Author: Adèle Geras
Release date: 2000 UK
Genre: Historical / Historical Fantasy / Greek Mythology
Target audience: 12+
Summary from Goodreads:
The classic struggle between Greece and Troy brought to life by a panoramic chorus of voices both humble and high, human and divine.
The siege of Troy has lasted almost ten years. Inside the walled city, food is becoming scarce and the death toll is rising. From the heights of Mount Olympus, the Gods keep watch.
But Aphrodite, Goddess of Love, is bored with the endless, dreary war, and so she turns her attention to two sisters: Marpessa, who is gifted with God-sight and serves as handmaiden to Helen, the most beautiful woman in the world; and Xanthe, who is kind and loving and tends the wounded soldiers in the Blood Room. When Eros fits an arrow to his silver-lit bow and lets it fly, neither sister will escape its power.
Troy is a novel that centres upon the history of the war between the Greeks and the Trojans. It is an epic story full of both comic and tragic moments. Adèle Geras takes the story of the Trojan war and turns it into a YA novel of breathtaking quality which leads me to hold her in the highest esteem.
The first character who touches you in this novel is Xanthe. She is a poor Trojan girl caring for Prince Hector's baby Astanyax and also tends to the dying and the wounded in what she calls the Blood Room. Xanthe and her sister Marpessa are found at the top of a mountain when they are just children. They are brought to live in Troy but without knowing their parentage, they have no status and are reliant upon the kindess of their employers. Xanthe is the older sister but Marpessa has an aged view of the world around her. She is an insular girl and speaks little. Marpessa is gifted with the ability to see the Gods as they walk among the mortals and create havoc with their lives. This undoubtedly ways heavily upon her shoulders as she witnesses scenes that should never be a child's burden.
Polyxena is Xanthe's best friend. She is an immensely loyal character. She looks after her grandfather who is the Prince's Singer. He keeps alive the history of the Trojans by singing songs passed down from one Singer to another. Some day in the future this role will fall to Polyxena.
Next we have, Iason who is a favourite of Prince Hector's. He works in the stables caring for the horses and has a natural affinity with animals. He is in love with Xanthe but does not have the courage to tell her. I have to admit I have a real soft spot for Iason. He seemed very earthly and dependable.
Naturally the Gods are unable to sit still on Olympus and watch the lives of the humans unfold. The phrase "divine intervention" takes on a very literal meaning in Troy. Zeus wants the long war to be over. Aphrodite amuses herself by encouraging Helen and Paris to consummate their love frequently. Cupid is generous with his arrows and Ares is an ever present figure as the bloody battle rages. Geras expertly communicates the brutality of war, the lack of glory and the stomach-curdling suffering. She also explores the fickle nature of love. Sometimes as the reader you are as unsure as the characters about how much power Aphrodite has to torture the human heart.
One of the most outstanding things about the way Troy is written is the symmetry between the character's personalities and the imagery used by Geras to show their actions. It honestly blew my mind and left me in awe of the literary quality of her writing. Geras finds so many different and equally beautiful ways to describe the rising and the setting of the sun which keeps the story firmly within the Trojan's understanding of how the world worked. It is literary magnificence.
There is so much to this story that I cannot possibly illustrate it all through this review. Troy is a story about so many types of love. The love of a parent for a child. The love of siblings. The love between a man and a woman, a boy and a girl. The power of lust to confuse the mind. It really is incredible. Especially when all those emotions are juxtaposed with the babarity of war. The whole way through reading I couldn't decide whether I supported the Trojans or the Greeks. The other realisation I had while reading was the curse of poor Helen. Her beauty is mesmerising. The men cannot help but desire her. The women resent and envy her. She must ultimately be lonely and tortured behind the mask of flawless beauty.
If you love historical fiction or Greek mythology, then Troy is an absolute must-read. It has everything you could possibly wish for in a novel: exceptional writing, an outstanding plot and deeply complex characters. Adèle Geras demostrates the perfect way to use a third person narrative. She delights you the inner voice of every character and yet shares with you the divine view of the Trojan world. Amazing!