maybe a good series if interpreted by a talented screenwriter. Otherwise, I can only give this novel a medium rating and note that Mr. Pressfield can do better.

  16. 4 out of 5

    John Costacos

    I read "A Man at Arms" straight through in one day. I couldn't put it down. What a great piece of storytelling from a fascinating time in history. Pressfield brings us right into that time and makes us understand and feel their world as if we are living in it, telling the story in such a way that took me all the way into the world of 2000 years ago. That may be what I liked the most, feeling like knew what it was like to walk in and live life in that ancient time. The characters are amazing, not I read "A Man at Arms" straight through in one day. I couldn't put it down. What a great piece of storytelling from a fascinating time in history. Pressfield brings us right into that time and makes us understand and feel their world as if we are living in it, telling the story in such a way that took me all the way into the world of 2000 years ago. That may be what I liked the most, feeling like knew what it was like to walk in and live life in that ancient time. The characters are amazing, not just Telamon but all of them. And the story takes you through something amazing that was going on in that time in history. It's not a war story. It's a very human and spiritual story, one of best (for me) I've ever read. There's so much more I'd like to say but I'd spoil it. If you've read Pressfield's books before, you'll love this. If you haven't read Pressfield's books before, you'll love this book and want to read more of him.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Yehuda Remer

    A sweeping epic that takes the reader across ancient Israel during the infancy of the Christianity, A Man at Arms is a novel you can't miss. Rich characters that delve in the warrior's mindset, Steven Pressfield captures the strife between three factions all after the same mission. If you are a fan of Pressfield's work, this is a must. A sweeping epic that takes the reader across ancient Israel during the infancy of the Christianity, A Man at Arms is a novel you can't miss. Rich characters that delve in the warrior's mindset, Steven Pressfield captures the strife between three factions all after the same mission. If you are a fan of Pressfield's work, this is a must.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Phil

    This book is a masterpiece of imagination and historic truth. It brought these Roman Times of 55AD to life. He has captured the ethos of a warrior in Telamon and should be read by all who have enjoyed Steven's previous writing of ancient history. Phil This book is a masterpiece of imagination and historic truth. It brought these Roman Times of 55AD to life. He has captured the ethos of a warrior in Telamon and should be read by all who have enjoyed Steven's previous writing of ancient history. Phil

  19. 4 out of 5

    George P.

