A Pyrrhic Victory

Volume III, Fate.

Fiction - Historical - Personage
536 Pages
Reviewed on 05/30/2023
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Steven Robson for Readers' Favorite

A Pyrrhic Victory: Fate by Ian Crouch immerses readers in a distant past beginning with King Pyrrhus’ victory over the Romans at Asculum in 279 BC. This period was extremely volatile, and the Hellenistic world was in constant conflict. Pyrrhus, the king of Epirus, had a vision to unite the Greek kingdoms into one cohesive entity, including the territories won in the southern part of Italy. Stacked against his vision were numerous obstacles, including the major powers of Rome and Carthage. Oddly, perhaps the most astounding of all these challenges came from within the Greek world, where the individual dreams of regional leaders continually derailed Pyrrhus’ dream. This is the compelling story of Pyrrhus’ quest, a leader Hannibal described as the most capable the world had seen.

Ian Crouch’s A Pyrrhic Victory: Fate is a first-class read, not just for enthusiasts of ancient history but anyone open to exploring our distant past and the conflicts that made the world what it is today. This is not just a story of Pyrrhus but a glimpse into the man and those who surrounded him. I loved how he was portrayed and respected by his men, friends, relatives, and, surprisingly, even his enemies. Many parts of this story were not just interesting but extremely touching. The most moving part for me came at the end of Pyrrhus’ story, not for the obvious reason of his demise, but for the respect and feelings of Antigonus, the opposing leader. I also found Hotep to be quite an interesting character, being somewhere between servant and trusted advisor. Another intriguing aspect centered around the love of sports; it demonstrates why the Olympic Games originated in Greece. I would recommend A Pyrrhic Victory to all readers who enjoy compelling stories, clearly compiled and emotionally gripping.

K.C. Finn

Fate: A Pyrrhic Victory, Volume III is a work in the ancient history, drama, and military action subgenres. It is best suited to the general adult reading audience and is penned by Ian Crouch. In this third installment in the series, we follow our Greek hero Pyrrhus through a new series of trials after his victory at the battle of Asculum does not lead to the political breakdown he’d hoped for. Instead, the war against Rome continues, and some new and interesting allies from the Greek cities in Sicily come to the fore, offering Pyrrhus a new angle to mount his onslaught.

Ian Crouch offers a fantastic work that ancient history enthusiasts will surely adore from cover to cover. The standout feature of the work for me is in the level of atmosphere and detail that the historical setting holds, which makes it clear that Crouch has not only done his research but settled into a fully immersive imagining of what it must be like to live in these ancient times. The story is suitably bloody and barbaric where it needs to be, but this is balanced with intellect, strategy, and charisma in the main character, Pyrrhus, and his approach to the war on Rome is as much an art and science as a physical trial. This makes for a complex read that slow-burns its way to some very tough, action-packed moments. I recommend Fate and the series to fans of ancient historical dramas everywhere.

Jamie Michele

A Pyrrhic Victory by Ian Crouch is an epic historical military fiction series and the third installment, Fate, follows in the footsteps of volumes one and two, The Shaping of Destiny and Destiny Unfolds. The series as a whole starts in the aftermath of Alexander the Great's triumph over the Persian Empire, which changed the world forever. The Hellenization of the East began, but Alexander's death at 32 sparked a power struggle among his generals. This resulted in four Hellenistic kingdoms by 301 BC and the ascent of Pyrrhus as a military commander. After repelling an attack by his once friend, Pyrrhus is at peace in Epirus but must navigate familial strife and shaky, often absent, diplomacy. He aims to achieve personal happiness while cementing his status as a great captain of history. Pyrrhus gains a costly victory against the Romans in Asculum, but his army is weakened. A tentative alliance is forged with Greek cities in Sicily who propose a pushback against the Carthaginians in exchange for backing him in his own war with Rome.

Fate is a worthy third book in an already exceptional series and solidifies Ian Crouch's footprint in recreating moments in history in deeply engrossing historical fiction. As readers, most of us with an interest in the battles of ancient Europe and the Mediterranean know who the major players are, both in myth and in real existence. Historians have cobbled together all that is possible but we are left with a void that can only be filled by the skilled hand of a creative author: emotion. Crouch offers this in spades, whether it is from the point of view of Pyrrhus or those who surround him, for better or worse, and through academic writing that brings believability and dialogue that balances the prose to entertain. Crouch is successful—and I say this as a pretty fickle reader with little patience for the dumbing down of lore. Some of the scenes are almost hair-raising, such as rabble-rousing by General Ismenias on Pyrrhus' behalf in which Crouch describes spears beating on shields and a call to arms that is almost cinematic in how one would imagine the charge of adrenaline and a Macedonian battle cry would be. Overall, this is an exceptionally written and profoundly immersive read. Very highly recommended.

