FIRES IN THE SKY by Phillip Parotti


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A defeated Trojan general tells the story of his life--and reveals how Troy and the House of Priam came to be strategically weakened even before the start of the famous war that was to destroy their kingdom. From early boyhood, Dymas, son of Kalitor, is trained in the arts of soldiering and war, but only in his 18th year does he begin to grow aware of the nepotism and political divisiveness that are eating away at the strength of the kingdom from within. At 16, fighting against the barbarian Mysians under the gifted (but out-of-favor) general Polydamas, Dymas learns the extent to which king Priam blindly favors his own sons and relatives over far more capable but common-born military leaders--and the extent to which the evil-intriguing queen Hecuba pursues her own dynastic intrigues even at the expense of sound overall policy. Dymas himself will fall into the ruthless clutches of the beautiful but sexually degenerate and cruel Atalante, twin sister of the Aphrodite-beguiled Paris, and will thus learn at firsthand the terrible destructiveness of letting passion prevail over reason. Parotti labors manfully here to weave these sexual-intrigue elements into a part of the whole cloth (disappointingly, in this otherwise realistic novel, the Judgment of Paris is conveyed in conventionally supernatural terms), and although there are moments of high and Mary Renault-like success, he is more consistently authoritative on the military side--in the fine detail of Dymas' boyhood training, the vivid but unsensationalized portrayal of battle, the dramatizing of the Military Council's self-interested refusal to permit a build-up at sea, resulting in the costly and protracted land war against the Mysians that left Troy exhausted in its subsequent challenge from the Argive Greeks. More constrained by the demands of plot than Parotti's earlier books (The Greek Generals Talk, 1986; The Trojan Generals Talk, 1988), this one declines sometimes into the telegraphically hastened and artificial (""If the rumor is tree, they will soon be in a good strategic position to control all access to the central Aegean""), but, on balance, Parotti offers once again an often engaging, sometimes moving, and painstakingly exact look into the lost world of a grand but flawed Troy.

Pub Date: Sept. 25th, 1990
Publisher: Ticknor & Fields/Houghton Mifflin