Sunday, August 03, 2008

Troy: Lord of the Silver Bow Review

A few weeks back, I bumped into a co-worker on the subway, and saw that she was reading a novel from the Troy trilogy that I'd seen in Chapters. Based on her recommendation, I decided to pick up the first novel in the series, and I'm quite pleased that I did. Troy: Lord of the Silver Bow is the first book in what's promising to be an epic tale of historical fiction.

Written by David Gemmell, Troy: Lord of the Silver Bow is his take on the Troy myth, and unlike my previous reading of historical fiction set around the Roman Empire, I know very little about this time period save for the general myth itself. This lack of knowledge simply served to enhance my desire to read on and learn more about this mesmurizing time period.

Troy: Lord of the Silver Bow follows three main characters: Helikaon, a Dardanian prince and Captain of the Xanathos, the largest ship ever built, Andromache, a priestess with a proud heart and defiant in a world of men, and my personal favourite, Argurios, a legendary Mykene warrior, honour bound and brooding.

The lands along the Great Green are enjoying a time of relative peace and trade between nations, but threats of war constantly loom on the horizon and thieves and pirates roam the sea constantly looking for plunder. Troy itself, ruled by King Priam and father of the legendary Hector, is marveled as the greatest city in the world. Rich, wonderful, and powerful, the reputation of Troy alone has led many to set their sites upon one day conquering this great city.

The novel begins focusing on Helikaon, and the completion of his vessel, the Xanathos. For her maiden voyage, Helikaon sets sail for Troy itself, allowing two Mykene ambassadors, one of which is Argurios, passage upon his vessel, a decision met with sceptism as all Mykene hate Helikaon for killing one of their legendary warriors in a previous battle. Arguirios, loyal and uncompromising to his nation, would like nothing better than to slit Helikaon's throat, but is honour bound as a passenger on his vessel and must stay his hand.

While traveling to Troy, the Xanathos picks up a mysterious castaway, Gershom, who is the sole survivor of a ship wrecked at sea, and ultimately the lady Andromache also becomes involved with Helikaon and his crew.

Though much of the early part of the novel focuses on the Great Green and life at sea, Troy: Lord of the Silver Bow balances the focus nicely with ground engagements and the armies of both Troy, and other nations.

Ultimately, all the characters find themselves enmeshed in the great events of the Trojan city, and those that were once thought allies may prove less faithful than believed, and bitter enemies may forge unexpected alliances as kings and generals move their pieces around the board.

Gemmell weaves a wonderfully complex and political tale of morality and values, of love and honour, of duty and betrayal, allowing Troy: Lord of the Silver Bow to be a real page turner. Not only does Gemmell focus and develop his three main characters, but he also has a very strong list of supporting characters that he fleshes out very well, and while reading you never get the sense that one character is being placed in the spotlight at the expense of another. This lasts up until the final act where one important supporting character seems to completely vanish from the book, which is too bad as important events occur which I fully expected to see his reaction of.

For the world, though relatively at peace, is still a violent place where murder, rape, and savagry abound, and many of the characters find themselves struggling with the inner conflicts of right and wrong, of nobility and glutony, and Gemmell does an excellent job at exploring their inner depths, and of showing us that not all is black and white, good and evil. There are always subtle meaning and exterior motivations to every character, some of which are predicatable, and others of which are very surprising, and often ironic to the characters themselves.

The pacing of the novel is also well done, without and massive time jumps or lulls in the narrative. In fact, again, the only place the novel's pacing falters is in the very end, where the book ends just a little too quickly and could have benefited from an extra chapter or so of simple exposition.

Regardless, these are minor quibles on what has proven itself to me to be an excellent novel, and I'm greatly looking forward to continuing the trilogy. Weighing in at 624 pages, Troy: Lord of the Silver Bow is an excellent beginning and well worth the price of admission.

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