Howard Fast's genius for storytelling in the great narrative tradition and for poetic grandeur of theme have been engrossingly combined in this epic story of perhaps the most stirring chapter in the history of Israel.|
In the second century before Christ, Antiochus Epiphanes, King of Kings, set about forcing Judea to adopt his false, idol-worshipping brand of Hellenism. Desecration of the temples, murder and brutality were used, together with more subtle psychological pressures, to abase the Jews in the name of "civilization," and to acquire the wealth of their tiny nation. Then arose Judas, the "Maccabee," to lead his people in their need. Around him they united to fight their courageous guerrilla battles for freedom. Simon, his brother, was his faithful lieutenant and the other three sons of Mattathias -- John, Eleazar, and Jonathan -- each played his glorious part in the battles for freedom.
On the surface here is the story of great battles, of greater courage; of brutal atrocities; of tender and undying love and loyalty. But it is also a sensitive and sure picture of a people and an age, in which the mood of a small but spirited segment of humanity two thousand years ago is re-created with absolute authenticity. More, this is the story of two brothers who shared the same heritage, held the same ideals, and loved the same woman. Beneath the clang and shout of the bloody war lay the dark specter of Judas's and Simon's rivalry, unspoken.
With this human situation at the core of the events of those stirring and dangerous days, Howard Fast tells the great story. The ring of his prose has some of the awful tone of the Prophets in it, something of the mighty simplicity of the Old Testament's thundering music. But as always, no matter how large the events, his prose has the gentler tone of the artist who loves people, a note which permeates with warmth and affection the human beings with which the book is peopled -- lusty, kindly, evil, avenging, noble or mean. The poetry of a great literature as well as of deeds sings forth from these pages.
This is a book for those who love the eternal beauty and truth of the Bible, for those who love rare yet universally immediate writing, for admirers of a stirring tale of courage, and finally for those who like to find, in the great events of history, meaning for the world of today.
from the dust jacket of the 1946 Little, Brown first edition