    “In the turbulent aftermath of the crucifixion of Jesus, officers of the Roman Empire acquire intelligence of a pilgrim bearing an incendiary letter from a religious fanatic to insurrectionists in Corinth. The contents of this letter could bring down the empire.” So reads the dust jacket of Stephen Pressfield’s new novel, A Man at Arms. The book tells the story of Telamon of Arcadia, the titular “man of arms,” who is a former Roman legionary, now mercenary. He is hired by the commander of the Ten “In the turbulent aftermath of the crucifixion of Jesus, officers of the Roman Empire acquire intelligence of a pilgrim bearing an incendiary letter from a religious fanatic to insurrectionists in Corinth. The contents of this letter could bring down the empire.” So reads the dust jacket of Stephen Pressfield’s new novel, A Man at Arms. The book tells the story of Telamon of Arcadia, the titular “man of arms,” who is a former Roman legionary, now mercenary. He is hired by the commander of the Tenth Legion to track down the pilgrim and retrieve the letter. The pilgrim is Michael the Nazarene (i.e., a Christian), and the letter is the apostle Paul’s first to the Corinthians. I am a Christian minister, and this setup piqued my interest. Unfortunately, the book didn’t sustain my interest throughout. My two rules for fiction of this type are that (1) the story is a page-turner, and (2) it doesn’t tax my willing suspension of disbelief. A Man at Arms failed on both counts. First, the book wasn’t a page-turner. Books that I enjoy compel me to keep reading them because I’m so interested in what is happening. That wasn’t true here. A book this length would normally take me several hours to read over the course of one or two sittings. I found myself picking up and putting aside A Man at Arms every few chapters, which meant it took me several days to read. I read it less out of joy and more out of duty. Second, A Man at Arms taxed my willing suspension of disbelief. My favorite types of fiction are murder and suspense novels, especially ones in a series, like Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch novels or Daniel Silva’s Gabriel Allon stories. I also enjoy historical fiction, though—such as Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin novels. Pressfield is considered a master of the historical fiction genre, based on his previous novels, Gates of Fire (about the Spartans at Thermopylae) and Tides of War (about Alcibiades). One can see his historical orientation in his descriptions of Roman weaponry, martial training, and battle tactics. He clearly has done his research on those topics, as well as a few other that figure into the story. But the basic premise of the story seems ahistorical to me. It is set in the mid 50s AD, and assumes that Christianity is both distinct from and at odds with Judaism on the one hand, as well as suspected of treason by the Romans on the other. Neither assumption is correct on my reading of early Christian history (e.g., as seen in the Acts of the Apostles). Some Jews in some places opposed some Christians, but not all everywhere. Similarly, Luke goes out of his way to show that the early Christians were on good terms with the Roman government. Most importantly, in A.D. 51–52, Gallio served as Roman proconsul in Achaia and acquitted Paul himself during a trial … in Corinth (Acts 18)! It seems unlikely that just four years later, a letter to the still-young church in the same city would’ve elicited a far more negative response. Moreover, why would Paul — writing to Corinth from Ephesus (1 Corinthians 16:8) — send his letter via Jerusalem (to the south) rather than more directly to Corinth (to the west)? Socially, politically, and geographically, the book’s setup seems wrong. Some other turnoffs in the book include its occasional didacticism and its stilted vocabulary. Fiction should tell, not show, but at times—especially, early in the novel — Pressfield lectures rather than narrates. At times, his word choice and syntax also struck me as odd. Perhaps it was an effort to lend the book a classical feel, but to me, it was offputting. And then there was the issue of motivation: Given that Telamon’s religious and moral convictions were more Stoic than Christian, though he admired Michael the Nazarene’s courage in the face of adversity, it never became entirely clear to me why Telamon ended up making the choices he made. Nor why others in the story followed him so dearly. On one thing, however, Pressfield is absolutely right. The kind of religion revealed in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians really was anti-imperial. The Christians knew this early on, given that they worshiped Jesus as Lord, rather than Caesar. But in the mid-50s, whether in Judea or other provinces of the empire, Rome did not yet know this. So, a three-star “Meh” from me for A Man at Arms. It has its moments, but even in the realm of historical fiction, it just didn’t work for me. Book Reviewed Stephen Pressfield, A Man at Arms (New York: Norton, 2021). P.S. If you liked my review, please click “Helpful” on my Amazon review page.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Alexszollo

