Troy: Shield of Thunder
by David Gemmell
Cover Artist: Craig Howell
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Ballantine Books Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780345477026
Date: 26 December 2007 List Price $14.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
[Editor's Note: This review originally ran in our March 2007 issue.]
It was with a sad heart that I read this tale, the last novel Gemmell completed before his death in 2006. Some good news for readers is that he had completed substantial parts of the concluding tale prior to his death and his wife will complete his final work, Troy: Fall of Kings. I won't speculate a great deal as to the contents and scope of the third tale, but the title may hint at a deeper meaning.
The wine-dark seas are covered in chaos. The allies of Priam and Agamemnon are pillaging the Aegean. As the battles intensify, the world is drawn closer to the siege of Troy.
The shield of thunder is the mark of Athena that identifies the mother of the king who will rule until the end of kings. Priam's goal of marrying Hector to the bearer of this mark will be the basis for some of the subplot in this tale. Two warriors betrayed by their king find a new home and friends, but war threatens their new lives. Heliakon recovers from wounds received in recent battles to protect Troy. A reluctant Odysseus tries to stay neutral in the escalating violence. But neither side seems to want anyone to remain undeclared and he may be forced to fight a man he has considered a son. The greatest Greek kings and heroes travel to Troy for the wedding of Hector. During the games Hector and Achilles face off for the first but not last time.
This is Gemmell at his best, developing tragic and flawed heroes. He tells a familiar tale from a slightly different perspective. He combines the familiar heroes of Homer and Virgil and gives them new life. He does not get stuck in the forms of the past. Odysseus is the greatest storyteller of the time. You can see the roots of the Odyssey in the tales he spins for his fellow travelers. Hector is brought more fully to life. Achilles may be a bit more of a parody with his hugely inflated ego, but then again this is the character who pouts for years because someone took his woman. The reference to a city of seven hills should be recognized by many readers. It also explains a deeper meaning to the choice of destinations for Virgil's hero.
The story is fast-paced and enjoyable. One personal issue is that a part of me just wants to get to the siege of Troy. I enjoyed the wedding celebration section. One thing that readers should note is that many of the "heroes" of this tale are despicable. The kings and leaders on both sides are not that likable. They are definitely flawed and power-hungry. Neither Priam nor Agamemnon is likable. The most likable characters are the two soldiers Kalliades and Banokles. Banokles is your typical Gemmell larger-than-life big man, strong and simple but loyal to the end.
So raise the sails, man the oars, and prepare for a good read.