cover image The Walls of Sparta

The Walls of Sparta

Charles Lloyd. Lethe, $23 trade paper (394p) ISBN 978-1-59021-694-1

Desire between men shapes the politics of ancient Sparta in Lloyd’s sprawling debut. Agesilaos outmaneuvers his brother’s illegitimate son to become king of Sparta with the help of his older “inspirer” (lover), Lysandros. The narrative spirals out from there, moving between characters in the orbit of the king to explore tense battles, delicate diplomacy, and shifting romances. Megabates, a beautiful foreigner, impresses Agesilaos during a boar hunt but his timid sexual advances on the king are eventually rebuffed. After an intense battle between Sparta and Thebes, Spartan soldier Kleuas flouts convention to ensure a proper burial for his sworn enemy, Ladromos. Agesilaos’s son, Prince Arkhidamos, finds a lover in Kleonymos, but when Keonymos’s father is accused of treason, he must beg Arkhidamos for clemency. And as Agesilaos ages, his wife, Kleora, reflects on their life together. The stories of these interconnected lives combine into a comprehensive portrait of Spartan society under Agesilaos’s rule, dense with historical detail and lyrical love scenes. Though keeping track of the ever-expanding cast requires more attention than some will be willing to give, patient readers will be rewarded by Lloyd’s diligent scene-setting and nuanced relationships. Readers will be transported by this erotic trip to the past. (July)