    Sometimes, I go ahead and just do things. And a little while ago, I did one of those things, which led to the most unexpected addition to my bookshelf of all time. Namely, I wrote to bestselling author Steven Pressfield, famous for works like „The Gates of Fire”, which deal with the warriors of ages long gone by, and expressed my interest in and enthusiasm about his upcoming novel, A MAN AT ARMS, which marks the return to the ancient world that fans were probably awaiting with bated breath, and t Sometimes, I go ahead and just do things. And a little while ago, I did one of those things, which led to the most unexpected addition to my bookshelf of all time. Namely, I wrote to bestselling author Steven Pressfield, famous for works like „The Gates of Fire”, which deal with the warriors of ages long gone by, and expressed my interest in and enthusiasm about his upcoming novel, A MAN AT ARMS, which marks the return to the ancient world that fans were probably awaiting with bated breath, and told him of my interest in said novel, saying that I would purchase it once it comes out. And Mr. Pressfield blew me out of the water by agreeing to send me an ARC. When I got the package and saw that there were two, I was stunned for a couple minutes! The thing that caught my attention about the book is that its story is deeply concerned with the early Christian church and the Epistle of Apostle Paul to the Corinthians, one of the cornerstones of Christian creed. What Mr. Pressfield has managed to do here, with this new book, is to create a thriller of the ancient world, with a Christian element at the very center something that I have rarely had the chance to read. Meet Telamon. He is a mercenary. A sword-for-hire, a cold-blooded cutthroat who will end the life of anyone for the right price. He worships no gods, follows no leaders. To him, it is all about the cold, hard, cash. Side note: I understand that Telamon shows up as a minor character in other novels by Mr. Pressfield, and that he is some sort of prototype for the Universal Soldier. One does not have to be acquainted with his previous appearances, however, to understand both the story as a whole and the nature of Telamon. Telamon has a mission. A mission from the Roman commander of the Jerusalem garrison, Marcus Severus Pertinax. To find and eliminate the courier that carries a text that is considered the most dangerous piece of writing of all time by the Romans: the Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, famous for its definition of love, herein referred to as „charity”, per the King James version of the Bible. When he meets the courier, a certain Michael, „the most dangerous man in Palestine”, and his young protege, Ruth, a mute girl, there is a sudden change of heart, although he knows that if he fails, crucifixion awaits him. The novel has a breakneck pace from start to finish. This is one of those thrillrides that never lets go of the reader, and in this regard, it reads like what would happen if a classic like Ben-Hur got the action-packed blockbuster treatment. Reading the descriptions of Telamon fighting Arabs, Jews and Romans alike will turn the pages at a blistering rate. There is also a witch, who I would LOVE to see portrayed by Helena Bonham-Carter if this thrilling tale ever gets adapted as a film, which it totally should, plenty of violence,but also a lot of bonding moments between characters. The relationship between Telamon and David, his young Jewish apprentice, the bond with Ruth, and especially his dialogue with Michael concerning the nature of Jesus, give readers looking for some heart in the story plenty to enjoy. I, for one, am super-honored to have been selected to read this book in advance, especially given the fact that I am the first in my neck of the woods to have done so. I was super-pleasantly surprised to discover that a bestselling author known for his novels of ancient warfare was interested in the early Christian era, and when I was told I would get an ARC, I found it the greatest blessing in my existence as a historical fiction enthusiast. A thrill-a-minute novel with characters one grows to care about, a vivid, cinematic exploration of a brutal, yet mesmerizing time period, A MAN AT ARMS will please those who enjoy historical thrillers, and Christians as well. I am super-thankful for the tremendous honor of having read it in advance, signed by the author, to whom I will forever be grateful, and I give it a solid ten out of five. Thank you, Mr. Pressfield! This Romanian nerd will always be grateful to you! And by the way, you urged me not to skip to the ending, and I urge other readers not to as well! Because it will blow you out of the water, especially if you are a Christian! PS: I would LOVE to see you tackle the story of Barabbas, the zealot freed instead of Jesus on Good Friday. To me, A MAN AT ARMS proved that you definitely understand the time period, and how people thought back then. I would be super-thrilled to read your take on why a man of violence was spared instead of one who taught compassion and love for enemies. But, of course, this is just a friendly, if daring, suggestion, from an eternally grateful fan! Ten stars out of five for this top-notch thriller with a heart!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ray Moon

