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BLACK SHIPS BEFORE TROY by Rosemary Sutcliff


The Story of The Iliad

by Rosemary Sutcliff & illustrated by Alan Lee

Age Range: 10 & up

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-385-31069-2
Publisher: Delacorte

Among the late author's finest books are renditions of the Arthurian legend; to this re-creation of the classic epic, she brought the same compelling vision and sensitivity to language, history, and heroics. Beginning with Discord's apple, inscribed "To the fairest" (it set off the competition among goddesses that led to Paris's abduction of Helen), she centers on Achilles and Hector while also recounting such significant events as Paris and Menelaus' single combat (inconclusive because Aphrodite meddles, as gods frequently do here), the funeral games honoring Patroclus, the Amazons' death in battle, and Odysseus' devious exploits. Described in vivid, exquisitely cadenced prose, both sides behave with nobility, though Sutcliff's Trojan War also involves atrocity (Hector's body dragged by Achilles' chariot), posturing, loss, and despair. After ten years, the remaining Greeks--with Helen, willingly restored to a husband whose first impulse is to kill her, plus the captive royal Trojan women--set sail for home, leaving Troy in flames; and though Sutcliff has focused on their honor and courage, she ensures that it's the ironic futility of their venture that lingers in the mind. Lee's subtly muted watercolors, on most spreads, surpass even his fine illustrations for Merlin Dreams (1988). Carefully researched, delicately detailed, rich in character and action, they beautifully evoke the setting and heroic ambience. A splendid offering, bringing the ancient tale to new and vibrant life. (Fiction. 10+)