on 16 February 2004
Having read and enjoyed all of Manfredi’s previous work, I found myself slightly disappointed with this latest offering. To be fair, there is much to enjoy in this book. Manfredi’s writing paints a vivid and compelling picture of the ancient world while his battle scenes are as ferocious and breathless as ever. The problem with this book is simply that it is too short. In trying to describe the fate of the legendary Greek heroes of the Trojan War, Manfredi could easily have filled all of the space used in his excellent Alexander trilogy. Instead, he attempts to tell a long and complicated story in one relatively short volume. Inevitably, the plot becomes extremely complex and while some periods of the story are told in rich detail, others are skimmed over with little more than a cursory explanation. The ending of the book is also extremely abrupt and one is left with the impression that, in writing The Talisman of Troy, Manfredi becomes almost as lost as his hero, Diomedes. If you enjoyed Manfredi’s earlier work then this is worth a look, but let’s hope that a bit more space and better editing will signal a return to form with his next effort.
Manfredi is a prolific author of historical novels, including books written focusing on Alexander the Great, and many books on the Greek heroic age and the heroes written of by Homer and ancient authors.
This book was first published in 1994, and is also published under the title `Heroes'. In it, Manfredi has addressed the tales of the heroes who left Troy after the fall of the city and the death of Paris and Priam. The Trojan War was over, and it remained only for the survivors of Troy to flee with Aeneas, and for the heroes of the Greek and allied armies to return home. But for many of those heroes, the journey home was as arduous as the War had been, and many faced terrible danges on the way, and death on their return.
The book features largely the story of Diomedes, son of Tydeus and King of Argos. On his return home he finds that his queen, Aigialeia is seeking to kill him and his returning warriors for her own purposes and he flees again with his warriors to find safety elsewhere. In the meantime, we read of the tales of Menelaus, reunited with his queen Helen; Agamemnon, who returned home to be betrayes by his wife Clytemnestra; Nestor, who returned home to safety and old age. Over the years the heroes struggled to find sanctuary, many suffering the torments of the gods for their actions at Troy and after. And linked to them all is the talisman of Troy, the tale of a great power that many seek. The lands are racked with unrest, ill omens, invasions by the Sea Peoples. And the next generation seek their own revenge - Electra, Orestes, Pyrrhus.
This is a pretty good read; the author has taken the tales of Homer, and the tragedies of Aeshylus, Sophocles and Euripides, and Virgil's Aenead, and woven the ancient tales into a narrative that is meaningful to modern ears and tastes. While retaining the myths and the Gods, and the way of live of the ancient peoples of Greece and the Aegean, he has successfully transmitted a feeling of timelessness to these tales of hope, loss, tragedy, betrayal, loyalty, love and war.
on 8 February 2005
I was dissappointed more with this book not only because of its lethargic pace but also because I expected more from the author. Manfredi guides you through the trials of Diomedes. After attempting to build up these trials into what you would hope to be an exciting extavagant climax Manfredi leaves you unsatisfied and a feeling of being cheated out of the ending you feel you deserve. The other side of the story following Menelaus and other Homeric characters is far more interesting and its unfortunate Manfredi didn't base his tale on that.
on 21 July 2004
An anticlimax to say the least, i have read all of his translated novels, but this is by far the biggest letdown.
The whole book appeared to be leading up to a pivitol moment, and it just never arrives. I cannot put into words what a dissapointing attempt this is. "The Spartan" and the Alexander Trilogy are in my opinion very good, i really enjoyed them. But this, I just thought that it was not good at all. Do not buy this; buy any of his other books, except maybe the "Last Legion".
on 3 August 2004
Having read Manfredi's other works including the excellent Alexander The Great trilogy I was left rather cold and quite frankly bored by his whole take on the events following the fall of Troy. The plot doesn't flow - indeed there doesn't seem to be one, the action is poorly scripted and the writing doesn't create any empathy or understanding of the central character Diomedes.
on 25 January 2005
While I have read engaging and enlightening historical novels, I would not count this among them, because the author's attempt to infuse the text with pathos in the style of the Illiad and the Odyssey fails to convince.
I had trouble feeling for the hero Diomedes, whose story serves to carry the plot, but elicits hardly any of the emotion which has kept these myths present as the archetypes of drama to this day.