    Another Remarkable Historical Novel The setting of this novel is mid first century in Judea and Greece. The story is about trying to stop the transportation of an epistle of Paul to the Christian church in Corinth. Early Christianity is in integral part of this novel, but there is not any proselytizing in this novel. It is as solid as any of Steven Pressfield novels set earlier in history. The novel opens with a discharged legionary now a mercenary traveling in a caravan from Damascus to Jerusalem Another Remarkable Historical Novel The setting of this novel is mid first century in Judea and Greece. The story is about trying to stop the transportation of an epistle of Paul to the Christian church in Corinth. Early Christianity is in integral part of this novel, but there is not any proselytizing in this novel. It is as solid as any of Steven Pressfield novels set earlier in history. The novel opens with a discharged legionary now a mercenary traveling in a caravan from Damascus to Jerusalem. After saving the caravan from an ambush from local thieves, Roman soldiers arrive not to save but looking for something. They perform a full body search of an old man and then his preteen girl companion. At this point, the mercenary attacks the Roman soldiers conducting the intrusive searches. He didn’t get far. He is taken to Jerusalem and integrated by the garrison commander who offers him a reward to find a letter and return it to him. The novel takes off from here This thriller adventure is full of action. It was an easy ready but not a quick read. Also this novel is not what I call a no-brainer action novel. Besides the basic main thread there are several subthreads — the mercenary training a tag-along barely a teen boy in the way of a man-at-arms, with the old man, with preteen girl, with a witch, and with the garrison commander. These are all tided together in to rich storyline that immediately captured my interest and kept it to the end. The B-storyline for the mercenary is revealed very slowly as the mercenary only considered himself as a soldier, and that is all that matters. The only character that had some depth of background was the tag-along boy. I did not find this thin B-storyline was a distractor. It was replaced with the character interactions with each other. This satisfied my desire to learn more about the characters. There was another B-storyline, but this was not about the characters. This B-storyline is very characteristic of Steven Pressfield’s historical novels. This background is in this detailed description of the geographic, economic, political, religious, historical, and human conditions both local and external at the time and location of his novel. This provides the reader with a tremendous insight into overall setting surrounding the events in this novel. Even though the novel is fiction; the author’s insight is not. This aspect of the novel added a depth of richness to this novel that is not often seen. As for aspects that some readers may object, vulgar language is essentially not existence. There are not any intimate scenes. There is violence and described as it occurs in battles and skirmishes, and even in a crucifixion. There were two aspects of the author’s writing style that I need to mention. First, the author used many Latin words and archaic or very infrequently used English words to give the feeling that this was a story set long ago. A very minor downside to this was my extensive use of searching for the words’ meanings on the Internet. Reading this novel on an e-reader greatly facilitated these searches. The second aspect puzzled me. The author was very fastidious about using the correct terms except in one area. He used the terms sergeant and lieutenant vice the proper terms Roman military ranks. The author did use tribune that is accurate. I found this puzzling and a little distracting. Overall, for me this novel is another solid novel by Steven Pressfield. I could not stop reading late into the night and start up again upon waking. I rate this novel with five stars and highly recommend reading it if interested in Steven Pressfield as an author or this time period. I received a free e-book version of this novel through NetGalley from W. W. Norton & Company with an expectation for an honest, unbiased review. I wish to thank W. W. Norton & Company for the opportunity to read and review this novel early.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Bookreporter.com Historical Fiction

