In this new book, David Gemmell, author of some twenty-five novels such as The Hawk Eternal, The Swords of Night and Day, and Legend, plumbs the fertile depths of Trojan lore to craft a compelling new vision of that mythical conflict of ancient Greece. Borrowing a bit from the Roman Virgil, whose Aeneid casts the warrior-king Aeneas as the hero (as opposed to Homer, who framed his Iliad in the glowing reflection of Achilles and his beautiful, towering rage and refusal to run from death), this first volume in a proposed trilogy sets the stage for the war yet to come.
A prophetic vision causes Agamemnon, the king of Mykene, to set a deceptively simple task before his warriors: the death of Aeneas, also called Helikaon, or the Golden One. This great warrior and seafarer set aside his own claim to his father’s throne in favor of his younger half-brother in order to remain free to roam the sea in search of adventure and profit. The Greek Odysseus is his mentor and friend, and his renown as a bold warrior is virtually unsurpassed, save by those very few whose names spring from legend. And it is Agamemnon, in his vain striving for immortality, that will paint the Mediterranean red with blood. But not yet. Not quite yet.
A routine visit to a normally friendly trading partner turns ugly when Aeneas discovers, almost too late, that Agamemnon’s forces have conspired to kill him. Aeneas escapes the clutches of the soldiers paid to kill him, although his close friend and first mate does not. When the Mykene forces seek to take Aeneas’ ship at sea the next morning, they suffer the consequences, for Aeneas has constructed a glorious new ship, outfitted with devastating new weapons (such as the proverbial Greek fire). The wrath of the Golden One, as they say, knows no boundaries; in fair keeping with the bloodletting to come before the walls of Troy (and as described as routine by Homer), Aeneas destroys the Mykene ships without mercy.
Watching the destruction are two other characters with sizeable parts to play in the unfolding story: Argurios the Mykene, a proud warrior and general in the Mykene army whose principles and commitment to personal honor are inflexible and unbreakable (even if his body is not), and Andromache, a former priestess of Thera betrothed against her will to Hektor, the prince of Troy (brother of Paris, who will one day soon steal the wife of another man, and start a decade’s worth of bloody war). As a warrior of Mykene, Argurios is Aeneas’ sworn enemy, and the enemy of Troy as well—he has been sent to scout the Trojan defenses in anticipation of a Mykene onslaught. Agamemnon wants to own the towers of Troy for himself.
As for Andromache, she will soon fall under the spell of the Golden One, who will himself be smitten, for the first time in his life, with a deep, emotional love for a woman. Against the backdrop of Agamemnon’s onslaught against Troy, these three characters will find their loyalties tested, ancient relationships severed, and new friendships forged. Betrayal, redemption, love and death; in Troy Gemmell seeks to fashion a story worthy of both the pageantry and bloody savagery of ancient Greece.
While not strictly a fantasy (as there is very little magic, aside from a few prophetic visions), and lacking the overt presence of the gods which played such a role in Homer’s tale, Gemmell’s version of the legends of Troy a well-crafted, compelling story in its own right. What is intriguing to me is to read this story and consider the failures of the big-screen version of Troy, which gutted the Iliad of the gods, but offered little more than a hollow shell in its place. Gemmell has largely removed the notion of meddling gods from his narrative as well (at least so far) but he has managed to create a fascinating world in its own right. Its denizens are human, with all that implies, from honorable nobility to base brutality and every combination thereof. And in the tragic losses of this first volume one hears the echoes of the thousand ships and their many warriors, all of whom will one day be camped outside the gates of Troy. Troy: Lord of the Silver Bow is an epic reimagining of the ancient world, and a well-paced, solidly constructed novel.
Author’s Note: This article was originally posted at Wallo World.