It's brilliantly told, brought vibrantly, humanly to life. What strikes you immediately is the power of these stories - it's no surprise that they've lasted over 3,000 years and continue to be influential. There's something here for everyone: romance, adventure, a hint of crime, a family story, a revenge tragedy. That they have been influential there's no doubt - obviously in more classical authors such as Shakespeare, but I suspect that Star Wars might not have existed without the tales of the Trojan wars. What also struck me is the threads that still bind us to the stories. The themes of war, and the desires for peace, are still sadly with us.
I loved this book. It astonished me by the way it grabbed me and swept me away, in a large part due to Gemmell's clever re-telling. He sticks to the classical inspirations, but adds new heart to the characters. All the characters are well portrayed, but the women are really special - I loved Andromache, the bravery of Queen Halysia, and Kassandra, who is only mentioned fairly briefly here, was brilliant, a strange fey character hovering around the edges of the story. Gemmell is also very good at bringing the society and culture of the time to life. There's a true feeling of being present within the community.
This is just brilliant writing. It would have been so easy to re-write the Trojan wars as a boy's own story, but Gemmell has done so much more than that. It's a story that has truly engrossed me and has stayed with me even when I've not been reading it, I so desperately wanted to know what happened next. He's also very cleverly demystified the legends connected with the telling of the stories surrounding the wars, so, for example, the Trojan horse is actually King Priam's top troops - a sort of ancient horse guards. Whether this is true or not I don't know, but it certainly makes sense both within the context of Gemmell's tale, and within the legends themselves. (I can only assume that in a later volume corruption within the Trojan horse will lead to the downfall of the city - I will report whether this is so in a later post, once I get round to reading the novel). And yet, he still keeps some of the more unworldly sections of the legends intact. Odysseus may just be a teller of tall tales, but little Kassandra really does see blood.
Volumes two and three are lined up on my bookshelves ready to read shortly. I'm just sorry that these volumes have been sitting there so long with me completely unrealising how wonderful they are. Please read - and be swept away by what is very truly an epic tale.