    A MAN AT ARMS puts forth a story so compelling and rich in detail that you are completely absorbed in the time, the culture and the danger. The writing is beautiful, the research is impressive, and the drama --- given that most readers surely will know a part of the outcome --- is surprisingly heightened. As our characters trek the ancient world, they explore friendship, loyalty, zeal, conversion, love and what it means to be a warrior. Steven Pressfield’s first novel since 2011 recounts how the A MAN AT ARMS puts forth a story so compelling and rich in detail that you are completely absorbed in the time, the culture and the danger. The writing is beautiful, the research is impressive, and the drama --- given that most readers surely will know a part of the outcome --- is surprisingly heightened. As our characters trek the ancient world, they explore friendship, loyalty, zeal, conversion, love and what it means to be a warrior. Steven Pressfield’s first novel since 2011 recounts how the Apostle Paul used a courier named Michael and his mute daughter, Ruth, to send a letter to Corinth --- which readers certainly will recognize as the biblical Epistle to the Corinthians. Telamon is a former legionary, released from service for valor. He is to find Michael and Ruth, intercept the subversive letter, and return them to the Romans. He is the perfect man for the job. With the entire world on the hunt for them, this simple task transforms itself into a journey not only of distance, but of insight and conversion. The story begins with a demonstration of Telamon’s valor and how it causes a young David to follow as his apprentice. Upon his commission to find “the most dangerous man in Palestine,” Telamon and David set out on a journey that will expose them to danger, betrayal, love and more. What begins simply as a payday for a bounty hunter will change the lives of all involved. Telamon is not just a man who fights in a war --- he is a warrior. A man who has shaped his entire worldview on its disciplines, he possesses the mens bellator, or “warrior’s mind.” He teaches David about the practicalities of fighting, as well as mental training. As their journey progresses, Ruth also learns. The lesson here is that these seemingly disparate ideals are not incompatible. In fact, they have a yin and yang relationship. Earlier Telamon tells Michael, “You asked what God I worshipped. She is a goddess. The oldest and most primordial of all, called by my countrymen Eris. Strife. All things are born in strife, even the earth itself, and all are extinguished in strife.” But Telamon and his worldview are challenged by each and every character he encounters. A particularly striking scene ends with him staring at Ruth and the others and saying, “Who are you? Who are all of you? And how, by the sunless track to hell, has my life become so entangled with yours?” A short while later his conversion is apparent. When questioned about his intentions regarding the letter, he replies, “That which this child commands, I shall perform.” A MAN AT ARMS weaves a great deal of history effortlessly into a compelling story --- the culture of the first-century Roman Empire is everywhere --- but it wants us to read the mysterious letter. Regardless of where the book takes us, the letter looms. As a modern reader who knows exactly what it says, this might appear anticlimactic. It is not. Eventually you will hear this letter. Although you may have read or heard it countless times before, Pressfield elegantly creates a vivid context of why the letter was written and in what spirit it was intended. I enjoyed A MAN AT ARMS immensely. The history, the writing and the provocation posed to the reader all made the book wonderful to read and reread. I recommend it without reservation. Reviewed by John Vena

  23. 5 out of 5

    Gary Quesenberry

    I've been a fan of Steven Pressfield's work for a very long time. My paperback copy of Gates of Fire is so worn that it has to be held together with duct tape. I was fortunate enough to receive an advanced reader copy of A Man at Arms, and I have to say…I love this book! It’s simply impossible to put down. A Man at Arms reads like a high-octane chase story, but it is very much an in-depth study of the warrior lifestyle and the warrior spirit. Set in AD 55, its main character is Telamon, a grizzl I've been a fan of Steven Pressfield's work for a very long time. My paperback copy of Gates of Fire is so worn that it has to be held together with duct tape. I was fortunate enough to receive an advanced reader copy of A Man at Arms, and I have to say…I love this book! It’s simply impossible to put down. A Man at Arms reads like a high-octane chase story, but it is very much an in-depth study of the warrior lifestyle and the warrior spirit. Set in AD 55, its main character is Telamon, a grizzled veteran of countless wars who's become somewhat jaded by his experiences. This lone mercenary takes on the simple task of tracking down a Christian pilgrim who is in possession of a letter written by the Apostle Paul. This letter's contents have the potential to completely destroy the entire Roman Empire, and failure to complete this mission means death by crucifixion. As the story progresses, Telamon reluctantly takes on a young apprentice, David, who hungers for the warrior lifestyle, but soon realizes the harsh realities of what that life entails. As a veteran, I sympathize with the character of David. All too often, I saw young, underprivileged boys looking to escape poverty through service, only to find themselves thrust into something they hadn’t bargained for. David struggles, but he adapts. He embraces the hardships he encounters and eventually becomes the warrior that I wanted to see. Another character that I fell in love with is Ruth, a young mute girl who finds herself in the company of Telamon and David. Ruth is fierce! She was born a warrior, and the grit this character displays is what real heroes are made of. She's a natural leader and a fighter. She'll steal your heart from the first moment she's introduced. As I was reading A Man at Arms, I found myself transported. No one can capture the sights and sounds of battle like Steven Pressfield. I felt a close kinship with these characters. But in the end, I felt what I think every veteran feels at the end of a long and arduous campaign, happiness, relief, pride in my brothers-at-arms, and grief. This book has earned a place of honor on my bookshelf…right beside my old, worn-out copy of Gates of Fire. Do yourself a favor and read A Man at Arms. If we're lucky, this won't be the last we see of Telamon.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Lubin

