Stealing Fire by Jo Graham is the story of a fictional soldier who served with Alexander the Great, in Hephaistion’s Ile, as a member of the Companion Cavalry, on his sweep through Persia and beyond.
It follows Lydias, who was sold into slavery by his father and became a groom, as he escapes from his master when Hephaistion buys his favorite horse.
The story starts with the day of Alexander’s death and alternates between present and past, as we learn about the chaos that ensued after the death of the king and how Lydias rose to be a general to Ptolemy
The main action occurs as Ptolemy plots to steal Alexander’s body and return it to Alexandria. With the help of Bagoas, the eunuch who was beloved of Alexander, Lydias leads the military operation that ends with Alexander’s corpse safely entombed in Egypt.
All these scenes are depicted in other novels, but Graham does an excellent job of making them come alive. Military scenes are never my favorite, but she managed to make them interesting and not overly prolonged. But the real heart of this book is the character of Lydias, who is very human and engaging. His hopeless love for Hephaistion, his reverence for Alexander and then, his relationship with Bagoas, one of my favorite characters in this drama, is well-told and, in parts, very moving. I found the book hard to put down.
How Lydias grows from a stable boy to a man who comes to understand that he has lived many times, and has abilities he has never dreamed of, is conveyed in a way that makes what could be difficult material seem completely natural. I admire the skill with which the author incorporated the metaphysical elements into the relationships and the action.
Graham handles the m/m relationships tastefully and with respect, a nice discussion of gender without being heavy-handed.
She manages the various relationships beautifully; I am still reverberating from some of the lines near the end. Well researched, this book is a must for anyone who enjoys historical fiction especially that of ancient Greece.