The Trojan War has been popular since Homer first told of it in the "Iliad" and, in in our time, has held been the subject of many historical fiction books and movies .... underlining an inherent belief by Homer that this was indeed an immortal tale.
While Hollywood has made the story fit its own ends, and sometimes rarely rising above the trite ... not so for many of the great books that are available now.
The following authors each have a unique take on what is really an endlessly varying tale. They bring the story alive again for us with skillful writing, realistic dialogue and characterisations and different perspectives which, although we know the tragedy of it, still keep us enthralled - as it has since Homer first held his audiences spellbound.
Achilles drags Hector's body around the walls of Troy
The Song of Troy
Employing her incredible skills as a master storyteller, Colleen McCullough tells of the downfall of Troy from the differing perspectives of the main protoganists.
The characters at once dazzle us and cause us to alternate our allegiances, swinging our sympathies from Greece to Troy and back again, depending on which character is telling that part of the story.
It is a compelling, fascinating, novel which shows readers of every generation the unforgettable power of a story that lies deep at the heart of Western culture, and still resonates today.
Helen of Troy
I haven't read Margaret George's "Helen" - but going by her Memoirs of Cleopatra", it should be a good read about the woman of legend whose face launched a thousand ships.
The Adventures of Odysseus
For anyone loving the stories about the Trjan War, then Glyn Iliffe’s series (The Adventures of Odysseus) is a must for you.
Beginning with the King of Ithaca (2008) Iliffe’s novels re-tell this favourite and ancient tale with a freshness that brings to life again the fateful events that ended up in Troy’s destruction and the beginning of legends that still enthral people 3000 years later.
Iliffe is no writer of turgid prose. She combines masterly writing skills with imagination as she recreates the legend of Troy and the principal characters who lived out the story.
She has essentially retained the most important elements of the Illiad and The Odyssey but rendered them in modern parlance – and it all works well, very well.
Iliffe has understated the role of the gods, and this fits well with modern sensibilities, yet allows her to be faithful to the original yarn – which after all is mostly myth and legend. It is no “Clash of the Titans” corn.
What she has done is highlight the role of Odysseus and this allows the breadth of the original to be followed as Odysseus was the only one who was mainly present at all the significant steps that led to the war.
The first two books deal with the myths that surround the Odysseus and the beginnings of the Trojan war. The third book focuses on the 10th and final year of the war.
King Of Ithaca (2008)The Gates of Troy (2009)The Armour of Achilles) (2010)
The War at Troy
Lindsay Clarke too breathes vigorous new life into the myth's of Homer's Iliad through his dramatic retelling of the wars fought for the Bronze Age City of Troy.
Paris and Helen, Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, Achilles, Odysseus and Hector are skilfully rejuvenated in a startlingly contemporary drama of the passions.
The stories of the war at Troy -- of the way it began, of the way it was fought, and of the way in which it was ended.
Phemius the bard of Ithaca and friend to Odysseus, opens Clarke's compelling retelling of the myths and legends that grew up around the war that was fought for Bronze Age Troy and have magnetized the imagination of the world ever since.
The Return from Troy
This is the second part of the retelling of the stories surrounding the Trojan War. Beginning after after the sacking of Troy, it covers Odysseus's trials and Agamemnon's fate, retelling the myths surrounding the Trojan War.
In two parts the final novel begins by covering the return of Agamemnon to Mycenae, his murder by his wife Clytemnestra in revenge for sacrificing their daughter and the consequences of that killing.
The second part focuses on the adventures of Odysseus on his long struggle to return home to Ithaca and his wife Penelope. Both volumes end in an Afterword; relating the mythological themes and motifs of the stories to crucial aspects of contemporary experience.
Daughter of Troy
Author Sarah B Franklin recounts the tragedy of Troy as the rightful-born queen of Lyrnessos, Briseis watched helplessly from the battlements as her husband and brothers were crushed by the invincible army of King Agamemnon. Taken into slavery, the proud, beautiful seer became the prize of Prince Achilles, the conquering Greeks' mightiest hero.
Franklin's book tells of passion and jealousy - Achilles promising Briseis that she would be his consort, and the jealousy of Agamemnon, complicated by the whims of the capricious deities who would deny the lovers their happiness.
Adele Geras portrays the last weeks of the Trojan War when the women were tired of tending the wounded, the men sick of fighting - and the Gods are bored and start to find ways to stir the pot.
I haven't read this - but it looks to be an interesting take on the subject.
Colleen McCullough’s “The Song of Troy” is a better read.
David Gemmell's Trilogy on Troy
This series more properly belongs in historical fantasy, but included here for neatness sake - which is not one of my strong points! Incidentally it is also true of his excellent two novels on Alexander the Great.
Gemmell is a writer of great skill because he imbues his protoganists with a humanity that we can relate to and feel for - regardless whether it's a mythic hero from our own world or one from a world created in his imagination.
In his Trojan trilogy, Gemmell's Lord of the Silver Bow is Aeneas and tells his story of events leading to the Trojan War, its unfolding and what happened afterwards.
I don't particularly like historical re-workings in the fantasy mold - as I believe there is enough "magic" in the original stories. But Gemmell gets away with it - probably because I like both his subjects - Alexander and Troy.
The genre David Gemmell really excelled at is Fantasy – he is a master story teller who can create another world and make it seem and feel real - believable heroes, ripping action and sheer good writing. Click for more of Gemmell in the Fantasy section.