    Good news! Best-selling author Steven Pressfield has a new book out; the exciting and thoughtful “A Man at Arms.” Set in the Levant in the years immediately following the crucifixion of Jesus, “A Man at Arms” follows a retired Roman legionnaire and two children embroiled in the struggle between the new Christian sect, the existing Jewish population, and the mighty Roman Empire. In “A Man at Arms,” we meet Telamon, a former Roman legionnaire, Ruth, a young mute girl, and David, a local youth. Earl Good news! Best-selling author Steven Pressfield has a new book out; the exciting and thoughtful “A Man at Arms.” Set in the Levant in the years immediately following the crucifixion of Jesus, “A Man at Arms” follows a retired Roman legionnaire and two children embroiled in the struggle between the new Christian sect, the existing Jewish population, and the mighty Roman Empire. In “A Man at Arms,” we meet Telamon, a former Roman legionnaire, Ruth, a young mute girl, and David, a local youth. Early on, Telamon, David, and Ruth are captured by Roman forces and Pressfield uses the story of Saul of Taurus as the match to ignite this story. One of Rome’s most formidable defenders, Saul became Paul the Apostle, whose gospels and letters following his conversion were responsible for successfully spreading Christianity through the Empire. Ruth is rumored to be carrying one or more of Paul’s letters to the Corinthians and those letters need to be intercepted and destroyed. Are they? In Pressfield’s prior historical fiction novels, the core question is “by what code do you live your life”, and “A Man at Arms” is no exception. Terms such as ‘grace under pressure,’ and ‘hero’, so casually used today take on a special meaning when death-by-crucifixion is a very possible ending. Telamon grudgingly reveals shards of his hard-earned philosophy of a better future life; one based on nothing more than the hope that a better future exists. ‘If there is not such a world,’ the discussion goes, ‘and man cannot aspire to it, than are they no better than animals?’ These and similar questions form the basis for “A Man at Arms” and Telamon, David, and Ruth’s difficult journey. “A Man at Arms” demonstrates Pressfield’s ability to weave a compelling philosophically-informed historical narrative into an engrossing novel remains as keen as ever. Highly recommended!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ioana

    Timeless! You could read this book 100 years from now, 100 year before this day, you could read it any time and it will still be a great force. I had some mixed feelings about this book, mostly consisting of how hard it was at times to read it: for the savagery (thought I am sure it was worse in the time depicted) and other aspects that didn't go well for me, so this is more of a 4.5 stars. However, however, what a book! This is the story of Telamon, a mercenary, ex roman soldier, sent to find th Timeless! You could read this book 100 years from now, 100 year before this day, you could read it any time and it will still be a great force. I had some mixed feelings about this book, mostly consisting of how hard it was at times to read it: for the savagery (thought I am sure it was worse in the time depicted) and other aspects that didn't go well for me, so this is more of a 4.5 stars. However, however, what a book! This is the story of Telamon, a mercenary, ex roman soldier, sent to find the man who has the letter of Paul the Apostle and size it and its carrier in order for the letter's content to never reach the communities of Christians it was destined for. This turns into an extraordinary journey for the man-at-arm, for his apprentice, and the people they take along with them. Turns out the letter is not what you think, and the journey is not what you might believe and then it turns out you indeed know something about the letter. All this adventure and hardship for you to be part of an historical moment. And Steven Pressfield wrote it so extraordinarily, built it up so good that for a second you are suspended in time, learning the words and the meaning for the first time. I hope there is no person who thinks to abandon this book. But if you feel like that, please know, that the ending will be worth it. For there is the very essence of humanity revealed after all this savagery, there is something so deep and strong that is absolutely timeless. And that will touch you to your core. Such is the nature of great literature! I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Black