I can't judge the historical relevance of the author's conjecture, but conjecture is not why I take issue with the text: it's simply written by numbers and finishing it was a chore.
The ending felt like an afterthought - rushed, as if the only criterion had been to stay within a page limit.
on 15 May 2013
Not as good as his other books that are really good reads. Boring narrative for the Talisman of Troy. Told in the style of the Homeric Heroes. Just goes on and on and on. No substance to the characters.
This Homer inspired tale fills in the space between "The Illiad" and "The Odyssey" with a history of the various Kings, Queens and heroes who survived the famous War at Troy.
The narrative chiefly follows the wanderings of Diomedes, one of the Achaen warrior-kings who has fought alongside Achilles, Agamemnon, Ajax and the rest of the famous fighting force. These are a well judged balance of realistic travel (the bronze wielding Greeks encounter iron swords for the first time)and mysticism (the Old Man of the Sea is particularly memorable.) In fairness, though, these journeys do drag on a bit, we sympathise with our narrator when he says "The mountains seemed to have no end in the land of the Hesperia just as one day, long ago now, it had seemed... the plains were without end."(p220)
When the scene shifts to the more famed characters and scenes, Argos, Helen, Menelaus, the story is much more punchy and seems to mean more. Diomedes' past exploits in Troy seem much more interesting than the meandering we witness him engaged in. Eventually, Diomedes' past catched up with him for a dramatic finale but this also serves to lessen the importance of much of what has gone before.
Manfredi is good with describing battles , particularly the one-on-one hero vs hero fight Homer excels in describing. Orestes' clash with Pyrrhus being a highlight.
All in all, a good modern version of stories about some of the most enduring of literary characters, it wears its detailed research lightly. Perhaps unfortunately, some of the most fascinating of the characters, Penelope, Clytemestra, Electra, are not given prominence.
on 3 September 2010
I can see the cleverness of the idea, a novelization of the aftermath of the siege of Troy. As such it blends the distinctive style of the epic tales from the period with a more modern narrative.
As to the story, it became caught up in the traditional tragic style of excessive pride, leading to bad decisions and consequent disaster. I was expecting the lead character to found a great city. I thought the two Helens plot was ridiculous and the multiple talismans were another weak device to explain the significance of the Trojan war.
This novel was constrained by the need to link to the original material and whilst it was able to break out occasionally the net result is not as bold or refreshing as it could have been.
on 5 November 2009
Firstly, I have to say that I bought this book after reading Manfredi's excellent novel `The Last Legion' and started reading this with all the due expectation that it would be another inspiring piece of historical - if what somewhat author licenced - ancient Greek fiction. However, it seems that my own opinions of this book appear to be quite similar to alot of other peoples thoughts on the story.
To be honest, I really wanted to stop reading it after about 120 pages, but stuck with it and it actually got a little better in the middle, before the author decided to kill everyone off in a last few silly paragraphs, which I feel was either the result of the author being extremely lazy, or the publishing company pushing a deadline that hurried the ending on the author. You decide !
I also had some major issues with a book. Introducing characters with no description, history or characteristics that just appear in and out of a novel and the author think that the reader will find this lack of narrative acceptable ? If you want in-depth characters - DO NOT READ THIS BOOK (reminder me of Pressfields Alexander) ! A constant repeating of what one character says being repeated by an second person ! Greek heroes that all decide to commit suicide on the rocks and abandon their wives and children rather than fight a couragous battle to the end like the glorious 300 ? The brief inserts of Greek mythology, soothsayers and creatures just do not work and detract from the storyline. The Greek `heroes' one minute being immensely brave and then the next attacking unarmed and helpless villagers ! Oh you brave Greeks conquerors of troy !!!
Lastly, the book is supposed to be about Diomedes and his fight to find and build a new city and civilization, but of the 275 page novel only about 100-125 pages are dedicated to this - the other 150-175 taken up with Menelaus's fight with the Queens of Greece uprising against their husbands to once again control the country. Funny how the people who wrote the book managed to miss that off the back of the book !!
Hugely dissapointing, though I will certainly give the author another chance due to the enjoyment of the The Last Legion. 2 out of 5 (just for the middle !)