Troy: Lord of the Silver Bow
by David Gemmell
Review by Steve Saville
Bantam Press Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 0593052196
Date: 01 September, 2005 List Price £17.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
David Gemmell is quite rightly considered to be the premier British fantasist. The man writes accomplished stories that cannot fail to stir the primal need we all harbour - that desire to find heroes and meaning in our mundane lives. In his worlds we are treated to men whose actions make a difference. Lord of the Silver Bow is no different, indeed, for all that the publisher is branding it as a deviation into new territory, this first book in his examination of the Trojan War is classic Gemmell every inch of the way.
In some ways this is of course detrimental to the books, in that you could comfortably substitute the names of some of Gemmell's better known heroes for these new characters and no one would notice - but I have to admit this is also part of what makes Gemmell so identifiably Gemmell - this is an author who deals in archetypes that resonate within us all. And of course, this is THE story that gave birth to all of those archetypes beloved of Joseph Campbell. It makes sense that Gemmell should be drawn to tell it in his own way.
If you've taken the time to check out the interview elsewhere on the site you'll know well enough that I am a self-confessed Gemmell fanatic and have been since I cracked the spine on Legend twenty years ago and found myself staying up all night to see how the siege of Dros Delnoch played out. Seeing Gemmell finally write the story he was always meant to write is a treat. Initially though, I must confess I had my reservations, I mean, let's be honest here, we've all read this story in one way or another - and oldies like me can probably remember Tony Robinson (that's Baldrick to you Blackadder fans around the world) walking along the beach telling Agamemnon's tragic story. So, my primary fear in picking up Troy was that this was simply going to be yet another re-telling of a well-trodden tale. I needn't have worried though; this is Gemmell we're talking about! You look to him for a certain kind of story - one of heroes told up close and personal.
Lord of the Silver Bow tells the story of three people - Helikaon, Andromache and Argurios the Mykene - and is woven around the famous legends of Troy which concern Agamemnon, Hektor and Odysseus - this last a wonderful re-imagining of the character offered by Homer. The thrust of Lord of the Silver Bow tells of a war that could so easily have been avoided if not for the weaknesses of men.
To call this book vintage Gemmell is easy and lazy but it is, nevertheless, apt. Lord of the Silver Bow is a fast paced read, addictive and damned enjoyable. Now, perhaps for the first time Gemmell has tackled a historically epic tale but he has done so in a truly intimate way, finding heroes in the common man and making us care all over again, despite the fact that we know the story long before we crack open the first page. For me the defining moment of this book is when Odysseus teaches a young Helikaon to fly. I'm not saying any more than that! That single scene is vintage Gemmell and worth the price of admission simply for the reminder that there lurks within us all a hero - one that doesn't have to wield a bronze sword or flex rippling muscles to prove his strength.
It's not hard to identify why, after twenty years of reading, I still love Gemmell's work - there is simply no better exponent of heroic fantasy working in the world today.