    "Si vis pacem para bellum.” If you want peace, prepare for war. "A Man At Arms," by Steven Pressfield, whose eloquence in writing is second to none in historical fiction, takes the reader back in time to when Rome was at its height, and the spread of a new religion known as Christianity was beginning to threaten those who held power and control. In 55 AD, our world was changed quickly due to the death of Jesus. Paul the Apostle was evangelizing more than ever Jesus's teachings in ways that spread "Si vis pacem para bellum.” If you want peace, prepare for war. "A Man At Arms," by Steven Pressfield, whose eloquence in writing is second to none in historical fiction, takes the reader back in time to when Rome was at its height, and the spread of a new religion known as Christianity was beginning to threaten those who held power and control. In 55 AD, our world was changed quickly due to the death of Jesus. Paul the Apostle was evangelizing more than ever Jesus's teachings in ways that spread to others with a heartfelt message that spoke of forgiveness, hope, and love. Rome and Jerusalem had a lot to lose if Jesus's post-mortem legend kept growing and, worst of all, inspiring others to pick up arms against them. They were prepared to do whatever they could to prevent his message from growing in lore and power. The reader finds themselves immersed in an unlikely journey of 5 filled with mysteries, companionship, betrayal, a mute girl whose memory holds a secret set to shatter the political landscapes of the Jews and Rome itself, and the sacrifice of life for the love of another. "A Man At Arms" is a book that begins with a lightning pace and ends with a thundering conclusion that encompasses an unknowing hero, Rome at its height, and the whisper of a man witnessed to have risen again ensnares the reader perfectly from start to finish. "A Man At Arms" delivers creative writing that straightforwardly reminds the reader that belief, power, and heroes come at a cost through a story worthy of your captive attention.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Col. David Couvillon

    Pressfield again marches into ancient history with a tale set in an underserved time and an overserved subject. Yet, the story describes the intricacies of intrigue, conflict, fear, and determination of an empire fighting a faith movement with what it knows - warfare. And a faith movement fighting an empire in what is revealed - love and belief. Our hero, Telemon of Arcadia, a solitary bellator, is conflicted within himself by his unaware conversion from his own internal code and revelation of f Pressfield again marches into ancient history with a tale set in an underserved time and an overserved subject. Yet, the story describes the intricacies of intrigue, conflict, fear, and determination of an empire fighting a faith movement with what it knows - warfare. And a faith movement fighting an empire in what is revealed - love and belief. Our hero, Telemon of Arcadia, a solitary bellator, is conflicted within himself by his unaware conversion from his own internal code and revelation of faith presented by his companions. A would-be teen warrior, a wild mute girl and her proselyte guardian, and an avowed witch, stir in Telemon considerations he has comfortably avoided throughout his life. First tasked with tracking and recovering emissaries of the Apostle Paul carrying the Epistle to the Corinthians, Telemon holds true to his own beliefs but evolves to become the carrier of the message. From Jerusalem to the Sinai to Greece, the band is sought by Romans, Arabs, and Jews each with a reason to deny the message reaching the Christian community. As in his other novels, Pressfield ably portrays the landscape, culture and conflict of the time and area. Telamon passes on the way of the warrior to his companions and receives lessons in return. The characters are vivid and real, each garnering interest of the reader. While delivery of the Epistle is expected, method and acceptance form a tale of their own. A sequel is expected and anxiously anticipated!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Tracy Thorleifson

