Forget warring Greeks and Trojans: Gemmell’s splendidly plotted saga bears little resemblance to Homer, save for a certain coincidence of names.
In the first of a projected trilogy from British fantasist Gemmell (The Swords of Night and Day, 2004, etc.), Prince Helikaon (Aeneas) of Dardania trades far and wide across the stormy Great Green (Mediterranean Sea). He has built for himself a huge vessel that his detractors predict will swiftly come to ruin. With his bald sidekick, Zidantas, Helikaon has affronted King Agamemnon of Mykene by killing the pirates whose activities the megalomaniacal Agamemnon tacitly encourages. Meanwhile, Dardania’s ally, the tyrannical but capable Priam of Troy, has alienated or killed his sons—with the exception of the great warrior Hektor, presently away fighting with the Hittites against Egypt. Priam now summons the strong, beautiful priestess Andromache to be Hektor’s bride; she takes passage aboard voyager and storyteller Odysseus’ ship. Aboard Helikaon’s vessel sails the fearsome Mykene warrior Argurios, patiently awaiting his chance to challenge Helikaon in battle. Treacherous Kolanos, captain of three Mykene pirate ships, also thirsts for Helikaon’s blood. At Blue Owl Bay, Helikaon falls instantly for Andromache and survives several assassination attempts. Kolanos abducts, tortures and kills Zidantas. Mad with rage and grief, Helikaon chases Kolanos out to sea, destroying one ship and capturing another; as Kolanos flees, Helikaon burns the captured ship—along with 50 Mykene captives. As the blood feud deepens, the action moves to Troy, where there are love interests, vicious betrayals, rousing battles and much foreshadowing of events to come.
Thoroughly captivating: Gemmell’s fully-realized characters and their struggles exert a powerful attraction.