Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: Troy #1
Publisher: Ballantine Books (October 31, 2006)
Length: 483 pages
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.
My rating is 3 out of 5 stars.
Wow, a book about the Trojan War with a new protagonist and a different – perhaps more realistic – portrayal of the Greek world and the reasons for the great struggle. I couldn’t have ordered a book more suited to my tastes.
After finishing my read, all I can say is that Lord of the Silver Bow is okay. On one hand, it does a wonderful job of presenting the Greek world of the Aegean Sea in a more historic and realistic way with lots of re-imagined historic characters. However, on the other, the first half of the novel is plodding and suffers from the introduction of two, new characters.
So who are these new heroes of Gemmell’s Troy and what was wrong with them, you ask?
Well, the protagonist of the book is one Helikaon, a warrior-prince of Troy’s empire. He is all that a hero of ancient Greece should be: tall, strong, a great warrior, a great sailor, a wise trader, and a friend to Mycene, Trojans, and Cretans. Unfortunately, Helikaon is also aloof and rather boring. Oh, Gemmell tries to explain this behavior by providing him with a dramatic back story, but no matter how awful his upbringing and no matter how angst ridden he is, Helikaon starts out as a one dimensional character, who broods more than he excites.
The other main character of the novel is the beautiful and strong-willed Andromache, a priestess fated to marry an important Trojan hero. Unfortunately, that hero does not seem to be Helikaon. However, since any tale about Troy needs a tragic love story, Andromache becomes the obsession of the testosterone-filled males in Lord of the Silver Bow, and so instead of the classic Paris and Helen love story, we have a new one involving Andromache and Helikaon and her future husband. The only problem with this new love triangle is that Andromache starts out this story nearly as boring as Helikaon, and so she and her star-crossed lover’s passion for one another seems very unrealistic and not very compelling.
At about the halfway section of Lord of the Silver Bow, I found myself bored out of my mind by Helikaon, Andromache, their attraction, and the seemingly endless sea voyage to Troy, and I honestly began to wonder if I would be able to finish the story. Instead of writing a review, I envisioned throwing this book on my huge stack of “try it again later” novels. Then something most unexpected happened. This story came to life.
All of a sudden, Helikaon and Andromache’s ship reached Troy, and once at the golden city of legend, everything came into focus. The city of Priam providing just the right backdrop for this story to be transformed into something well worth reading.
That boring hero Helikaon? Once he stepped upon the streets of Troy, he sprang to life, becoming more dramatic and lordly. His innate heroic qualities reflected off both the kind and the devious members of the Trojan royalty. His unattainable desire for the betrothed Andromache becoming more compelling, as it is mingled with another love story between two unlikely but likeable minor characters.
And Andromache? Her introduction to the grandeur and decadence of Troy’s royal court transformed her into a determined woman, willing to suffer the wrath of a king to live by her own terms. Her desire for one man seemingly at peace with her love for another. And to see her deal with megalomaniac King Priam and his devious children was a real treat.
Add to this the tense situation in the Trojan hegemony, where armed conflict between Agamemnon’s Mycene and Priam’s Trojans is inevitable, and you can see that our two protagonists arrival at the legendary city was destined to not only reinvigorate Helikaon and Andromache but provide plenty of sword swinging action, which it does. For almost immediately, gritty combat ensues, as a reader is swept up in Gemmell’s classic testosterone splendor. The sounds of swords clashing against shields rings through one’s ears. Blood splatters across the pages. Courageous men fight against overwhelming odds. And at the end, the last words of love spoken between two star-crossed lovers brings a tear to your eye.
Yes, Lord of the Silver Bow is not a great book, but it is very good – especially the last half. So while it has its problems *cough* The first third of the book was boring *cough* it is still a good solid Gemmell read — if you can just hold out until you get to Troy.