Troy: Lord of the Silver Bow Paperback – Sep 19 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Bestseller Gemmell (Legend) boldly recasts the Trojan War in this first of a new trilogy, which centers on a warrior variously called Helikaon, Aeneas or the Golden One, who's blessed by luck to have all he turns his hand to prosper. Populated by compelling and finely drawn characters taken from either Greek mythology (Odysseus, Hektor, etc.) or the author's own fertile imagination, the novel lays the groundwork for the war to come. Spurred by prophecy, Agamemnon, King of Mykene, sets his men the task of killing Aeneas. The ensuing conflict threatens to engulf the Mediterranean. While this enchanting tale is more historical fiction than fantasy (the obligatory oracles and Kassandra's prophecies are the only hints of magic), genre fans and more general readers alike will have trouble putting it down.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
This hefty historical fantasy opens a trilogy dealing with the Trojan War but without the usual number of variations on the theme readers have come to expect from prolific and popular fantasist Gemmell. The title character is Aeneas, not outwardly the Trojan hero, however, but a Trojan ally using the name Helikaon. He and the Greek Odysseus are on terms of mutual respect, and he is also in love with Andromache, the betrothed of Hector, Troy's greatest warrior. When relations between Troy and Mycenae start deteriorating dramatically, Helikaon/Aeneas is in several kinds of dilemma. We soon learn that Gemmell's isn't the Homeric scenario of the Iliad, however, because this book's Hector doesn't survive the battles of this preliminary book, and those occur before Agamemnon sets sail for Troy. Gemmell is a master of fast pacing and original, not to say offbeat, takes on legendary and mythical characters. The alternate Iliad he launches here does honor to his reputation and promises to lift it higher while adding notably to readers' pleasure. Roland Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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I was not dissappointed and neither will you be.
David Gemmell fans know that this British author is most famous for writing in the fantasy genre. He is a master of creating a world and then peopling it with characters that are more human than any writer I have encountered. Though "Lord of the Silver Bow" is the first part in a trilogy about the Trojan War, Gemmell still writes like it were his own world. In fact, if the reader didn't know better, he would think that David Gemmell had been in ancient Greece scribing the events as they happened.
Historically, Lord of the Silver Bow is probably not accurate as it is peopled with real historical figures as well as figures from Gemmell's fertile imagination. Whatever historical "truths" that Gemmell misses are more than made up for by his deep insight into the minds of his characters. As in all of his novels the characters contain within them the whole range of human strengths and weaknesses; David Gemmell seems to suggest that a strength and weakness can be one and the same thing.
The story follows Helikaeon a sailor, warrior (and possible King) as he deals with love, death, loss and gain. Odyseuss is a homely, story telling, king that adds wisdom and humor to a world that for the most part is pretty grim.
"Lord of the Silver Bow" is a wonderful beginning to what could quite possibly be the greatest work of an already brilliant writer.
I for one can hardly wait for the rest of the trilogy to unfold.
I was somewhat skeptical of this Troy trilogy, as really these characters seemed old and tired by now. From the Illiad and the Oddysey many of us read in school, to the mediocre Brad Pitt movie, I wasn't really sure how this could be all that interesting. Even a 'bad' David Gemmell book is good, much like cold pizza, so I got it right away anyway. I'd buy every one if they cost $1000 dollars each. But I was quite surprised at just how good this book was.
In a nutshell, expect to *believe* in this story, and these characters, in a way you could not from reading more storied works. Oddyseus in particular is an excellent character, and just from the things he says, the Oddysey takes on a whole new meaning and I have gained a lot more appreciation for it. The character I assume is Helen of Troy (different name) is exactly the kind of woman I would want, and I would launch the thousand ships to go get her, where that seemed far fetched before.
I'm not going to give a plot synopsis and then call it a review, but I will say it is both what you'd expect, and so much more. Personally, I look for books that can stir my emotions, fiction or not. And this book certainly did that, as Gemmells always do. Reading the end, in my mind I wanted to grab a spear and a shield and stand with those who stood. Lets face it, we all read these books for the escapist fantasy.
Steven Pressfield, author of the excellent Gates of Fire, gave Gemmell a rave review for the hardcover book jacket. I found it to be entirely accurate. I have learned from the site michaelyon.blogspot.com that Mark Kurilla, who has lead men in combat in Iraq, requires his officers to read that book. I am almost too old to be accepted, but I would sign up in a minute if I were garunteed to serve under him. You can read these things and believe all of this is just fantasy BS, but then read that site and you may think otherwise. I have sent Mark my copy of the book, in the hopes that it may help his recovery. Pressfields book can be summed up by two words..."Zeus, Savior!" to anyone who has read it. Mr Gemmell has however surpassed even this most excellent novel of ancient greece.
