It seems a long time since I read a book I couldn’t put down, one that had me thinking about it when I couldn’t read it, one that really got under my skin, that was until I picked up Lord of the Silver Bow. I’ve long been a Gemmell fan and read many of his books, but for some reason I’d held off buying the first of what was supposed to be a trilogy around the legendary Trojan war. I’m not entirely sure why, I love Robert Harris’ work too, and much of it is fiction strung to historical truth.
Anyway, LotSB contains much that I liked from Gemmell’s previous work, which is described as being heroic fiction, but rather than fill them with holy-than-though saint-like heroes, Gemmell has always gone for realistic heroes, men with flaws, vices, fears and who do make mistakes (though rarely when it comes to fighting it has to be said). You always feel taller and bolder after reading one of his novels.
LotSB follows several characters before the Trojan war has even begun. Helikaon (AKA Aeneas) is a Prince from Dardania, a trader who has built a huge wealth but is also a fearsome fighter, with a healthy number of enemies, but also a huge number of friends and comrades. He is a great man with a dark side, scarred by a traumatic childhood sometimes his rage consumes him and he does terrible things. One of the men who’d like to kill him is Argurios, a legendary Mykene warrior who has fought in many battles with great distinction and who sticks to his code of honour rigidly. His only desire is to serve his king, but when he steps in to save Helikaon, as his code dictates, when Mykene pirates attack him, his king makes him an outlaw. Nearly killed by assassins he wishes to end his life, until he finds love. Then this is Andromache, the fiercely independent daughter of the ruler of a small kingdom, she is to be wed to Hektor of Troy, but Helikaon has fallen in love with her, and she with him, and Hektor may be dead. Together they must fight against the odds as one of the ambitious sons of the Trojan king, keen on overthrowing his father, comes against them with an army intent on murder.
One criticism that I could level at Gemmell is that all his novels finish in the right way, evil may prevail in small parts during the story, it may look like it will win the day, but usually one or two strong fighters (with no small amount of darkness in their hearts) turn the tide and good wins through. There are loses along the way, even at the end, but generally the heroes comes through relatively unscathed and find love and happiness (to a degree). Such is the way with Lord of the Silver Bow. This never really takes away from the story, and is how fine tales of old would have done it, as I said, it leaves you on a high, and it’s certainly not plain sailing, but in the modern world we know the side of good and evil do not always get what they deserve.
A fine read nonetheless and I would encourage you to read it.
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Reviewed: 14th November 2006