BOOK REVIEW: King of the World by Matt Waters

59088468Title: King of the World

Author: Matt Waters

Audiobook Length: 7 hours and 12 minutes

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, History

Read Start Date: July 3, 2022

Read Finish Date: July 10, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: The Persian Empire was the world’s first hyperpower, with territory stretching from Central Asia to Northeastern Africa and from Southeastern Europe to the Indus Valley. It was the dominant geopolitical force from the later sixth century to its conquest by Alexander in the 330s BCE. Much of the empire’s territory was conquered by its founder, Cyrus the Great, who reigned from 559-530 BCE. Cyrus became a legend in his own lifetime, and his career inspired keen interest from Persia’s unruly neighbors to the west, the ancient Greeks. The idealized portrait of Cyrus by the Greek Xenophon had a profound impact on ancient, medieval, and early modern debates about rulership.

King of the World provides an authoritative and accessible account of Cyrus the Great’s life, career, and legacy. While Greek sources remain central to any narrative about Cyrus, a wealth of primary evidence is found in the ancient Near East, including documentary, archaeological, art historical,
and biblical material. Matt Waters draws from all of these sources while consistently contextualizing them in order to provide a cohesive understanding of Cyrus the Great. This overview addresses issues of interpretation and reconciles limited material, while the narrative keeps Cyrus the Great’s
compelling career at the forefront. Cyrus’ legacy is enormous and not fully appreciated– King of the World takes readers on a journey that reveals his powerful impact and preserves his story for future generations.

My Review: I received this audiobook as an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. When I read the description about the book, it sounded really interesting to me, as I generally like reading about the history of the Middle East region. I had never heard of Cyrus the Great before, so I was interested to read about his life and legacy. The first part of the book was a little tedious, with a lot of references to dates and people, which I found to be overwhelming. I couldn’t keep straight who everyone was, how they related to Cyrus, etc. I think that part of the problem was that I was listening to an audiobook rather than print version. It might have been easier to follow in black and white, especially because in print version you can go back and look at it again, take notes, etc.

When the book shifted into actual stories about Cyrus, it got better. If I remember correctly, the book mentions that the author has spent a lot of time compiling and researching the subject matter of this book, and it really shows. I think that the author was enthusiastic to put all his knowledge down on the page, but that in some aspects this came off less like storytelling and more like a university class history lesson. Not that there is anything wrong with a history lesson per se, but when reading books, I like to have a feel more of being told a story. This is why I couldn’t give more than 3 stars, as this book dragged for me in some places.

That being said, I think that anyone who is interested in the ancient history of the region will enjoy this book for the wealth of knowledge that it imparts. It was definitely very educational.

Lastly, with respect to the audiobook version I have two comments to make. While I enjoyed the lyrical voice of the narrator, there was a lot of references to illustrations, maps, pictures, etc. which obviously cannot be seen while listening to the audiobook. Therefore, it might be nice to read the paper or ebook version in order to get the benefit of this aspect of the book as well.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.