The Sacred Band

Sacred Band Series Volume 8

Fiction - Fantasy - Epic
564 Pages
Reviewed on 11/06/2017
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Sarah Stuart for Readers' Favorite

In The Sacred Band: Sacred Band Series (Volume 8) by Janet Morris and Chris Morris, ethos and mythos combine; history remakes itself, dimensions are crossed, and realities diverge as the gods and Fates demand. The story opens over three hundred years before the birth of Christ with the rescue of forty-six fighters from the defeated Theban army at the Battle of Chaeronea; a plea for their lives from a foreign cavalry commander, Tempus the Black, which the Storm God grants. These twenty-three paired brothers and lovers join the Sacred Band of Stepsons and flee to fight another day on another battleground. They reach the legendary land of Lemuria, and then go on to the fantasy town of Sanctuary. Will they evade the Theban goddess, Harmony, and the angry Fates?

Janet Morris and Chris Morris have created a classic fantasy that explores love in war, honour, sacrifice, philosophy, religion, theomachy, and the maturation of the human spirit. Beautifully-written and character-driven, the focus of The Sacred Band is the fate of the Sacred Band of Stepsons as it absorbs the rescued Thebans and enters upon a chain of events leading to a battle with the entelechy of dream, in which the Battle of Chaeronea is re-fought with the many major differences that dreams permit. The Sacred Band is a mythical tale with all the breadth and scope that the word implies. It emulates, and to a degree draws on, the works of Plutarch, Plato, Heraclitus and Homer, but is much easier to follow and consequently is utterly captivating.


I loved this review of The Sacred Band, one of my favorite books from the Sacred Band series. Some people say you can read and enjoy The Sacred Band on its own. You probably can. But I have read the entire series, starting with the short Sacred Band fiction in Thieves World and going on to the three Beyond novels, Beyond Sanctuary, Beyond the Veil and Beyond Wizardwall. After that I read about the Stepsons in three novels more mythic than fantasy, more science fiction than paranormal, and loved those too. As I grew, the Sacred Band characters grew with me. When I finished Storm Seed and got my copy of The Sacred Band, its mythic character was full-blown. I loved these, and I hope you will too.

Joe Bonadonna, Black Gate Magazine

"The Sacred Band is much more than great Heroic Fantasy: it is classic literature, filled with sub-plots, a fine cast of well-drawn characters, insight and wisdom and recurring themes of honor, faith, brotherhood and love. This novel spoke to me on a personal level because it's a story of pure human drama and powerful emotions. While the characters are larger than life, they are also richly-drawn and written with great depth of insight and humanity. What also rings true with the Sacred Band is their military tradition, their ethos. These characters are soldiers, warriors. They are not only mythic heroes, they are also everyday heroes; real people, everyday people who face extraordinary odds and foes. They are true to all who have served in any branch of the military. This is not sword and sorcery, this is not elves and dwarves and high-concept fantasy . . . The Sacred Band has the sharp edge of reality, the harshness, the bitterness and the danger of the real world. Love, loyalty, honor--these are the ideals by which these characters live and die. This novel is epic in scope. It is mythic by heritage. It is positively Homeric. This is a 5-Star novel written by two highly-talented writers who have been around for a very long time, who have not lost their chops and their edge, and have not slowed down. There is so much in this novel to enjoy, so much I haven't even touched on. All I can say is that this is classic stuff. Buy it. Read it. You'll see.
As Tempus and the Sacred Band would say, "Life to you, and everlasting glory."' Joe Bonadonna, Black Gate Adventures in Fantasy Literature

Robert W. Cape

"Janet Morris, Tempus (1987), and, with Chris Morris, Tempus Unbound (1989), The Sacred Band (2010).
"A fantasy series about the Sacred Band of Stepsons, an elite army modeled on the fourth-century B.C.E. Sacred Band of Thebes. The stories explore the fraught personal relationships of mixed hetero- and homosexual troops, only sometimes paired, as they fight for their commander, the immortal Tempus. Morris includes archaeological and historical details, from physical items to social practices, religion, and philosophy, to create a fantasy world that is, in many ways, more historically accurate than many popular accounts of antiquity." -- Robert W. Cape, Jr, in Classical Traditions in Science Fiction, Brett M. Rogers & Benjamin Eldon Stevens, eds., Oxford University Press

Jim Morris

This book makes a terrific case for reincarnation. Not that reincarnation is a theme, it's just that I find it hard to believe that it was researched in a library. I find it much easier to believe that the authors have an intimate familiarity with the world of The Sacred Band through repeated lives as both man and woman, warrior and sorcerer/sorceress. Some of what I love about it is that the warriors seem like the warriors I know, even though they are from thousands of years earlier. Supernatural happening abound, but they don't seem made up; they seem perfectly natural, and the supernatural beings have the same kinds of personality quirks as the rest of us.
I can't say enough good about the prose. It's perfectly suited to the story in word choice and in rhythm. It wouldn't be better suited if it were written in heroic couplets, but even so it's a smooth and facile read.
I do have one problem. Daily life kept dragging me into the mundane world and out of the one I had chosen to inhabit for as long as I could. I know there's a prequel out there somewhere, probably Thieves World, and I'm going to find it.
If you like adventure and magical realism I know of no place where better is to be found.

J.P. Wilder

The author(s) of The Sacred Band create a vibrant, real world that sweeps you into its grasp and drags you along, kicking and screaming into a dark world where the only wrong action is inaction—and that just gets you killed (or worse)—and dishonor is measured by the severing of bonds formed between warriors, destined to die.

Whether it is the numerous combat sequences, or the on-going, heartrending conflict between the various characters, their Gods and their world, this book is filled with such immediate need that you are compelled to react to their circumstances. In your mind, you cannot help but take up sword and spear, call out commands or warnings or lamentations and participate as one of the Band in the story itself. Like an intensely contested sporting event, I found it so riveting that I was not above screaming at the characters when their decisions took them into harm’s way and mumbling curses to myself when they made self-serving decisions that threatened both their comrades, and the precarious balance necessary for the survival of the world itself. Anxiety levels were often high, my breathing and heart rate impacted as conflict reached crescendo over and over again, climbing higher each time until its climax when I could finally relax—or so I thought.

The characters in the book have deep flaws, needs, desires and vices that feel real, and force the reader to relate to them on a human level. Much as we often search for the underlying reasons for that may explain why soldiers may commit terrible acts in war, the reader finds him/herself seeking to understand the hard, and often violently unforgiving decisions made by the Riddler as he leads the Band on and challenges fate itself. We find ourselves forgiving him those brutal decisions—for we know hard men (and women) are needed in hard times.

We are propelled alongside the warriors of the Band as their brothers are killed, their vows challenged, their hearts corrupted—and we feel it deeply, we understand it at a level deeper than most novels even aspire to reach—much less actually reach. There is more to these warriors than surface crust, more to them than shallow characterizations of heroic figures. The author(s) is a master of building the relationship between reader and character and fulfills the implicit contract with the reader from the opening scene: you will care about these characters, you will care about their fight, and you will care about their ability to overcome all of the forces arrayed against them, even if you wouldn’t hand them a glass of water in the event they were parched near to death.

I recommend everyone read this book—everyone, that is, that wants to be part of the story, experience the tribulations and victories of its characters and wind up with more personal insight than you could hope to find in a novel, AND the ability to continue on with yet another story about the Band.