Famed more for his fantasy work, most notably his Drenai Series and his recent Rigante Quartet, David Gemmell surprised a number of people when he announced that he had ".....nursed a secret yen to write a novel about Troy." And that it was going to be the project that he would be working on for the next 3-4 years, culminating in a trilogy based on Homer's Epic.
When this information made its way to fans of his previous work, a great number of questions came flooding in from around the world, such as : How is he going to do this? Will he depart the Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre in favour of Historical Fiction, and if he did would this novel have the classic trademarks of his other tales that have won him fans the world over? Other questions sprouted from that one acorn and left others wondering if he would have perhaps been better writing it under a pseudonym such as he did with White Knight, Black Swan and to keep writing the novels that the fans want. Or perhaps more worryingly, considering the recent plethora of films and novels connected to the ancient past, would this novel be something that would be better consigned to Pandora's box never to see the light of day?
All these questions and more needed answers but on a personal level, the Troy Trilogy is perhaps something that I've been hoping he would tackle since I read Lion of Macedon as well as Dark Prince, his previous excursions set in the time of Alexander and Phillip II of Macedon. Troy which has so oft been hinted at in previous novels (Ghost King, Last Sword of Power) has obviously held a fascination with him for a number of years and to be honest is something that to many people will have been crying out for an author like David to tackle. After all who was Homer but an ancient ancestor to the modern writer, making the time right, in a new millennium for the tale to have new life breathed into it.
But what does this novel have that will attract the public to part with their cash?
As usual with Gemmell's work the writing is crisp and whilst informative with some basic facts, required to give the reader an understanding into the worlds workings, it doesn't overload them, making them lose interest with the way the novel is expanding. The tale also moves at its own pace and as such the author isn't rushing into events that could well see the reader singled out and left wondering, "Why did that happen?" Or "What does it mean?" Allowing them to draw their own conclusions around the events surrounding the principle characters as well as giving them a greater understanding of how they ply their livelihoods. In fact, pace wise, it moves at the speed of the waves, sometimes quickly, whilst at other times at a more sedate pace, allowing each chapter to unfold to the reader as of they also a member of the expedition, sailing the "great green" side by side with the heroes of ancient history, giving them the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of ancestors thousands of years in the past.
This tale, I feel marks a change in his writing and as such will win him more fans the world over, not only does it keep the loyal followers of David's writing happy with the way in which he bridges the genres but it also offers something a little different in respect to the hero. Although a hero to all, Helikaon (The Golden One) show's a darker side to his personality, something that we've only ever seen in the reverse, a bad guy going good. Through this novel the reader is allowed a glimpse into the darker side of humanity, to see the reverse and as such its refreshing that a writer is prepared to do something that will perhaps shock a great many but also allows the human, emotional side to show through the characters loss. For me that particular scene in the novel more than justifies the cost and as such, with the way the novel finishes makes sure that a great many others will clamour to follow the latest antihero on his next voyage.
It is for this reason he has become perhaps one of the most popular British writers in the world today. Each character has had an incredible amount of time put into their development, allowing the reader to see the full three dimensional emotional character rather than a plain two dimensions, that make the obvious difference between a farcical cartoon stereotype and the heroes to which we are presented by Gemmell. In my opinion, it is this that everyone clamours for and as such will continue Gemmell's reign at the top of the Fantasy tree for many years to come. I await the chance to sail the "great green" again with Helikaon in Shield of Thunder.