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  • Writer's pictureAderyn Wood

Shield of Thunder by David Gemmell

What a way to learn your Ancient History! David Gemmell’s Troy series is like nectar from the gods for historical fantasy readers. Not only are all the main players present in this intriguing saga - Hector and Achilles, Agamemnon and Odysseus, Andromache and Kassandra - but Gemmell adds his own flair to the tale with characters such as Mykene warriors, Kalliades and Banokles, who both add a mortal feel to the saga with their very human hopes and fears.

The magical elements within the famed mythology are expertly presented by Gemmell in his usual subtle and intriguing style. He gives us just enough 'fantasy' to leave us wanting more. As a lover of magic, it’s the main drawcard for me in the fantasy genre. These supernatural elements are very much in the background, and only with certain characters – Kassandra, of course, I enjoyed her little prophecies (which everyone ignores) and the way she obviously communes with the dead. And the character, Halysia, has some fascinating skills with magic which I look forward to reading more of in the third instalment of the series. The magic, in short, is never overdone.

As is typical with Gemmell’s stories, I very much enjoyed the philosophical explorations, usually conveyed through dialogue between two characters – particularly those deliberations about Truth (something I've been thinking about a lot recently in our own troubled times!). The setting of Ancient Greece provides a pertinent backdrop for such existential considerations.

Here are some highlights I particularly enjoyed. I’ve used my new favourite AI, MidJourney, to visually represent the quotes. Enjoy!

“Most men live from dawn to dusk. They live hard, they die young. They want to think that the gods smile down on them, that their lives have more meaning than in fact they do. The world would be a sadder place without stories…”

"I will not weep for the dead. I will hold them in my heart, and I will live my life to the full in honour of them."

"Storytellers fashion lies from truth and truth from lies. We have to. Truth is all too often dull."

"Truth is a mass of complexities, made up of many parts."

"Nothing of real worth can ever be bought... Love, friendship, honour, valour, respect. All these things have to be earned."

"Reasonable men rarely ascend to thrones, and when they did it was even more rare for them to survive for long. Successful kings were brutal and greedy, men of, blood and death, warriors who believed in nothing but the power of sword and spear."

Something tells me Gemmell was a stoic. This was a brilliant read and I'm looking forward to the final instalment in the Troy trilogy.

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