“Star Rating” – I don’t do that on this site. It’s not fair to readers or writers. I could give both Homer’s The Odyssey and Adam’s The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy 5 stars – but that doesn’t mean they are equal, and it’s very possible to enjoy one and hate the other (you will find a star-rating on Amazon from me because Amazon forces me to give it one). Here’s what I will say:
Summary (non-spoiler) of Book and Quick Q&A
Daniel’s historical fiction takes full advantage of its source material – both its strengths and weaknesses – to weave a tale from the final days of the mythic Trojan War. He captures the full grandeur of its heroes on both sides (Hector, Achilles, Priam, Agamemnon, Odysseus, and many others). Though a new telling, most of these famous characters feel true to personas we’ve associated with all of them. But he also takes advantage the conflicting source material to spurn some of the details (and timeline) to form another account, no less probable than any of the authoritative sources, and more in tune with the tastes of audiences in the modern West. Perhaps the greatest testament to the book is that you go in guarded against falling in love with the Trojan characters, knowing the fate the must befall at least most and likely all of them, but you find you can’t. The result is a sorrowful, yet uplifting, retelling of the Fall of Troy.
In Depth Review
Basic (Non-Spoiler) Plot
Skipping this as the general plot of the Fall of Troy is well established and I cannot discuss any nuance without revealing spoilers.
Pacing & POV
The book is told from the third person, but it also has some “angle-swapping” going on. The description, both physical and psychological, is so good that it often feels like we are watching a film where which camera is projecting onto the screen changes at various points to deliver the most impact. This is quite impressive, as it could have easily left the reader feeling discombobulated and anchorless. Instead, it feels natural, like we were unobserved witnesses moving around to get a better view and understanding of what’s going on around us.
The two primary focal points are the great Achilles and an original character, a young Trojan-turned-Greek-slave named Diomedes (not to be confused with the ancient mythical character from the same time period). We do, however, get considerable bits of story from every major player in this historic siege (and a few originals), and they all feel well developed – especially if you are familiar with the source material.
The tempo feels solid and natural for the first seven or eight chapters, but then kicks into high gear around chapter nine – so make sure you have no plans for the rest of the day once you reach that point.
The book excels in both letting you see a “birds-eye” or commanders view of the huge battles as well as the level of detail needed in the dueling scenes. Daniel does both well (I’ve met many who can do one or the other, but not both), but he especially excels in the former. Again, it often feels as though he has a sky cam, and we go from seeing the battle of individual characters up close to smoothly rising to view the conflict as a whole.
His environmental detail is solid. Some may feel that it’s sparse, but I would use the term focused. When not using his “sky cam”, he typically zones in on one item or space (blood-caked sand, reflections on shields, etc) with little detail of the larger world. And vice-versa, when using his “sky cam”, the details become blurred as the larger scene becomes clear.
I can only remember two specific mistakes (because they were back-to-back), and I remember noticing a third (but can’t remember what it was). Well-edited.
I’m relatively inexperienced in the Historical Fiction genre (I’ve read plenty of books in historical settings, but mostly written by contemporaries of the time period), but I enjoyed this one very much. I also think picking this subject matter was a brilliant choice. While there is no doubt that the Trojan war did happen and the result, its history is so ancient with conflicting accounts that happened long after the event that Daniel has almost free reign. And yet, rather than abusing it as is so often the case, the author has carefully pruned and shaped his telling in a way that doesn’t feel like a betrayal to the story we all know. I’m looking forward to the rest of his work taking place in ancient Greece and would love to see him tackle other historical-folk/mythical stories (Robin Hood, The Fall of the Roman Empire, etc) as well.