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Troy: Fall Of Kings by David Gemmell and Stella Gemmell

01/11/2009. Contributed by Pauline Morgan

Buy Troy: Fall Of Kings in the USA - or Buy Troy: Fall Of Kings in the UK

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pub: Ballantine Books. 447 page hardback. Price: $25.95 (US), $35.95 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-345-47703-3 pub: Del Rey/Ballantine Books. 447 page enlarged paperback. Price: $15.00 (US). ISBN: 978-0-345-47704-0 pub: Corgi/Transworld. 672 page paperback. Price: £ 6.99 (UK), $11.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-552-15113-9).

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Having a popular or respected author die while at the height of his career is not a good move, especially part way through the last book of a trilogy. Life after death or rather, authorship after death is still a possibility. Many have speculated at how Charles Dickens intended to complete 'Edwin Drood'. There have been attempts to do so. J.J.R. Tolkein has had his study ransacked to find the notes that would turn the partially written, 'The Silmarillion' into a coherent whole. The interpretation of his jottings has become a whole industry in itself. Sometimes, though, when another writer is drafted in to complete the work it is sympathetically done. When David Gemmell died, his wife Stella agreed to complete the book he was working on at the time. This is it.

'Troy: Fall Of Kings' is the third volume in the trilogy chronicling the adventures of the heroes that were originally told by Homer in 'The Iliad'. Homer embellished the stories of the kings of the countries, states and islands surrounding the Aegean Sea (known as the Great Green in these volumes) by imagining the interference of various deities to make his tales moiré exciting. Since the original tales were oral, it is inevitable that events became changed in the telling and re-telling. Gemmell has unpicked the tales and looked for reasonable explanations for the wilder extravagances.

In earlier volumes, we have been introduced to Odysseus, a veteran seaman and king of Ithaka, who spends the long evenings away from home inventing and telling fabulous tales. Helikaon (known in legend as Aeneas) is the master of the largest warship sailing the Great Green. In a previous volume, he had fallen in love with Andromache who was on her way to Troy to marry Hektor, one of King Priam's many sons and the leader of the cavalry known as the Trojan Horse. What he does not know is that Andromache's son is not Hektor's but his.

As this is a fantasy re-telling of an ancient fantasy, Gemmell has felt able to play with the original, in the way that Odysseus would have done to make a more satisfactory tale. At the end of 'Troy: Shield Of Thunder', Helikaon's wife, Halysia, was killed by invading Mykene (these are Agamemnon's warriors), leaving him with a small son to look after. Returning to Troy, Priam instructs him to sail to the settlement of Seven Hills (in later history to become Rome) to get a load of tin ore which is desperately needed to make bronze for new armour and swords. With him is to go Kassandra and Andromache. The seeress is to seek refuge with the priestesses (one of whom is Agamemnon's sister, Iphigenia) on the island of Thera. Andromache is told she must take back the bones of her friend, Kalliope, so that they may be buried there in the sacred grove. This is to be a winter voyage, long and difficult. As the time passes, Andromache and Helikaon become lovers. Thus, she is torn between love and duty. She has the option not to return to Troy but decides to for the sake of her son.

Much of the course of the book is the battle for Troy, such as the fight to the death between Hektor and Achilles, are reproduced here. There are still the great set piece battles Gemmell is renowned for but there are softer moments which perhaps show Stella's influence.

Overall, this is a grand epic adventure and undoubtedly the novel David Gemmell was hoping to produce. It is a shame that there will now be no chance of following his version of the wanderings of Odysseus.

Pauline Morgan

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