Lord of the Silver Bow is the first story in Gemmell’s Troy trilogy and it was a joy to read. Although this is the first Gemmell book that I have read, I know that he is often heralded as the King of writing Heroic Fantasy. His skill in this field mixed with a story incorporating some of the greatest mythological heroes of all time seems to me like a perfect mix and aid in making this a stunning historical fiction book.
Although the narrative follows about ten points of view characters, the main protagonist is Aeneas who is mainly known here as Halikaon. Halikaon – The Golden One is a Prince, a legendary warrior, apparently blessed by the Gods, loyal to his comrades and feared by his enemies. The book opens with King Agamemnon being advised by the spirits that Halikaon will lead to his downfall. Following this King Agamemnon then offers the individual who assassinates the Prince their bodyweight in Gold.
I have read the main Epic’s that are the original texts for the heroes of legend that are presented here. Due to this, I was initially left slightly confused with characters acting unlike how I envisaged they would from the pictures in my mind that I had created previously. I had to take a step back, cast aside my assumptions and as soon as I realised this I had no problems and in fact, the characters are the greatest asset this book has. It does add extra layers to the reading experience though if you are familiar with the Iliad, Odyssey or Aeneid though. An example being: Odysseus, as presented here is an ugly tall-tale weaving showman and one of his stories that left his gathered audience spellbound is about when he crossed paths with a Cyclops. Odysseus admits to friends that the story was completely made up and that he had never seen a monster in his life but it is a cool reference to the Odyssey where that exact thing happens.
For every known mythological character such as Priam, Paris or Hektor there are Gemmell’s excellent creations such as Argurios, Zidantas and Attalus. Mykene warrior Argurios is probably my favourite but I will not say too much about the characters personalities or agenda’s because that is what makes this novel stand out, however; they are deep and often fleshed out via flashback scenes which also create affinity. The Greek God’s such as Apollo and Hades are mentioned frequently with characters offering up respect, prayer, and sacrifices but I am glad Gemmell decided not to make the God’s present in a physical way like they were in the Iliad. The fact that the God’s do not walk the Earth (at least so far) – makes the tale more about the plight of the humans and the individual characters emotions, actions, and destinies.
The first half is quite slow, but not unbearably so and mainly follows Halikaon and his crew from the Death Ship – Xanthos. Early on Halikaon locks eyes with a lovely lady and that is where a love triangle begins. I didn’t care too much for this love story but it isn’t intolerable as it is majorly feelings felt rather than actions made between those involved. It is set up so that it could get even more confusing and intriguing in Shield of Thunder. There was one other love-story which I thought was very cool and sweet, I think you will know the one I mean. Xander was one point of view perspective character that I didn’t really care for, a 12-year-old who seemed more of a device of telling the action taking place with an uncorrupted often frightened opinion. He may grow throughout the trilogy so I will not write him off yet. The second half was utterly entrancing and I raced through half this 600+ book in one day which must speak volumes for how much it gripped me. The conclusion was entirely fitting and was built up to its culmination excellently. A twist at the end was slightly predictable but that did not stop me going “fuck yeah!!!” when it happened!
When I dropped my opinions and views on what I thought about this era and the heroes presented I was able to be swept away by Gemmell’s obvious genius. I know I am a few years behind some of my friends who have read and loved this trilogy before but I can’t wait to get back to the world created here. Amazing historical fiction focusing on excellent characters that also intertwines political unrest, betrayal, brutal sieges, love, and legends. I recommend this highly and if you were like me and have slept on this one for a while, it is well worth your time.
Thanks for reading – James.