- File Size: 1616 KB
- Print Length: 444 pages
- Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
- Publisher: Knight Media, LLC (October 18, 2016)
- Publication Date: October 18, 2016
- Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B01JUYIEO0
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #264,095 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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A Song of War: a novel of Troy Kindle Edition
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Top Customer Reviews
The novel starts off with Kate Quinn's portrayal of the wedding of Odysseus and Penelope. This is great fun because, with her trademark humor, she introduces us to many of the players in the story to come. And her portrayal of Helen--contemptuous of the men who have traumatized and traded her, a shrewd judge of character, and the ultimate hard, gritty survivor--is a breathtakingly fresh new take on the woman whose face allegedly launched a thousand ships. It's the reader's first clue that this book is not going to take the Iliad at face value, but is going to grapple with it as a much more human story.
We're next introduced by an even darker character. Stephanie Thornton's Cassandra. There is a truly delicious pleasure of an unreliable and unrelatable heroine who, nevertheless, touches your heart. With lovely prose, and some hair-raising moments, Thornton pulls off quite a trick here with the daughter of Priam who is cursed to see the future but never be believed.
By this point in the story, the high king of the Greeks has sacrificed his beloved daughter, supposedly at the command of the gods, so that he can set sail to make war on Troy. Agamemnon is a hard, horrible man in the Iliad. And he is no less so in Russ Whitfield's story. But what Whitfield does is something extraordinary. His is a story about a bad man who wonders if he can be redeemed; a man who has committed an unspeakably evil act who seeks an answer to the question if that one act will define him. And the inevitable answer, of course, made me weep. Because it did, this was my favorite story in the collection, which is saying quite a bit because these stories were all so good that it was stiff competition.
Christian Cameron follows next with a story of Achilles. Well, more properly, a story of Briseis. And it's another story that defies expectations. In the Iliad, Achilles is hard to love; in truth, he's hard to even understand as a human being. Through the eyes of a war prize, this story makes a feint at explaining the man who sulks in his tent, and Cameron does it in Homeric style.
Libbie Hawker takes the enviable slot of killing off both Achilles and Paris. Spoiler! Her story takes us a bit away from the central cast of characters, and perhaps stands out because of this, but was deeply satisfying.
Then, in the penultimate story, we have Vicky Alvear Shecter's story of Odysseus. We've already met him, of course, in other stories. And throughout the book, the dialog and drama sparkles whenever the king of Ithaca is on the page. As war-weary as he is clever, Odysseus is a more modern hero--one who often works as a stand-in for the reader, now sick of all the battle and gore. Odysseus is sick of it too. He wants to go home and he's willing to think outside the box to make that happen. Whether that means an honorable settlement, or a dishonorable trick, Odysseus doesn't care. He's just done. And it's in that crucible of very human frustration that he actually finds his own personal glory--and an idea that changes the world. Shecter is brilliant in this concise and telling little story!
SJA Turney has the unenviable task of ending the song of utter destruction and mayhem on a hopeful note. For this, like Virgil, he chooses Aeneas as his avatar, and it works perfectly. Aeneas is no ordinary Trojan. He's stolid and boring and dutiful and just the sort of person who actually can be trusted to govern a new civilization. Turney's prose and clever authorial tricks to keep the plot moving forward in unlikely ways deserves mad praise.
I very much enjoyed this book. I read it late into the night. With pleasure and delight. It gave me a new window into the Trojan War, and a new way to look at one of mankind's oldest stories.
That being said, there were parts of the book I liked. I enjoyed the chapters focusing on Andromache, Helenus, and Cassandra. I liked how Helen was portrayed as a scheming b**ch and Paris was kind of a pretty idiot, instead of the typical tragic star-crossed lovers. I liked that it has led me to seek out other novels about these characters.
I really wanted to like this, but overall, it's just OK. If you can get it for free and absolutely need something for the beach, go for it. Otherwise, I'd suggest reading one of the earlier two stories.
In their telling, the collective decided to forgo the mythic, god-meddling basis for the conflict, and so everything that unfolds is due to human foible and folly: greed, envy, pride, selfishness, a mistaken sense of honor. Helen ends up their villain -- tough, calculating, determined to be free -- and even when she's unrepentant, I couldn't help but like her. (She is one of the many figures who isn't presented with her own POV piece, which I actually enjoyed. We none of us get to find out just what exactly she thinks and feels. Is she a monster? A tragic figure? Both!)
The inimitable Kate Quinn opens the collection beautifully, not only setting the stage for this horrific conflict, but introducing many of the key players through the eyes of her narrators, Trojans Andromache and Hellenus. To my delight, Quinn and co-author Stephanie Thornton, who pens Cassandra's chapter, decided to cast twins Cassandra and Hellenus as biracial, a small tweak I found very meaningful and greatly appreciated.
Cassandra has always been a favorite of mine, and I loved Thornton's take on the frustrated prophetess, a woman driven to madness when everyone ignores her.
Russell Whitfield's offering, from Agamemnon's point of view, lingers with me still as a particularly poignant and imaginative piece. Ostensibly a villain, Whitfield rather successful evoked in me some empathy and pity for the beleaguered king, and offered a humanizing look at why these warriors still pursued this seemingly futile war.
Christian Cameron and Libbie Hawker both presented female warriors in their pieces -- Cameron with Briseis, Achilles' war prize taken by Agamemnon; and Hawker with Penthislea, the Amazon warrior who captures Achilles' heart. I confess I'm one to gloss over fight scenes, but Cameron's chariot scene is so cinematic, it's breathtaking. In both cases, I was grateful to see women as soldiers in ways that felt authentic rather than intrusive or anachronistic.
Hawker also imagines Philoctetes, owner of Hercules' bow and Paris' killer, as a gay man, and in her author's note she writes about how important it was for her to present a gay character as a hero. This small change, like that of Hellenus and Cassandra, hardly alters the original story yet makes the reading of it so much more rich and interesting.
Odysseus -- who I suspect will be a fan favorite -- is charming throughout the entire book, and Vicky Alvear Shecter's chapter from his point of view is bitterly funny and achingly sad, and it sets up the tragic conclusion, written by SJA Turney, beautifully. Turney, and by extension his Aeneas, have the unenviable task of wrapping up all these disparate threads, and noble Aeneas proves perfect for the task.
Another knockout read, one that is more battle-oriented than I am normally drawn to, but stuffed full of delicious emotional drama and angst. I didn't want to linger with the conflict anymore, and yet I still felt intense loss leaving everyone, a credit to the authors for creating such wonderful, evocative figures.
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