The agony and bloodthirstiness of the Greek war of independence that broke out against the Turks in 1821 is emphasized in this historical novel covering the early part of the conflict on both the Greek mainland and islands, at sea as well as on the rocky, impoverished land. This is the war Lord Bryon supported so valiantly, but Petrakis strips away some of its romantic trappings to show Greeks as guilty of plundering, raping and wanton killing as their Turkish oppressors. The novel starts quietly in a small Greek village, focusing on a peaceable priest whose Turkish friend is murdered by a mob when the uprising begins. It builds, horror upon horror, to a climactic assault on the Turkish fortress at Tripolitza that unleashes the full fury of the vengeful Greeks. Petrakis, son of an Eastern Orthodox priest and a writer of novels and stories about Greek-Americans, deserves respect for the realism with which he treats the struggle of his forebears. He refuses to prettify his characters but unfortunately--whether priest, scribe, warrior or wife--they lapse into a stilted, false-poetic speech that also creeps into the narration. It is as though while acknowledging the brutality of the war, Petrakis tried fumblingly to give it a patina of tragic beauty.