Synopsis: His spirited younger half-sister, Thessalonike, yearns to join her brother and see the world. Instead, it is Alexander’s boyhood companion who rides with him into war while Thessalonike remains behind. Far away, crafty princess Drypetis will not stand idly by as Alexander topples her father from Persia’s throne. And after Alexander conquers her tiny kingdom, Roxana, the beautiful and cunning daughter of a minor noble, wins Alexander’s heart…and will commit any crime to secure her place at his side.
“We are the women who loved Alexander the Great. We were lovers and murderers, innocents and soldiers.
And without us, Alexander would have been only a man.
Instead he was a god.”
Wow. This is probably the most investing book I’ve read this year. I knew very little about Alexander the Great before reading this, but this is some of the best historical fiction I’ve come across and I found myself quite in awe of the story.
The title is a little bit misleading, as the story is told from four different characters’ points of view, not just one of Alexander’s wives. In the cases of The Song of Achilles, told by Patroclus, and Nerfertiti, told by Nerfertiti’s sister, I had really wanted to hear the story from title character’s point of view. In this book however, I didn’t much care to hear Alexander’s words because the other voices were so interesting. Each character had a fully fleshed out story that I found I cared so much about- even if just to hear how they’d end because I hated them so much (*cough* Roxana).
Hephaestion – Alexander’s second in command and sometimes lover, was my favourite point of view. I was definitely in love with him even as a reader. His POV served as the most direct insight into Alexander’s campaign, but it was the moments with Drypetis that made him interesting to me.
Drypetis- one of the Persian princesses Alexander captured and took on his campaign. Thornton took a lot of liberties (with realistic justification) with this little known woman in history, and she did a beautiful job of bringing her to life. Some of the more interesting plot developments came through in her chapters.
Roxana – Oh how I hated her by the end. Even then, I loved all of her chapters. What’s interesting about the multiple narrators is that some of them truly hated each other, so despite them all being a part of Alexander’s story, their individual biases and personalities lent to the intrigue.
Thessalonike- Alexander’s sister, and probably the least interesting character. Her POVs offered insight into the treachery of Olympias, Alexander’s mother, which I suppose was interesting. I found her personality didn’t come through as strongly as the others.
The Conqueror’s Wife might have a cover that makes it look like a cheap historical fiction romance (though it is pretty), but it delves right into the horrifying aspects of Alexander’s campaign, including the horrible torture scenes, poisonings, and deaths. The women who tell the story lend unique voices and experiences to the time, and colour the period most vividly. The writing is stunning.