Saturday, 7 November 2015

Girls of Troy


The unicorn has just spent a few years in ancient Greece with three of the girls who survived the Trojan War: Queen Helen's daughter Hermione; Princess Cassandra's slave Eirene; and eldest daughter of King Agamemnon Electra. In Frances Thomas' delightful Girls of Troy trilogy, these three young narrators bring the myths to life, giving an overview of the whole story from the moment Queen Helen elopes to Troy with Prince Paris, through the long years of war, to the violent fall of Troy and its aftermath back in Greece when the victors return with their captives.

In Book 1 Helen's Daughter, Hermione has been thrown out of her father's house after her mother elopes to Troy, and tells us in her own words how the Greek kings use her mother's 'abduction' as an excuse to raise an army of a thousand ships to sail across the sea and attack the city. This is actually a relief for Hermione who, having emerged from her mother's shadow, meets Achilles' handsome golden-haired son in the most romantic of the three books. Under the protection of centaurs and Achilles' faithful Myrmidons, the two young people seem to be heading for a happy ending, until Hermione's cousin Iphigenia is summoned to take part in what is maybe one of the most tragic scenes of the whole war. As a reader with a fairly good knowledge of the Greek myths, I found knowing what is coming actually made this story more compelling. Hermione gets a fairly happy ending, but by then the men are fighting at Troy and the story is far from finished.

In Book 2 The Burning Towers, we move across the Aegean Sea to Troy and find out what it's like to be a slave in the royal household as the faithful Eirene (who herself has the Sight) tries to look after her mistress Princess Cassandra, who screams her prophecies of doom as the Greeks attack the city. Not knowing what happened to the slaves makes Eirene's story one of the most interesting of the trilogy, and although there is not as much romance in this book as in the first title Eirene does eventually get a happy ending too.

Book 3 The Silver Handled Knife deals with what happened after the victorious warriors sailed home to Greece with their captives. But the Greeks have been gone a long time, and the women they left behind have not all been sitting weaving in their rooms waiting patently for their husbands' return. Electra's mother Queen Clytemnestra, understandably upset with her husband King Agamemnon for the terrible thing he did to their daughter Iphigenia at the start of the war, has taken a lover, and neither of them are too pleased when King Agamemnon turns up again bringing his share of the spoils from Troy. So they murder him, which starts a trail of revenge told in Electra's words. This is perhaps the toughest of the three stories, as it deals with members of a family killing each other, but the author makes a good attempt at showing the reasons why they act as they do. Electra's final words "I am a survivor" bring the trilogy to a satisfying end.

Part romance, part tragedy, part historical adventure, the three books are tightly written with delightful details of the period. The author has clearly done her research and does not flinch from the more tragic aspects of the original tales by Homer, which means these books should appeal to adult readers and older teens looking for rich storytelling and depth of character. If you enjoy the Greek myths, you won't want to miss these!

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