I have always said, to anyone who cared to know, that one of the first books to pique my interest in Ancient Greece was The King Must Die by Mary Renault. That fact made it easy for me to decide to read The Last Hero by Hilary Green given the comparison to Mary Renault’s work. The main story line here is about Alkmaion the great grandson of Nestor, famed warrior and counselor to Agamemnon during the siege at Troy and King of Pylos. Alkmaion is the heir to the throne at a time during a mass migration of peoples in the North that has a ripple like effect throughout western Asia and eastern Europe. It is also a time when bronze was being replaced with iron. These two currents have disastrous results for Pylos when the iron wielding Dorians come a calling.
The author has taken this story to the level of Greek tragedy as time and time again Alkmaion is faced with decisions and situations that have ironic repercussions whether they are personal or more widespread. An example without trying to give away too much, is when Alkmaion almost kills his best friend and former lover when they are both trying to save the same damsel in distress.
The author also uses the religious aspect of that period to great effect. The Great Goddess and her Mysteries play an important part in the lives of many of the characters. The devotion and fear of Her followers is a prime example of how well defined and intriguing the characters are. Invoking feelings of sympathy, sadness and at times great happiness the author has the reader involved in the lives of her creations. The descriptions of life during that time, the nature of the land, the glimpses of the mighty citadel of Mycenae, etc, add to the enjoyment and beauty of this well crafted tale. I rate this as 4 stars.