Lord of the Silver Bow: Big, bold, heroic and surprisingly good

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fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsLord of the Silver Bow by David Gemmell historical fiction book reviewsLord of the Silver Bow by David Gemmell

I tried reading David Gemmell‘s Lord of the Silver Bow about 9 months before I actually read it. It was heavy, plodding, and confusing. I was looking for a fun story full of action and adventure, and I love history… but, alas, I stopped reading after about 50 pages, and kind of figured that I was simply beyond the age when testosterone-fueled adventures could carry a story. I gave it a second shot, and it turns out, I was wrong. This first in Gemmell’s trilogy that retells the story of the Trojan War is enjoyable, fun, and surprisingly deep.

Gemmell’s language and themes are audacious and often mythic. The story and themes are soaked in an age of heroism when Gods were considered real, and honor and courage were as coveted as bronze. The dialogue drives big and bold themes, addressed by bigger and bolder men (mostly), and acted upon in the most courageous (and sometimes cowardly) ways. This isn’t a fantasy novel. This is historical fiction… taking nuggets from the well-trodden story of Troy, and molding them into a new shining historical epic.

No force under the stars is more powerful than hatred.

War’s a’ brewin’ on the wine-dark sea, and Aeneas, known by his nickname Helikaon, isn’t helping the situation through his enflamed vendetta against the Mykene general Kolanos. Aeneas is at the center of Lord of the Silver Bow, and he has anger issues. He would go on, as legend would tell, to establish one the greatest of ancient empires: Rome. He’s one of the most respected men across the Aegaen despite the fact that he’s beloved in the East and hated in the West.

Battlefield philosophy rings loudly throughout the book. Helikaon states,

A great man once told me there can be no courage without fear. He was right. Remember that when your belly trembles and your legs grow weak.

And later, Odysseus says,

A man who rushes into battle fearlessly is not a hero. He is merely a strong man with a big sword. An act of courage requires the overcoming of fear.

One of the most predominant and heavy themes is the consideration of what makes a person good or bad… moral or evil. Not unlike the gods of Greek mythology, the characters in Lord of the Silver Bow all have aspects of weakness. While the deeds and emotions are enormous, very few characters are pure evil or purely heroic. Their decisions and actions are just ‘right’ enough, or just ‘wrong’ enough to balance the scales towards one end or the other. An Egyptian joins Helikaon’s crew and brings his own brand of philosophical views into the equation and he embraces the inherent contradiction of the human state of being. He states that good and evil are in everyone and at constant war.

All of us are capable of great compassion and love or hatred and horror. Sadly, we can take joy from both.

In another theme, Gemmell’s characters explore loss and the context of what it means, and its lasting impact. The emotions felt by the characters are deep and acute. And in the context of this story, with all of its mythological proportions, the sometimes melodramatic emotions fit. Who wouldn’t feel the internal slice of a lost love; or the death of someone close? The pain doesn’t slip away quickly or easily.

Lord of the Silver Bow is a terrific book. Your expectations must revolve around the fact that this is a fictional retelling of the enormous, and enormously dramatic, historical-fantasy of The Illiad. In that context, the book hits on almost all cylinders.

Gemmell’s TROY trilogy continues with book two, Shield of Thunder.

Published in 2005. He is a man of many names. Some call him the Golden One; others, the Lord of the Silver Bow. To the Dardanians, he is Prince Aeneas. But to his friends, he is Helikaon. Strong, fast, quick of mind, he is a bold warrior, hated by his enemies, feared even by his Trojan allies. For there is a darkness at the heart of the Golden One, a savagery that, once awakened, can be appeased only with blood. Argurios the Mykene is a peerless fighter, a man of unbending principles and unbreakable will. Like all of the Mykene warriors, he lives to conquer and to kill. Dispatched by King Agamemnon to scout the defenses of the golden city of Troy, he is Helikaon’s sworn enemy. Andromache is a priestess of Thera betrothed against her will to Hektor, prince of Troy. Scornful of tradition, skilled in the arts of war, and passionate in the ways of her order, Andromache vows to love whom she pleases and to live as she desires. Now fate is about to thrust these three together–and, from the sparks of passionate love and hate, ignite a fire that will engulf the world. Readers who know the works of David Gemmell expect nothing less than excellence from this author, whose taut prose, driving plots, and full-bodied characters have won him legions of fans the world over. Now, with this first masterly volume in an epic reimagining of the Trojan War, Gemmell has written an ageless drama of brave deeds and fierce battles, of honor and treachery, of love won and lost.

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JASON GOLOMB, who joined us in September 2015, graduated with a degree in Communications from Boston University in 1992, and an M.B.A. from Marymount University in 2005. His passion for ice hockey led to jobs in minor league hockey in Baltimore and Fort Worth, before he returned to his home in the D.C. metro area where he worked for America Online. His next step was National Geographic, which led to an obsession with all things Inca, Aztec and Ancient Rome. But his first loves remain SciFi and Horror, balanced with a healthy dose of Historical Fiction.

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One comment

  1. Sounds like an interesting departure.

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