Firstly, this is far better than the cover seems to indicate: it looks a bit young, but actually this would be good for ages 12-16, as well as anyone else wanting a complete re-telling of all the various stories created at various times that go to make up the Trojan cycle.
Shepherd tells the stories well though the various elements are, inevitably condensed in order to fit it into about 80 pages. This starts with the wedding of Peleus and Thetis which prompts the judgement of Paris, and ends with Orestes’ killing of Neoptolemus, the son of Achilles. Homer’s Iliad is, then, merely the bit in the middle.
My one niggle is that this book gives the impression that all these myths and stories were originally somehow organic, and that they relate back to a single, ‘true’ story – an ur-text. That simply isn’t the case, and isn’t the way that myth and literature work. So this is a combined retelling of a myriad of sources stretching across 1000 years in the classical period alone including Homer, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Virgil and Statius, to mention just a few. And what Shepherd calls ‘a curse’ in his bibliography – that all these ‘rival’ stories complicate and contest each other – is actually a testament to the way in which literature re-engages with previous stories for each new generation.
The Trojan stories continued to be re-worked at later times: Edmund Spenser, for example, writing in London in 1590, has the Trojan line intersect with the Tudor lineage so that Elizabeth I is the culmination of Priam’s line. So, in some ways, the story continues beyond the parameters of this book.
If you’re looking for a sound re-telling of the Trojan cycle or a book to support school teaching, or simply want a linear recounting of these still potent stories, then this is a good starting point – and, hopefully, will whet an appetite for exploring the diverse poetic and dramatic sources on which this story is based.
(This review is from an ARC courtesy of the publisher)
on 29 April 2015
Osprey have a reputation for high quality books containing accurate & detailed infomation, along with colour drawings and photos on military history.
In this book, and the series it belongs to, Osprey turn their eye for detail to myths and legends with great effect.
Having said that, the book still remains easy to read and accessible for all readers, it's being only 80 pages long and each page having one often two pictures or illustrations to break up the text.