Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: Troy #2
Publisher: Ballantine Books (March 27, 2007)
Length: 512 pages
My Rating: 2 out of 5 stars.
Book one of this series started off slow but really picked up speed as it reached its conclusion, so I started book two very excited to see where Gemmell was going with it. Unfortunately, Shield of Thunder really failed to deliver.
As soon as you begin this book, you will notice that Gemmell has skipped forward in time. No big deal really except for one important fact: a tragic event has occurred, which has left one of our main characters dead or dying. (I suppose the author might have done this to build suspense or tension, but it had the affect of annoying me more than anything else.) And so, with this former main character in limbo, the focus of Shield of Thunder shifts to a brand new character, Piria, and two, minor characters, Kalliades and Banokles, from book one.
Immediately, our new stars take center stage, uniting in tragic fashion before their backstory is revealed. Unfortunately, from this intriguing beginning, the story takes a big nosedive as the three journeying by sea to Troy (IF this sounds like deja vu after reading Book I I understand completely.), and even Odysseus’ presence or the hopeless love of one of the companions for the other can’t make this sea trip any better than the one in Lord of the Silver Bow. Honestly, if not for the constant interludes with Andromache in Troy itself, the book would have floundered from the start, but once again the city of Priam comes to the rescue, as the politically charged wedding games of Hektor and Andromache liven things up with political machinations, emotional fights, and the dramatic return of an old character.
By the end of the wedding games, Shield of Thunder was right back on pace, rushing forward not only toward the beginning of the Trojan War but also toward the emotionally charged completion of Piria, Banokles and Kalliades’ quest. But, alas, Gemmell once again crushed my hopes for this novel. Let me explain.
One, the epic quest of Piria had been the major plot line in the book from page one. Gemmell spends chapters explaining it, making it heart-rending, and setting up a climatic ending to it. Then, when Piria, Banokles and Kalliades are moments away from completing it, things just . . . fizzle out. I won’t explain how, but Piria’s story just ends. No other way to say it. Boom it is gone, and you sit there and ask yourself why Gemmell spent all this time building this up to just snuff it out like a candle flame. Big letdown.
Second, Gemmell skips forward in time again. The first time it was between book one and two, so I can live with that even though I didn’t like it. Here, however, there is no reason for the time skip. One minute, there is a looming war between Mycene and Troy, and the next it has been going on for years. We hear about all these huge battles that have taken place. Characters talk about Hektor’s victories and Odysseus’ strategic brilliance, but what we actually read about is Kalliades and Banokles’ struggles. And, while I did like both characters, Kalliades spends more time waxing philosophical on his inability to love anyone rather than actually fighting.
Third, Gemmell has this annoying habit of giving you a character, feeding you a backstory then never returning to him. The Egyptian, Gershom, is a prime example. Book one starts off with him getting lots of page time; we get a detailed backstory with some plot issues twisting around. Then in Shield of Thunder Gershom goes poof! and disappears. Oh, he makes some appearances, but nothing related to his backstory. And he isn’t the only character treated this way by the author. It is beyond irritating.
So while Shield of Thunder is an okay read, I can’t say I really liked it. Honestly, Gemmell barely keeps his Trojan War epic afloat with this one.