Troy: Lord of the Silver Bow by David Gemmell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Like Iain Banks, David Gemmell is another of my favourite authors that was taken from us before his time (he died whilst working on the third book in this trilogy, which was subsequently completed by his wife). One of the tragedies is that it appears he died whilst at the absolute peak of his writing, because The Lord of the Silver Bow is quite simply one of the best books I've read in any genre, let alone in the heroic fantasy genre. If I could rate it higher than 5 stars I would do so.
I've always liked Gemmell's writing, ever since I first read Legend some 15 years ago. His novels have always been great stories filled with likeable, interesting and conflicted characters set against backdrops of war. This, the first in Gemmell's Troy trilogy is no different, other than the fact it exceeds his previous writings in every conceivable way.
This retelling of the Troy legends as first told in the Odyssey, Aeneid and Iliad is superbly done. It's written like a historic fantasy, rooted in real history rather than the Greece of ancient myth and legend. Characters famous from the original tales, such as Hektor, Aeneas, Andromache, Priam, Argurios, and Agamemnon are drawn as real people, often with a twist from their traditional representations. The myths of Troy (the golden roofs of the city, the Trojan Horse, the beauty of Helen, the minotaur, Odysseus' battle with the cyclops) are given a realistic explanation as though this was a straight retelling of real historical events.
Despite all the politics, sea and land battles, and adventure this is really a book about two men. One is a good man trying desperately not to become that which he hates in the face of terrible events, and the other is a bad man who discovers a sense of honour that will lead him to make the ultimate sacrifice. Female characters are also well served in the book. In what could have become a "boys own adventure" style novel due to the subject matter and male-dominated world setting, there are plenty of strong and interesting female characters. I was also surprised at how well the romance worked.
The action is punctuated with some interesting ruminations on human nature and the novel is full of quotable material.
"Fear is an aid to the warrior," her father had said. "It is like a small fire burning. It heats the muscles, making us stronger. Panic comes when the fire is out of control, consuming all courage and pride." There was still fear in her as she stared down at the battle in the doorway. But the panic had gone."
“We make choices everyday, some of them good, some of them bad. And if we are strong enough - we live with the consequences. To be truthful I am not entirely sure what people mean when they talk of happiness. There are moments of joy and laughter, the comfort of friendship, but enduring happiness? If it exists I have not discovered it.”
If you are interested in heroic fantasy at all I can't recommend Lord of the Silver Bow enough. It's a brilliant, exciting and thought-provoking novel, and I loved it so much that upon finishing I immediately started reading the sequel, Shield of Thunder, which so far is equally as good.
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