I'm currently behind on reviews, so don't be surprised if the recent reviews are a bit sparse.

Lord of the Silver Bow

Cover of Lord of the Silver Bow.

David Gemmell shines when he writes warriors, no two ways about it. Lord of the Silver Bow is an adventure story set in and around Troy, before the Trojan war. Our protagonist is called Heliakon, a merchant (he doesn’t like his first name, Aeneas), and we follow him through his life, often filled with hardship and hope and principles and dirty tricks. I liked this book a lot – its deviations from the Iliad are many, and they are fluent and consistent and fun.

There are many different parts to my enjoyment:

There’s politics. We see kings fail and falter, from Priam being a devious bastard keeping his many children in check, to Agamemnon with his irrational insecurities leading up to a war (completely independent from any kidnappings), to Troy’s status as a vassal to the Hittite emperor, and their conflict (ethical and practical) with Mykene.

Then there’s humanity. We see Helikaon as an unwanted young prince, we see him growing into a brave man, and we see him broken by fate and love. (Thankfully with a fair amount of flashbacks, this isn’t a biography, after all). We see Odysseus as a boastful storyteller, who gets one of the best introductions ever, and also as a man of unexpected kindness. We see slaves, assassins, lords and foot soldiers, and everybody is treated with empathy - not the first trait you’d expect from a Swords & Sandals adventure book, but very in line with Gemmell’s other work.

Then, of course, there’s the drama: I found myself rooting for Odysseus, Helikaon, Kassandra, Hekabe, Hektor, and of course the brilliantly painted Andromache (who had been serving at the wild, women-only temple on Thera). I always feel that takes on Troy that ignore Andromache are missing out. The core drama was nothing exciting, ill-fated love blah blah, but it didn’t take up too much room, and it was plausible enough to not put me off. Had the primary conflict been a bit better, this would have been a five-star book.

And there’s wisdom. I found an unexpected amount of quotable lines that spoke to me. No novel insights, but just … firmly grounded words that made me think and feel better. Not a Pratchett, but still very welcome.

And there’s writing – really, really solid writing. The pacing is solid, the characters are vivid, and the mix of storytelling, humour, heartbreak, worldbuilding, intrigue and (surprisingly little) fighting is just right. Bonus points for feeling like a complete book despite being the first in a trilogy.


We make choices every day, some of them good, some of them bad. And if we are strong enough, we live with the consequences.


Five years ago we hit rocks. Her hull was breached, and she was shipping water. She rolled on the Great Green like a hog in a swamp. Her speed was gone, and she almost sank. We kept her afloat and made it to port. Then she was repaired. I didn’t judge her as a bad ship. She was damaged in a storm. I judge her by how she sails when her hull is sound. You are like that ship. Your heart was breached when your mother died. And from the heart comes courage.


Then he reached out and pressed his palm to the boy’s. β€œPush against my hand,” he said. Aeneas did so. Odysseus resisted the push. β€œNow, this is how courage and fear work, lad. Both will always be pushing. They are never still.” Dropping his hand, he looked out over the sea. β€œAnd a man cannot choose to stop pushing. For if he backs away, the fear will come after him and push him back another step and then another. Men who give in to fear are like kings who trust in castles to keep out enemies rather than attacking them on open ground and scattering them.
So the enemies camp around the castle, and now the king cannot get out. Slowly his food runs out, and he discovers the castle is not a very safe place to be. You built a castle in your mind. But fear seeped through gaps in the walls, and now there is nowhere else to hide. Deep down you know this, for the hero I see in you keeps telling you.”