In the World History classes I took in both high school and college, we never really learned about the Greek War of Independence. The war proper lasted from 1821 to 1830 as the Greek revolutionaries fought against the Ottoman Empire, which controlled the country for centuries. The war was successful. It was also a chapter that marked the beginning of the decline of the Ottoman Empire. Though, however, the subject isn’t really taught outside of Greek and Turkey from my understanding.
Sons of Chaos is a graphic novel, written by Chris Jaymes and art by Ale Aragon, that showcases the brutal chain of events that led to the beginning of the revolution through the journey of revolutionary leader Markos Botsaris (spelled Marcos in the book). Botsaris is considered to be one of the most revered war heroes of Greece.
The story that Jaymes weaves is a brutal and humanistic tale about a young man who was brought up in the midst of war and captivity. It focuses on the sacrifices and trials that he had to endure in order to have his country free. It’s about how war can tear families about and the brutalities of tyrants in power, and the realities of battle.
It’s not an easy read. For those squeamish, the book contains scenes of violence and rape. Multiple people are beheaded, someone gets burned alive. If you’re triggered by such imagery, then I wouldn’t recommend it.
While it’s not an easy read, it’s an interesting one. We watch as Marcos grows from a boy who witnesses the massacre of his people to a man who leads them into battle. He falls the wife (Eleni) of the monstrous son of Ali Pasha Muhtar, who experiences similar unending horror and brutality. The two of them form a bond and a love that carries throughout the war. She helps Marcos escape, where he grows into the leader that his people needs.
The story is, simply put, a coming of age tale, set in the backdrop of an oppressed people gearing up for a major conflict. As a coming of age tale, as a war story, it’s really well written. Jaymes does an excellent job getting across just how dire things were in the lead-up to the Greek War of Independence, just how much it was needed for it to happen. Some of the more brutal bits, especially the rape scenes, I didn’t care for. At the same time, however, it was an unpleasant reality that women had to deal with back then. Even so, I enjoyed Jayme’s writing. His dialogue felt extremely natural with each character having their own unique voice. He knew when to step back and let the art tell the story or when words were needed. It was a very natural flow in the reading experience.
Jaymes should be commended on how well he did in writing Sons of Chaos. Equally commended is Ale Aragon, the artist. With his sketchy style, the book felt constantly in motion. The battle scenes, however, where were Aragon shined with an unflinching eye to the harsh realities, such as people committing suicide to escape a massacre. Then there are the monstrous faces that he gives the soldiers in battle, killing each other on the battlefield. It’s very jarring and real in the brutality, but there are some softer moments as well. The brief scenes between Marcos and Eleni are also excellent, full of a quiet (and melancholy) tenderness.
I’m not certain how much the actual history of the graphic novel matches up to Botsaris’ actual history in real life. I know some dates and the manner of death doesn’t match up along with what I’ve briefly read on Botsaris’ history. I did all this research after I read the book, but it some things in context. I won’t speculate on it either because I can admit that I’m rather uneducated in that matter. We’re approaching the 200th anniversary of the war, which press releases describe as having “quietly shaped Western civilization”.
If you’re looking for a graphic novel to give to the fans of Games of Thrones or the war history buff in your life (if they don’t mind it being fictionalized account), then I recommend getting them Sons of Chaos. I recommend giving it a read yourself because it is a good, often heartwrenching read for those who can handle the content and themes.