Tuesday, 8 September 2015


I approached Troy with some trepidation. Greek mythology has never been of great interest for me. I read David Malouf's Ransom a few years ago, and actively disliked it. So I didn't have high hopes, I was dreading it actually - but Troy really surprised me. Ransom was the first I had read of the Trojan War I think- the first time that I came across the battle of Achilles and Hector, and learned of Hector's appalling fate. Somehow I had forgotten what was to befall poor Hector when I started Troy. I did find it a rather quick and enjoyable read overall, although I did think it could have been a bit shorter.

Troy is a YA retelling of the Trojan War told through two sisters- Xanthe and Marpessa, orphans who have grown up in the royal households of Troy and now work there in servitude. It's a rather confusing family, Priam has fathered 50 sons, and so there are many, many royal princes. Xanthe works in the household of Hector and his wife Andromache, she is a nanny for their young son Astyanax. Xanthe also works in the "Blood Room"- the hospital of sorts were wounded soldiers are brought for treatment.

Xanthe hated the war. Every day, the huge wooden gate they called the Skaian Gate, which faced the Plain and the sea beyond the Plain, opened wide, and the chariots poured through, filled with armed soldiers. Lord Hector always led them out. Behind the chariots came the foot-soldiers. The Greeks came too, in chariots and on foot, from the tents that they had put up on the beach, and then both armies began to hack and stab one another and many died. 

Marpessa works for Paris and Helen, she can see the gods when they come down to Earth- which they seem to do with rather alarming frequency. Marpessa is one of the few who remembers the visits of the Gods but she knows that she shouldn't tell anyone besides her sister that she sees the Gods, and that "it was better to tell her stories on the loom". Which is very true! You can paint or weave all sorts of mystic, mythic stories about any number of Gods and that is perfectly fine, but if you talk about such things then you are branded as crazy- even now.

I generally enjoyed the appearance of the Gods in the story and to the people of Troy. But if you're going to be a God come to Earth to warn the citizens, why make it so they forget that you were even there? It makes no sense. I do get that they can meddle if they want to, make people fall in love, cause earthquakes or giant serpents come out of the sea, but why bother talking to people and warning them of horrors about to beset them, and then leave them so they can't remember the conversation?

There are several love triangles set against the dramatic backdrop of the Trojan War, and yes the horse does make an appearance. I'm always amazed at what is considered to be a "children's" or YA book. Just because the protagonists are young does not mean that it does not deal with some very adult concepts. Troy was almost bawdy much of the time, there are prostitutes, a sex scene and discussions about procuring an abortion.

At its heart Troy is a rather powerful exploration of betrayal, love, power, longing, friendship and family. My copy quotes Philip Pullman saying "Every generation needs its version of this great story." Is that true? I'm not completely sure. I don't know if this story is any greater than any other. Why should this story in particular be special and worthy of perserving? Yes there are gods and kings, and war and love, but does that alone make it a great story?



Tamara said...

Interesting perspectives Louise. Why Gods choose to be perceived one way or another?? I like the sound of the Young Adult version of a Greek Myth - might be more consumable. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I quite like the cover.

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

It's one of those stories that is mythic for me. I've heard little pieces of it here and there for my entire life. It is referred to in a thousand other, newer stories.