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Lord Of The Silver Bow
David Gemmell
Bantam hardcover £17.99

review by Alasdair Stuart

One of the acknowledged masters of modern fantasy, David Gemmell's work is intricate, involving, often extremely violent, and embodies the best elements of the genre. Here, he takes his first step into historic fantasy and the result is epic, involving and never less than impressive.

Lord Of The Silver Bow is the first in a proposed trilogy of novels dealing with Troy, focussing in particular on three lives and the effect they will have on the future of the city. First and foremost is Helikaon, a prince and merchant whose compassion for his crew is matched only by his brutality in battle. Orphaned at an early age, Helikaon has adopted his crew as his family and is fiercely loyal both to them and the profits they bring him. He's also a deeply conflicted, contradictory young man and in many ways the emotional heart of the novel.

Andromache is one of his passengers, a priestess who finds herself falling victim to the labyrinthine politics of the area. Pulled from her order to marry Hector, son of Priam, she refuses to be bowed by either her circumstances or her new king. If Helikaon is the heart of the book then Andromache is the intellect, a calm, logical woman whose take on the world is both insightful and potentially revolutionary to her new family.

Finally, Argurios is arguably the most interesting of the three central characters. Placed aboard Helikaon's ship despite his country being at near open war with the merchant, Argurios is used by Gemmell to turn every preconception you have about the book on its head. Superficially he's the villain of the piece but as the plot begins to unfold it becomes clear that Argurios, and even his people have goals that are different but no less valid to everyone else. He's not an easy character to like but his sections are amongst this book's best.

With these three central characters established, Gemmell throws in a further half dozen perspectives to give the book a truly epic feel. We see Helikaon through the eyes of crewmembers and passengers, witness events from multiple perspectives and most enjoyably get a very different and eminently likeable version of Odysseus. Gemmell clearly has fun writing the legendary Ithacan and he takes the character in directions no one has done before. For all Helikaon and Argurios' intellect and martial skill, Odysseus is far and away the most dangerous man in the book and his deadliest weapon is his brain.

Troy is a dizzyingly large story especially when you remember it's the first in a trilogy. However it's also historical fiction at its absolute best, filled with vibrant characters and beautifully described locations. Fans of Rome will find much to enjoy here, as will fans of good stories well told. This is an outstanding book from an outstanding author.
Lord of the Silver Bow

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