A Song of War: A Novel of Troy
by Kate Quinn, Christian Cameron, Libbie Hawker, Vicky Alvear Shecter, Russell Whitfield, Stephanie Thornton, and S.J.A. Turney
ARC, e-book & paperback, 428 pages
Knight Media, LLC
October 18, 2016
Genre: Historical Fiction, Short Stories
Source: Received for review with HF Virtual Book Tours
Troy: city of gold, gatekeeper of the east, haven of the god-born and the lucky, a city destined to last a thousand years. But the Fates have other plans—the Fates, and a woman named Helen. In the shadow of Troy's gates, all must be reborn in the greatest war of the ancient world: slaves and queens, heroes and cowards, seers and kings . . . and these are their stories.
A young princess and an embittered prince join forces to prevent a fatal elopement.
A tormented seeress challenges the gods themselves to save her city from the impending disaster.
A tragedy-haunted king battles private demons and envious rivals as the siege grinds on.
A captured slave girl seizes the reins of her future as two mighty heroes meet in an epic duel.
Grizzled archer and a desperate Amazon risk their lives to avenge their dead.
A trickster conceives the greatest trick of all.
A goddess' son battles to save the spirit of Troy even as the walls are breached in fire and blood.
Seven authors bring to life the epic tale of the Trojan War: its heroes, its villains, its survivors, its dead. Who will lie forgotten in the embers, and who will rise to shape the bloody dawn of a new age?
When I heard that the H Team was going to be coming out with a collection about the Trojan War as best known from The Illiad, I was ecstatic. The first two collections that they released, A Day of Fire and A Year of Ravens, were top reads for me in their respective years – so I knew this one would be good. Secondly, while I haven’t read The Illiad, I LOVE The Odyssey and looked forward to reading more related to this storyline. And finally, I loved seeing that Stephanie Thornton was taking part this time as I have enjoyed all of her novels set in the ancient world.
First I want to talk a little about each story before discussing the collection as a whole.
The Apple by Kate Quinn
Kate Quinn had potentially one of the most difficult sections of this greater story arc; not only does her story set the scene and tone for the rest of the book, but there also isn’t a lot of action here as the whole thing is just beginning. For the most part, I think she did an admirable job. We meet the majority of the characters that will be fleshed out later in the book, particularly the significant sons of Priam, King of Troy. I quickly disliked Paris and found Hector to be among my favorite characters throughout. There was a complete story arc present here and there was a pretty great confrontation scene toward the end. I appreciated the dual narrators of Andromache and Hellenus because they gave us both the male and female insight into the wedding activities of Odysseus and Penelope and all of the behind the scenes drama that ensued. This story also takes place in the Achaean lands and we are introduced to the life in Sparta, which contrasts starkly with the life in Troy.
The Prophecy by Stephanie Thornton
Stephanie Thornton brings us into the world of Troy, however from a somewhat limited perspective of Cassandra. Seeing as she has visions of the future, you might wonder why I say she is limited – this is due to the fact that no one listens to her and she leads a very lonely existence within the palace at Troy. Cassandra is often viewed as a mad-woman, but her presentation here really makes you question whether she is mad or the world around her is. Cassandra is dark and tormented and such a different character than the majority that we will see in this book. This chapter, even more than the first, made me really dislike Helen; she is not some woman who just sits around and lets things happen to her, she causes havoc on her own.
The Sacrifice by Russell Whitfield
Russell Whitfield bounces the reader back to the Achaean camp and presents us with an Agamemnon that I felt a little sorry for. As we are seeing his life and this war through his own eyes it helps to humanize him a little bit as he makes sense of what he is doing. One of the things that helped me like him a little bit was how he was presented against Achilles. The two of them are very different people, present themselves in different ways, and approach war from entirely opposing perspectives. Whitfield makes us feel with Agamemnon for all the stress of being the high king in a war full of heroes. While I didn’t like him, I understood him better.