Asher Syed

Fate by Ian Crouch is the third and final volume in the Pyrrhic Victory trilogy that follows the rise of one of the greatest commanders of his time, the former royal of Epirus, Pyrrhus. Volume one, The Shaping of Destiny, takes place in the decades after the death of Alexander the Great with four Hellenistic kingdoms and Macedonia battling for survival. Pyrrhus rises as a figure in the struggle between the Greeks and Romans for dominance in the eastern Mediterranean and foreshadows the Roman-Carthaginian contest in the west. In volume two, Destiny Unfolds, Pyrrhus faces hostility from his once friend Demetrius after the death of Pyrrhus' sister, Demetrius' wife. Pyrrhus repels an attack on his allies, the Thessalians. Pyrrhus' losses against the Romans are immense and the win is tenuous, at best. He won the battle but could still lose the war. Pyrrhus proposes peace with Rome to face Carthage as allies and protect the Greek world. He seeks support from Greek cities in Sicily to push back the Carthaginians, which could lead to a forced peace treaty on the Roman capital.

Without even realizing it, until I was looking out from the terrace of my rented apartment at the Roman Forum, I embarked on my reading journey of volume three of A Pyrrhic Victory, Fate by Ian Crouch, in the heart of Rome itself. Was it fate for me too? It sure seems like it! Crouch writes a fascinating story with historical events and complex characters. It's evident that what is good for one is not always good for all so when one side is fighting for the security of the people they represent, even those who oppose Pyrrhus are described with purpose. The provided glossary of characters at the beginning is super helpful since most names have been off the mainstream top baby name rosters for centuries. It's a shame though because if I met a man today named Gaius Fabricius, that's someone I'm going to want as a friend. Lovers of Roman history who are looking to walk farther back than Caesar will get their thrills in Crouch's work. Audentes fortuna iuvat!

Grant Leishman

A Pyrrhic Victory: Volume III, Fate by Ian Crouch is the continuing saga of one of history’s most famous and successful warriors and leaders, King Pyrrhus, as he continues the Hellenic fight to control the Mediterranean, especially from Roman and Carthaginian aggression in 279 B.C. Although Pyrrhus’ forces had just defeated the Romans at the bloody battle of Asculum, it was a victory that had come at a massive cost to both the Romans and the Greeks. Rather than continue fighting the Romans until both sides were completely decimated, Pyrrhus answers the call from numerous cities in Sicily to help the Greek cities there fight off the Carthaginians who are attempting to take over the entire island in the name of Carthage. Pyrrhus knows that if his forces can defeat the Carthaginians, the powerful Greek cities of Sicily will proclaim him King of Sicily and rally behind him with a substantial army that he can utilize to finally achieve his ultimate aim; the total defeat of Rome and their imperial ambitions for hegemony in the Mediterranean.

Although Fate is the third book in this series, it is not necessary to have read the first two books to enjoy this one immensely, which I certainly did. Author Ian Crouch has a deeply personal perspective of these characters from long ago and his conversational and everyday style of narrative enables the reader to truly identify with the characters whose lifestyle and customs are so obscure to us in the present day. What particularly impressed me about this story, unlike others in the genre, was the intense focus on characterization and presenting these heroic and famous warriors from history as just ordinary men and women with an irksome and bloody task to do. There was little gloating or revenge in these battles which were fought truly honorably and in line with the accepted practices of warfare of the time. I enjoyed the comradeship, lifelong trust, and devotion between the king and his most loyal generals, officers, and soldiers but it was his relationship with his servant Hotep that gave us the biggest indication of Pyrrhus’ true nature and character. Hotep was as privy to all plans, secrets, and discussions as the highest general in Pyrrhus’ army and offered as much advice on plans or operations as anyone in the king’s closest cadre. This blending of historical records with fiction by the author has created an enticing and fascinating insight into the mind and nature of the participants in these horrific wars. This is a meaty, character-driven historical novel that is a fantastic read and one that I can highly recommend.