Genre Alternate History Publisher Random House Year Published 2005 Review Posted on 4/26/2007 Reviewer Rating
10 out of 10
Troy: Lord of the Silver Bow, by David Gemmell
Reviewed by Howard von Darkmoor
If you've read this book, why not
Retellings seem to be in vogue these days. Some of them equal their inspirations, at least in some or sundry manners. Many of them are dismal failures, crash courses in how not to pay tribute to what has come before. A few of them master their material and deliver it fresh for new generations to cherish and enjoy.
David Gemmell has long been cherished and enjoyed by readers of heroic fantasy. No one who has picked up one of his books can forget the characters he created. They reached out of the pages, grabbed our shoulders, and yanked us into the story with their unbelievable heart and soul and their terribly exact life experiences -- by the simple fact that they lived, often more deeply than flesh-and-blood people you or I could name at this moment. Gemmell's death in July 2006 left a shocking gap in the list of current author's names that are must reads. No, not a gap: an abyss.
That being said, we now return to Troy: Lord of the Silver Bow, the beginning of Gemmell's three-volume version of the Trojan War. This is an historically accurate fiction, or the fictional completion, of a well-know historical account. An exaggerated historical account. Similar to how the movie "300" is the (exaggerated) retelling of the comic "300" which was the (exaggerated) retelling of the actual events of the Battle of Thermopylae.
'Huh? That's not heroic fantasy!' you exclaim.
That's right. This is Gemmell's third attempt at writing historical fantasy, rather, fiction, after the two-book Alexander the Great series. Outside of visions, there is no magic, no fantasy, in this book. This is basically Virgil's "The Aeneid" Anglicized and retold by a master character writer. Which is not a negative thing. It is, however, also not one of Gemmell's best works.
While I did enjoy it and will continue to read the series, the characters just don't deliver the impact of a Druss or a Skilgannon for a vast majority of the book. They are well-crafted and well-written, but they're missing that intense flavor of life that Gemmell's fictitious characters have. Perhaps that is the difference, as perhaps it is hard for even a master writer to pour as much of his soul, as much of himself, into a character that is not wholly his. In fact, of all the characters in the novel, the strongest by far is the one main character Gemmell made up.
The writing fluctuates several times between simply good and truly superb. While Gemmell's 'simply good' tops many an author's best, it is the later when it is delivering character interaction with terrific dialogue stunningly played between the characters. The last fifty or so pages of the novel are the most powerful and finally create a real connection with the primary characters - that connection we've grown accustomed to in David Gemmell's works.
As far as presentation goes, there actually are several inconsistencies that include lapses in character logic and repeated character or scene motions. I seem to be finding mistakes such as these more often and it really makes me wonder at what the duties of an editor are nowadays. I understand that editors no longer have the status nor the division of duties they once did, but it is still their name attached to the finished product. I would think they should have some modicum of pride in their product and I should have some reasonable expectation of the excellency of that product. A Cadillac with an inverted crest on the steering wheel and mismatched interior door panels is still a Cadillac. Just not one I'd be happy with.
Overall, an intriguing rewrite of the Trojan War and one I'll continue to follow. It delivers fine descriptions of choices and consequences, love and loyalty, leadership and kingship and all the differences between them. Yet, if I had to choose between Helikaon or Druss, Druss wins every time.