Most helpful critical review
Good idea, poor execution...
on May 11, 2004
If you're looking for a 'typical' Bradley book, this one falls short of most of her previous retellings. The premise of the book, whereby we see through Kassandra's eyes during the Trojan War, is interesting and I thought that if anyone could pull this off admirably it would be Bradley. However, this falls way short of her other books by a longshot.
First of all, her characters are hopelessly static and laregely unsympathetic. Using Mists of Avalon as a yardstick, every character in that book except one was a dynamic, exciting character that I felt sorry for and I could easily empathize with. In this novel, Bradley seems to have gone on a far more feminist bent and it seems she almost refuses to give any male in the story a sympathetic side. Paris, Hector, and Priam act ridiculously stereotypical and I still cannot understand why Paris acts the way he does toward his sister. The explanation that Bradley yields to us is hardly acceptable. The only male characters you might sympathize with is Odysseus, who is caught between friendship and honor. Even Aeneas is a flat character who only serves as a love interest to Kassandra. After all, if he wasn't there (in the novel as that role) then Kassandra would have seemed even less real. This character problem doesn't only relate to males though. Imadara, Penthesila, Andromache, and Polyexna are all horribly underwritten and underrepresented. Most of the time I was reading this book I was asking myself, "Who possibly acts like this?!" I'm fully aware of what Ancient Greece (and obviously by extension, Ancient Troy) was like, but I simply see many of these characters emontional conflicts as contrived and forced. Paris strangling his sister?! Andromache's hatred toward Kassandra at the end?
If you love Bradley, this book is an interesting read. However, Bradley's true strength is in her characters, and in this book, she simply falls far too short of her earlier more successful efforts. I would recommend that if you haven't read Bradley yet, then pick up Mists of Avalon or any other book in that 'series.'