    I literally could not put A Man at Arms down, so compelling was the narrative. Reading it over the Easter holiday perhaps made it even more compelling. I usually re-read Lew Wallace's Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ at this time of year, but something made me pick up A Man at Arms instead. Mr. Pressfield loses nothing in the comparison to Lew Wallace, let it just be said. Like Judah Ben-Hur, Telamon does not recognize God working in his life, but it is so nonetheless. Like Judah, Telamon is a total I literally could not put A Man at Arms down, so compelling was the narrative. Reading it over the Easter holiday perhaps made it even more compelling. I usually re-read Lew Wallace's Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ at this time of year, but something made me pick up A Man at Arms instead. Mr. Pressfield loses nothing in the comparison to Lew Wallace, let it just be said. Like Judah Ben-Hur, Telamon does not recognize God working in his life, but it is so nonetheless. Like Judah, Telamon is a total mensch - an altogether formidable and admirable protagonist. Pressfield successfully employs a limited third person narration, speaking primarily through the narrow perceptions of Telamon's 'apprentice,' David. It's up to you, gentle reader, to discern the motives behind Telamon's decisions. Such opacity may be frustrating to some, but it helps to recall the wisdom of the Ben-Hur (1959) movie version of Esther: "The world is more than we know." As is always the case, Mr. Pressfield's encyclopedic knowledge of ancient arms and martial arts gives verity to the tale. I don't recall that Rome's excesses against early the Christians had quite yet reached the fever pitch described in this novel at the time of its setting (that came a bit later), but that's a moot quibble with what, after all, is a work of fiction. Read it and enjoy.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Love

    An Instant Classic with Themes From Other Works I am a big fan of Pressfield’s, Gates of Fire, and have followed him on social media because of it. His other books are fantastic in their own regard, but there is a once-in-a-lifetime special book that any author can write; Stephen Pressfield now has his second. There are themes from other great works, Gates of Fire being one but others just as prevalent. A bit of King’s Dark Tower series; Cormack McCarthy’s, The Road; The Film, The Book of Eli, by An Instant Classic with Themes From Other Works I am a big fan of Pressfield’s, Gates of Fire, and have followed him on social media because of it. His other books are fantastic in their own regard, but there is a once-in-a-lifetime special book that any author can write; Stephen Pressfield now has his second. There are themes from other great works, Gates of Fire being one but others just as prevalent. A bit of King’s Dark Tower series; Cormack McCarthy’s, The Road; The Film, The Book of Eli, by the Hughes Brothers; The New Testament; and a sprinkling of Joss Whedon’s Firefly/Serenity. However, the overriding motif comes from: King, Warrior, Magician, Lover, by Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette. These themes are merely that as this book stands on its own feet. I really don’t want to oversell this book. It is as good as Gates of Fire; perhaps even better. Only time as well as additional listening and reading of these two works will one cement itself as #3 on my all time must read list. The other however will be #4. I usually listen at or about 3x speed, but I slowed it down to 2.25x for this narration. I’ve listened to several by Guidall in the past and enjoy his voice, but something about it isn’t as crisp as other narrators.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Nick Murray

    It is autumn of the year 55 in Roman-ruled Judea, and the Apostle Paul has dispatched a letter to the nascent Christian flock at Corinth. It is destined to live forever, not just as a religious text but as literature of the highest order. And the whole world is determined that it not get through. The Romans, of course, because they fear the rise of a messianic sect all around their Mare Nostrum. But the zealots of Judea no less, as they seek to snuff out any internal division that might dilute t It is autumn of the year 55 in Roman-ruled Judea, and the Apostle Paul has dispatched a letter to the nascent Christian flock at Corinth. It is destined to live forever, not just as a religious text but as literature of the highest order. And the whole world is determined that it not get through. The Romans, of course, because they fear the rise of a messianic sect all around their Mare Nostrum. But the zealots of Judea no less, as they seek to snuff out any internal division that might dilute their implacable resistance to Rome’s tyranny. This is the setting of Steven Pressfield’s great new novel of the ancient world – his first in 13 years – A Man At Arms. His protagonist is a mercenary, Telamon of Arcadia, hired by the Romans to hunt down the man who, with his mute and almost feral daughter, is believed to be carrying the letter. But slowly, against his whole illusionless character, he finds himself drawn to them. (Think of Shane, or Eastwood’s pale rider, or Robert McCall of The Equalizer – awakening however reluctantly to a mission.) The resulting novel is both a relentless adventure and a journey of faith.

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