The Duel by Christian Cameron
This was a section of the story that made me quite sad as it is the duel between Achilles and Hector. This is so full of passion and action. I disliked Achilles, he is so full of pride, but he has been hurt to the core during this war too. On the other hand, I loved Hector; he was even-keeled, disliked Helen and Paris for bringing all this destruction with them, but is a powerful warrior. The battle between these two iconic men of their respective sides was a scene I couldn’t tear my eyes from. Despite this being a vastly masculine story element, it is seen from the eyes of a female perspective of Briseis – someone who was once a Trojan but has come to love Achilles, which gives her an interesting perspective. A powerful, powerful story.
The Bow by Libbie Hawker
This is another scene told from a dual perspective spanning the two camps: Penthesilea of the Amazons and Philoctetes. Philoctetes was another one of the characters that I loved in this novel, while Penthesilea was one that I wasn’t a huge fan of. With Penthesilea I didn’t feel like I really knew much about her at all. She wasn’t a character that I had been introduced to previously in this book and she just shows up full of grief. I think I would have liked to have known more about what her life was like prior to arriving at Troy; we see glimpses of it, but I felt a little cheated in getting to know her, unlike the other characters. I didn’t care about the choices she made or what would happen to her, but her battle with Achilles was powerful and a game changer for his character. Speaking of Achilles, Philoctetes influenced him in a different way and vice versa. He was a friend and fellow hero, and he loved Achilles even when it didn’t appear to have been reciprocated. He was extremely refreshing, especially contrasting with Penthesilea who I did not enjoy as much.
The Horse by Vicky Alvear Shecter
I can’t even begin to describe how much I loved the character of Odysseus as written here by Vicky Alvear Shecter! He showed up in several of the chapters in just small doses and I enjoyed each of those moments for the wit of his character and his wiles in the face of the other heroes who were all about direct battle. In his own chapter I was treated to even more of the fun of this man. His manner of speech was oftentimes hilarious and I loved his interactions with Diomedes. Based on her writing of this character I would LOVE to see her take on an interpretation of The Odyssey as I think I would really enjoy her presentation of him taking on all of his epic struggles to get home. In this story, Odysseus brings us closer to the ultimate fall of Troy, and while I found myself identifying with the Trojans more, I couldn’t help but cheer every time Odysseus succeeded where many expected him to fail. Best story of the collection in my opinion, hands down.
The Fall by S.J.A. Turney
As with the opener, Turney has one of the difficult sections in that everything needs to be tied together, and I think that was accomplished here. Aeneas is one of the last of the Trojans and he has been in and out of chapters since the first one so I was happy to have a face closing it out that I knew and actually liked. I think it had to be a truly likable character here because you needed to feel the pain of the fall of Troy. Aeneas exemplifies that not only in what he loses but also because he tries so hard to keep the inevitable from happening, even when he knows it will happen anyway. It leaves the reader with some hope, a slight positive note in a serious chapter. Many of the characters we have gotten to know throughout the novel (those still alive anyway) make some recurrences here and everything felt in place.
Most of these stories worked well and I loved seeing some fan favorites but also some characters that were new to me as well; it helped keep a very old story new and fresh. I had always identified with the Greeks in retellings of this story, but here I found myself favoring the Trojans – it’s amazing what a gifted writer can do with your emotions! I loved digging into some of the deeper history around this time too, much more than you get from Homer and I thought that leaning Troy more toward the way of the Near East was more realistic than toward the Greeks and it helped to create a little line of friction between the two sides. As I stated before, Odysseus in the hands of Shecter blew me away and I find it hard to believe that she struggled to write him as he appears flawless.
Reviews of this book by other bloggers:
Also by the H Team:
The H Team is a loose collection of historical fiction authors that unite to write short story collections. Some of the authors previously collaborated for the following books:
A Day of Fire: A Novel of Pompeii
By Stephanie Dray, Ben Kane, E. Knight, Sophie Perinot, Kate Quinn, and Vicky Alvear Shecter
A Year of Ravens: A Novel of Boudica’s Rebellion
By Ruth Downie, Stephanie Dray, E. Knight, Kate Quinn, Vicky Alvear Shecter, S.J.A. Turney, and Russell Whitfield
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