So why isn't it better than Legend? Because it is hard to compete with the best modern literature has to offer. While a deeply flawed first novel, it has, as Oddyseus might put it, a magic that makes fiction lead to truths. And if you read this, Mr Gemmell, don't make the movie unless you can do it right..watch Black Hawk Down and Braveheart as many times as you have to.
I know this review may seemt o be overly gushing with praise, but just read any Gemmell book (the Drenai ones are safest for an 'excellent' grade) and see if you don't want to read another one.
The story, itself, was rich in detail as it credibly created the ancient world of the Iliad, offering an unusual interpretation of events, even while it painstakingly built upon modern archeological supposition concerning the world of the Sea Peoples at the end of the Bronze Age. Here are the Myceanaen pirates of the Aegean (Gemmel calls them Mykene) and the myriad kingdoms of western Anatolia on the edge of the declining Hittite empire. Here is the fabled city of Troy, built of gold-roofed towers and great walls and peopled by a variety of nations, impregnable and prone to court intrigue and violence. And, of course, the great empires of the Egyptians and Hittites contending, as contemporary archeology tells us, in the background.
The story itself is a bit of a slog in the beginning, despite all this, as Aeneas, the central character of this tale, demonstrates his great prowess in warfare again and again, his soul tortured by a brutal childhood, the intrigues of Agammemnon of the Mykene and Priam of Troy in the background. And there are love stories as well, as the priestess and princess Andromache finds her way to Troy for an arranged marriage with the missing, heroic Hektor and Hektor's sister finds love in a most unexpected place.
There's plenty of fighting, to be sure, as Aeneas struggles to avoid hired assassins who want him dead for a reason that is not entirely clear and at least one of the assassins struggles with himself over his calling, while stolid Mykene heroes pursue battle, while waging a war of divided loyalties in their own hearts. This is all offered in anticipation of subsequent books in which, presumably, the events of the Iliad will work themselves out as ancient Greeks batter themselves against the impervious battlements of Troy and the whole ancient world goes up in fire and smoke, just as archeology tells us happened in that era.
Two thirds of the way, despite all the usual stereotypes and such, the book caught fire for me and the characters began to hold my attention, as did the intriguing way Gemmel has put his own gloss on the events that led to the famed Dark Age before the rising of the later Greek city states and the Persian Empire that we know from Classical Greek writing.
What is known to historians, through the archeologists,is that the old Bronze Age world of the eastern Mediterranean collapsed and historical records become woefully scarce for several hundred years. Fortresses are abandoned, wealth disappears in the tombs, the kingdoms of the era seem to have been destroyed as great migrations of warlike peoples that changed the face of the area in many ways began in a transition that led into the early Iron Age (when iron replaced bronze as the metal of choice).
Gemmel gives us this world as it might have been and does not tie himself down to the record of the Iliad which, of course, was put in written form much later and no doubt included many anachronisms and much misinformation. Gemmel uses what we now know to reinterpret the era and, I have to admit, he does it in the end with flair. His descriptions of violence and battles are marvelously handled. They are always vivid, compelling and, in the end, convincing, particularly his descriptions of the military strategies involved. In fact, his writing when it comes to these scenes is quite good. I was particularly taken by his very first scene of the drowning man who, it turns out, is another well known personage from that era, albeit not one we'd expect to find in a tale of ancient Greeks and Trojans. But his presence is a nice touch.
I suspect I will be reading the sequels despite myself.
author of The King of Vinland's Saga
I can't tell you my delight while I gobbled up this book. My only question to myself and David Gemmell is, "Where have you been all my life???". Gemmell's narrative, set in the pre-stages of the Trojan War, is absolutely engrossing.
The characters are vivid and deep. The plot twists and turns, and kept me up the wee hours of the night. Gemmell is also not afraid to kill off some key characters.
But what really sets Gemmell apart from other fantasy writers is his ability to develop a story wrapped in realism ... as if it could really happen. There are no dragons, elves, and magical runes. There are believeable characters with strengths and weaknesses ... Gemmell is amazing in taking the reader into the minds of his heros and villains.
My only complaint was the ending, while climactic, was also slightly disappointing. It reminded me too much of the old westerns, where the grossly outnumbered Cowboys are facing certain death against the vile Indians ... only to be saved in the last moment by the arrival of the valiant cavalry.
Otherwise, I've jumped headlong into volume 2, and plan to consume it as quickly as I can. My summer reading list will be as many David Gemmell novels as I can fit in before the weather changes and life returns to it's normal fast pace ... and time for leisure reading disappears for another year.