The Fires of Alexandria – Could There Be Steampunk In Ancient Egypt?

Book Review : The Fires of Alexandria
The Alexandrian Saga
By Thomas K. Carpenter


Spoiler Alert!



The greatest mystery of the ancient world remains the identity of who set fire to the Great Library in Alexandria. One hundred years later, Heron of Alexandria-the city’s most renown inventor and creator of Temple miracles-receives coin from a mysterious patron to investigate the crime. Desperate to be free of the debts incurred by her twin brother, she accepts and sets in motion a chain of events that will shake the Roman Empire and change the course of history forever. (Courtesy of

Adult Point of View

In the Fires of Alexandria, Heron, an inventor of mechanical miracles becomes embroiled in political intrigue while trying to escape the crushing burden of inherited debt. At heart, Carpenter’s book is an historical adventure book. Heron is caught between unknown forces within the city of Alexandria and trying to preserve family.

Other themes that could be explored in a discussion would include the role of slaves in ancient Egypt, the role of women, and how does civilization  change when they lose knowledge. Ultimately, Heron’s value of family and friends, in addition to the preservation and expansion of knowledge becomes the overriding theme.

In reality, The Alexandrian Saga is meant for pleasure reading and not for a deep discussion. I felt like as Heron continued to work on inventions there was almost a steampunk element because of the steam mechanical creation. Some of the inventions mentioned are actual pieces that were created during the Roman Empire, such as the aeolipile, and Heron and Lysimachus the Alabarch are both historical figures. The twist on history is that Heron is a woman, Ada, taking on the role of her twin brother after his death. There are clever moments, fun inventions and diverse characters. There are a couple of moments in plotting that were abrupt and I would like to see a better transition. There was a small clue about some of the factions seeking revenge on Heron, but I would have liked a better foundation. At times, I felt like the plot was determined by the need to show a new invention.

About half way through the book there were some vulgar references and a couple of curses that are used through the rest of the book. (I actually would have rated the book with more star power without the crude language/references.) Homosexual relationships are treated as a fact, but neither glorified nor demonized and there are no intimate details. Overall the book is fairly clean with some torture scenes and the threat of rape, but I don’t feel comfortable passing it along as a suggestion to my friends and family. The first book ended on a satisfactory note and so I will end the series at this point in my reading. I’m guessing this series is for adults, I’m not sure if it will appeal to more men or women. There really isn’t a romance so…. but the main character is a woman so….

3 out of 5 stars

3 star

  • the Mother

If you liked this one try The Sword of the Lamb by M.K. Wren which is set in the future, the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear set after WWI, and The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima which is fantasy. If you’re looking for steampunk try The Lady of Devices by Shelley Adina.

About Tales Untangled

I am a mother of four children and have a passion for reading. I love sharing my treasury of books with my kids. I also do experiments in cooking which includes such things as Indian Tandoori Chicken slow-cooked in a tagine. I write stories and illustrate in ink.
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