Monday, November 29, 2010

Not the movie with Brad Pitt, but way, way, WAY better

So one day I found myself mindlessly walking the aisles of a local bookstore when I found myself drawn to this small young adult novel -- Troy by Adèle Geras. Of course, I couldn't resist after reading the synopsis at the back and knowing that it was shortlisted for the Whitbread, the Publisher's Weekly list of best books for the year, and the Carnegie Medal.

If you're like me who is endlessly fascinated with the world of Greek mythology, then this book is THE book that you should read this year. I was wondering why it didn't become popular when it first came out in 2000. Perhaps the publishers have thought to reprint this work and package it as something with action, romance, and supernatural creatures. But this isn't Twilight territory though.

Troy is basically a retelling of Homer's The Iliad. You get to meet all the historical characters -- Achilles, Hector, Paris, King Priam, Helen, and Andromache, among others. It's set during the Trojan War, when Greeks and Trojans were battling it out in the plains because of Helen. Caught in the narrative of the novel are two sisters, Marpessa and Xanthe, who both fall in love with the same man, an injured nobleman named Alastor.

It's wonderful to read a novel wherein Greek gods and goddesses are characters themselves in the book. When Xanthe falls in love with Alastor first, it is because of Eros's arrow. Marpessa completes the love triangle because of a whim from Aphrodite. Soon, major gods show up and interact with the human characters -- Ares, Poseidon, Athena, Hades, and even Zeus himself. I love Greek mythology. Greek gods and goddesses have very "human" characteristics. They play favorites. They destroy things that don't take their fancy. They love and kill as they please.

Several reviews have pointed out that this is the story of Troy told from a feminist perspective, and yes, I agree. When Hector leaves Troy to fight Achilles on the plain, it is the thoughts and feelings of his wife, Andromache, that we experience. The terrible consequences of war on soldiers who get injured during battle are told through the eyes of Xanthe, who is also a healer in Troy's Blood Room. We also get to read about Helen's anguish when Troy is besieged on the night they let in the Trojan Horse inside the city's walls.

Troy is very readable, too. As YA fiction, it can provide a good background of Greek mythology to young readers who may not be prepared for Edith Hamilton. As historical fiction, it's gripping. The novel comprises several short chapters, making it a light but engaging read.

Read this book if:
  1. You read everything with Greek mythology.
  2. You love gods and goddesses.
  3. You're craving for sickly sweet romance and bloody battles at the same time.


GREYZ said...

I think this is a typo, -When Xanthe falls in love with Xanthe first-

Great review. :) And it is great to actually read a review from a guy. We don't have much guy reviewers nowadays.

Peter S. said...

Hi, Greyz! Thanks for that!

Linda said...

Sounds really good. I'll have to keep an eye out for that. Thanks!

Peter S. said...

You're very much welcome, Linda!

lyzacruz88 said...

I love gods and goddesses!

Peter S. said...

Me too!

Suko said...

Terrific review, Peter. Interesting to note that this story of Troy is told from a feminist perspective. It has been too long since I visited your blog (and you write clearly and well).

Peter S. said...

Hello, Suko! Thanks! I think that it's brilliant that this story is told from women's POV. It was really refreshing!